Althaea officinalis, or better and more commonly known as marshmallow root, is a perennial herb that is a member of the Malvaceae family. Marshmallow root can also be known by many other names including the Hock herb, mallow root, sweet weed, Schloss tea, althaea root, and even the mortification root. The name Althaea actually comes from the Greek “Althea” which means “to heal.” While marshmallow root is native to western Asia and parts of northern Europe, it can also be found in the United States. There is evidence of marshmallow root use dating back more than over 2,000 years ago, as it was used for food and medicinal purposes. The ancient Romans, Egyptians, Syrians, and even Chinese used marshmallow root as a food source. Did you know that in the Middle East, marshmallow root is used to clean Persian carpets? Its wonderful emulsifying property is regarded as one of the best sources for preserving the vegetable dyes used to color the carpets.
This perennial herbs’ upright stems usually reach a height of 3 to 4 feet high. The plant has very long roots that are tapered and thick. The roots have a flexible, yet tough exterior. Its leaves are light green in color and round in shape. The edges of the leaves are toothed, however each leaf usually has about 3 to 7 lobes around the edges. This plant does have flowers that grow on it. The flowers are reddish colored at the base, growing out into a beautiful white on the petals. Each flower has five petals. There is also a soft, velvety-like down that covers the stems and leaves of the plant.
Marshmallow root can be used for many different products and industries. It is most well-known for its culinary and medicinal purposes, however it can also be used for skin care, bath and body products, soap making, and even hair care. Did you know that there are even references to using marshmallow root for its healing properties in Homer’s Iliad? The Iliad was written over 2,800 years ago!
Marshmallow root is actually a very adaptable plant. While it prefers areas with moist soils, it can also survive in areas with dry soils as well. However, it does not do well with soils that are completely water logged either. This plant is not drought tolerant, so if planted in areas without enough rainfall, it will need to be watered regularly. Marshmallow root also needs to be planted in areas with full sun exposure, as it does not tolerate shaded areas. Because of its adaptability, this herb can survive in temperatures reaching lows of even -13 degrees Fahrenheit. Marshmallow root can commonly be found in wet, damp meadows, by the sides of ditches, in marshes, the banks of tidal rivers, and even by the sea.
The seeds should be planted during the spring time, and they will begin to germinate about 2 or 3 weeks after first being planted. They should be planted about 1 to 2 feet apart, so as to give the roots enough room to grow. The roots of the plant should not be harvested for at least two years, so as to make sure you have fully mature roots. After the two years have passed, that autumn after the flowers and leaves have died back, you can begin to harvest the roots.
There are not many pests and diseases that affect the marshmallow plant. The leaves can develop a rust fungus, and after the root is harvested, it can develop mildew if not dried quickly enough.
Uses in Industries
One of the most commonly known uses for marshmallow root is for its culinary purposes. During times of famine, marshmallow root has actually been eaten as a vegetable. Besides the root, the flowers and leaves of the plant can also be eaten. They both can be boiled or fried and added to salads. The root and leaves of the plant can both be added to dishes as a flavoring agent. The leaves can also be used to thicken soups, and a tea can be made from the flowers of the plant. Then, of course there is the delicious marshmallow itself. To make marshmallows, the root of the plant is dried and ground into a powder, then made into a paste and roasted. Also, any leftover water from cooking any part of the plant can actually be reused as an egg white substitute for making things like meringues.
Bath and Body Products
Marshmallow root can be used in many different industries and products. Besides its culinary purposes, it can also be used for hair care, skin care, medicinal purposes, soap making, and even bath and body products. When used in homemade salves, marshmallow root helps to promote the healing of any wounds.
Common products that can include marshmallow root are facial toners, bath teas, bath bombs, scrubs, ointments, lotions, creams, soap, hair products, facial masks, and natural tooth paste recipes.
There are many amazing hair care benefits to using marshmallow root. It works to soften and detangle hair and soothes dry scalp and inflammation. It also promotes new hair growth, and removes any knots that may form.
For skin care, marshmallow root promotes new cell growth and works to soothe the skin. It reduces swelling, helps to heal wounds, and treats rosacea, dermatitis, and eczema. Marshmallow root also fights the signs of aging and takes care of any fine lines or redness.
There are many wonderful medicinal benefits to using marshmallow root. It contains many important vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B and C, zinc, selenium, copper, and iron. In a poultice, the leaf of the marshmallow plant can be used to treat insect bites.
Ancient Egyptians used marshmallow root to treat sore throats. Arabs also used the leaves to make a poultice to reduce skin inflammation.
Many conditions can be treated using marshmallow root such as heart burn, colitis, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, dysentery, arthritis, diarrhea, and even ulcers.
Specifically for women, marshmallow root can be used to increase milk production as well as enriching the milk in nursing mothers. Marshmallow root also works to heal cracked nipples that are a result of nursing. Its skin softening effects can also be taken advantage of for pregnant women. It helps to heal chapped skin and allows the belly to grow without stretch marks.
Some respiratory conditions can be treated using marshmallow root such as asthma, the flu, colds, pneumonia, whooping cough, and even bronchitis.
Marshmallow root also works as an effective treatment for conditions like Crohn’s disease, indigestion, constipation, inflamed membranes, hernias, bladder infections, and even swollen gums. For infants that are teething, marshmallow root can be used to relieve aching gums.
This herb even works as an effective diuretic. It helps to aid in the passing of kidney stones and reduces the pain level, and can also help in releasing stones and gravel from the kidneys.
The root of the marshmallow plant can be made into a glue. After the root is boiled in water, it will leave a thick syrup in the pan. This syrup can actually be used as glue.
Oil from the seeds of the plant can be used to make varnishes and paints.
There is also a fiber from the roots and stems that can be used for making paper.
Nature’s Garden sells marshmallow root powder for external use only. We do not sell it as a food item. The information above talks about how great marshmallow root is for many industries, however we only sell it for external use. We provide this data for educational purposes only. Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using this product or any of this information for treatment purposes.
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