marshmallow root

5 min read

Ultimate Guide to Marshmallow Root: Benefits, Uses, Nutrition & More

So, let's get straight to it: is marshmallow root in marshmallows? Yes and no. Yes, the confectionary was historically made from the nutritious, sticky extract that coats the marshmallow plant's roots. However, today’s marshmallows are more commonly made with gelatin. [1]


Although it’s no longer used in confectionery treats, marshmallow root is still a compelling ingredient—especially because it has many extra uses beyond candy. Traditional herbalists often recommend marshmallow root for a wide range of conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, colds, sore throats, inflamed gums, inflammatory bowel diseases, and even libido. [2] Wondering how one ingredient could have so many different traditional uses? We thought so. Let's dive into the history of marshmallow roots!

What Is Marshmallow Root?

Marshmallow is a perennial plant that's indigenous to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. Recognized scientifically as Althaea Officinalis, the plant can grow up to six feet tall and has light pink flowers. The plant also goes by several other names, including althea, sweet weed, hock herb, mallards, mortification plant, Schloss tea, wymote, mallow, white mallow, guimauve, and common marshmallow. [3]


As a member of the mallow family, scientifically identified as the Malvaceae family, the marshmallow plant typically grows in wet or marshy areas, hence the name marshmallow. [1] The root of this marshmallow plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine, dating back to ancient times. 

Marshmallow Root Uses

Marshmallow root has historical use for various ailments. The ancient Greeks first noted the medicinal value of marshmallows in the ninth century B.C. when Hippocrates explained how to use marshmallow root to treat wounds. [2] The Greeks also used marshmallow root to ease sore throats and created a balm from the plant's sap to soothe toothaches and bee stings.


As time went on, the plant's medicinal applications grew: Arab doctors made a treatment from ground marshmallow leaves and utilized it as an anti-inflammatory agent on the skin. At the same time, Romans used marshmallow root as a laxative, and other civilizations believed marshmallows affected one's libido. By the Middle Ages, marshmallow roots were in treatments for everything ranging from an upset stomach to colds. [1] Today, the marshmallow herb is still in use for several of these age-old applications. Let's dive into a few of those next! 

Marshmallow Root Potential Health Benefits

Many of the potential health benefits of the marshmallow plant come from mucilage, a sticky substance composed of protein and polysaccharides that turns into a gel-like consistency when mixed with water. The mucilage in marshmallow root is the primary reason the original candy was made with the plant: it would thicken the marshmallows. [3]


Plants that have mucilage use it to conserve water that later aids in germination, facilitates seed dispersal, and stores food. All elements of the marshmallow plant contain varying amounts of mucilage, but you'll find the greatest concentration in the roots. [2] 


And guess what? This mucilage has a whole range of potential health benefits:


  • Soothing properties: The polysaccharides in the marshmallow root mucilage coat the surfaces of the mouth, throat, and intestine, which may help protect the tissues from irritation. This coating explains why marshmallow root extract has a history of helping soothe a dry cough or relieving irritation in the respiratory tract. [4] [5] You may even find marshmallow root today in herbal teas or throat lozenges for this purpose.
  • Digestive support: Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance with a slippery texture. These special properties mean that mucilage can also be soothing and protective for the mucous membranes lining your digestive tract. This may provide relief for conditions like heartburn, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 
  • Skin conditions: Mucilage also works as an emollient and a demulcent. An emollient is a cosmetic preparation used for protecting, moisturizing, and lubricating the skin, while a demulcent is an inflammation or irritation reliever. Applying marshmallow root to your skin could have anti-inflammatory properties and help soothe skin irritation, wounds, or even insect bites. [6]
  • Skin & hair care: Additionally, polysaccharides in marshmallow root are absorbent fibers that blend with liquid to form a smooth and silky foundation. This foundation aids in functioning as a skin buffer, moisturizer, and protective layer for the skin, which is why the plant is found in beauty products such as lip balms, hair conditioners, salves, and after-sun lotions. [7]

Although it's been around the historical block for various conditions, we need more modern research to investigate and understand these many functions, applications, and potential uses

Why Is Marshmallow Root in OLIPOP?

All of our botanical ingredients work to help promote healthy digestion by feeding the microbiome that exists within all of us. Marshmallow root extract is one of the four botanicals we use in OLIPOP to help support nutrient diversity. Eating a diverse diet supports a diverse microbiome, which is directly linked to a healthy gut.

OLIPOP contains unique ingredients like prebiotic fibers and antioxidants to support a diverse and healthy gut microbiome and help combat oxidative stress. The addition of marshmallow root is another positive ingredient found in OLIPOP that may play a role in keeping your gut healthy. 

Anecdotally, consuming marshmallow root can help offer some relief from mild digestive discomfort. According to research, marshmallow root may also support a healthy digestive tract. So, including marshmallow root in OLIPOP is just one more way that we support your gut health while providing you with an utterly delicious drink. 

Marshmallow Root: The Takeaway

Marshmallow root has a history of medicinal use, thanks to the mucilage you'll find in the plant. It could help support everything from digestive health to sore throats. Today, you can find marshmallow root in teas, tinctures, capsules, ointment, creams, delicious sodas (hint: OLIPOP), and cough syrups. While marshmallow root is safe for most people, you can always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

 

Sources

  1. “The Long, Sweet History of Marshmallows,” October 13, 2016. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/86346/long-sweet-history-marshmallows.
  2. Foster, Steven, and Rebecca L. Johnson. National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine. National Geographic Books, 2008.
  3. The Gypsy Thread. “Marshmallow - A Source Of Mucilage From Your Garden,” January 17, 2020. https://www.thegypsythread.org/marshmallow-mucilage/.
  4. Alexandra Deters et al., “Aqueous Extracts and Polysaccharides from Marshmallow Roots (Althea Officinalis L.): Cellular Internalisation and Stimulation of Cell Physiology of Human Epithelial Cells in Vitro,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 127, no. 1 (January 2010): 62–69, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.050.
  5. Mahdi Valiei. “Chemical Composition and Antimicrobial Activity of the Flower and Root Hexane Extracts of Althaea Officinalis in Northwest Iran.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5, no. 32 (December 30, 2011). https://doi.org/10.5897/jmpr11.963.
  6. Alcaraz, M., M. Moroney, and J. Hoult. “Effects of Hypolaetin-8-O-Glucoside and Its Aglycone Inin Vivoandin VitroTests for Anti-Inflammatory Agents.” Planta Medica 55, no. 01 (February 1989): 107–8. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2006-961879.
  7. Levy, Jillian. “Why You Should Add Marshmallow Root to Your Diet.” Dr. Axe. Accessed May 12, 2021. https://draxe.com/nutrition/marshmallow-root/.
Cheat Sheet
  • Marshmallow Root is a useful and compelling ingredient known for soothing a variety of ailments. It was also once used to make marshmallows.
  • Many of marshmallow root’s alleviating abilities are due to its mucilage, a dense, glutinous material composed of protein and polysaccharides.
  • Marshmallow root is one of the five botanicals we use in OLIPOP to support nutrient diversity.
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