Other names: Althaea sublobata, Althaea taurinensis, Althaea vulgaris, Malva officinalis,Althea, Sweet Weed, Mallards, Guimauve, Mortification Plant, Schloss Tea, Wymote.
Habitat: Central and southern Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa and W. Asia. You will find Marshmallow plant growing in the upper margins of salt and brackish marshes, sides of ditches and grassy banks near the sea.
Marsh mallow is a very useful household medicinal herb. Its soothing demulcent properties make it very effective in treating inflammations and irritations of the mucous membranes such as the alimentary canal, the urinary and the respiratory organs. The root counters excess stomach acid, peptic ulceration and gastritis. It is also applied externally to bruises, sprains, aching muscles, insect bites, skin inflammations, splinters etc. The whole plant, but especially the root, is antitussive, demulcent, diuretic, highly emollient, slightly laxative and odontalgic. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat cystitis and frequent urination. The leaves are harvested in August when the plant is just coming into flower and can be dried for later use. The root can be used in an ointment for treating boils and abscesses. The root is best harvested in the autumn, preferably from 2 year old plants, and is dried for later use. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Althaea officinalis Marsh Mallow for irritation of mouth and throat and associated dry cough/bronchitis (Root and leaf), mild stomach lining inflammation (root).
Description of Marshmallow:
Althaea officinalis, Marshmallow is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.8 m (2ft 7in).
It is hardy to zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. self.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
Needs full sun. It prefers dry or moist soil.
Cultivation of Marshmallow:
Succeeds in almost any soil and situation, though it prefers a rich moist soil in a sunny position. It also tolerates fairly dry soil conditions. Plants are hardy to about -25°c. Marsh mallow is often cultivated in the herb garden, as a culinary and medicinal herb as well as for ornament. Its roots were at one time the source of the sweet ‘marsh mallow’, but this sweet is now made without using the plant.
Propagation of Marshmallow:
Seed – sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer, the germination is often erratic. Stratification can improve germination rates and time. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring or autumn. Fairly easy, it is best to pot up the divisions in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away well and then plant them out into their permanent positions. Root cuttings in December.
Culinary uses of Marshmallow:
Actions: Demulcent, emmolient, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant
Part Used: Root and leaf.
Indications: Its abundance of mucilage makes Marshmallow an excellent demulcent that is indicated wherever such an action is called for. The roots have been used more for the digestive system whilst the leaves are used more for the urinary system and lungs. All inflammatory conditions of the G-I tract will benefit from its use, e.g. inflammations of the mouth, gastritis, peptic ulceration, colitis etc.. The leaves help in cystitis, urethritis and urinary gravel as well as bronchitis, respiratory catarrh,irritating coughs.Externally the herb is often used in drawing ointments for abscesses and boils or as an emollient for varicose veins and ulcers.
Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “soothing demulcent indicated for inflamed and irritated states of mucous membranes. Particularly suitable for the elderly with chronic inflammatory conditions effecting the gastro-intestinal system or genito-urinary tract” They give the following specific indications: acute respiratory disease, gastro-enteritis, peptic ulcer, cystitis, urethritis, inflammation of mouth & throat, inflamed hemorrhoids, inflamed wounds, burns & scalds, bedsores, abscesses, boils,ulcers.
Preparations & Dosage: 1-4 ml of the tincture three times a day. A cold infusion of the roots should be made with 2-4 gms. to a cup of cold water and left to infuse over night.
Other uses of Marshmallow:
Adhesive, Fibre, Oil, Teeth cleaning.
The dried root of Marshmallow is used as a toothbrush or is chewed by teething children. It has a mechanical affect on the gums whilst also helping to ease the pain. The root is also used as a cosmetic, helping to soften the skin. A fibre from the stem and roots is used in paper-making. The dried and powdered root has been used to bind the active ingredients when making pills for medicinal use. A glue can be made from the root. The root is boiled in water until a thick syrup is left in the pan, this syrup is used as a glue. An oil from the seed is used in making paints and varnishes.
Esoteric uses of Marshmallow:
Protection and psychic powers. Burn as an incense for protection and psychic stimulation. Place on the altar during ritual to draw in good spirits. N.B. This refers to the root!
- In the root:
- Mucilage, l8-35%
- Miscellaneous; about 35% pectin, l-2% asparagine, tannins.
- In the leaves:
- Mucilage; including a low molecular weight D-glucan
- Flavanoids such a kaempferol, quercitin and diosmetin glucosides
- Scopoletin, a coumarin
- Polyphenolic acids, including syringic, caffeic, salicyclic, vanillic, p-coumaric etc.