No, not that kind of marshmallow – kind of. The sugary treats found in the store that we roast for s’mores has its origins in an herbal root that has been used for centuries. While the big bags of puffed marshmallows aren’t likely to hold any of the real thing, you can actually make your own, much healthier, versions using marshmallow root powder. Or, enjoy marshmallow in tea for a much simpler (but not as sweet!) way to soothe a sore throat.
A perennial with delicate white and pink flowers, the marshmallow plant is native to Europe and now naturalized and cultivated in similar climates, such as the US and Russia. Thanks to its home near the most ancient sources of medicine, we see marshmallow used for thousands of years in European, Ayurvedic, Greek, and Chinese medicine.
In fact, there are many kinds of mallows, with the one grown in damp areas dubbed the marsh mallow. Mallows are traditionally edible, made both sweet and savory. Something not unlike our own marshmallow treats would have been enjoyed as far back as ancient Egypt!
As an herbal medicine, marshmallow has been validated in official pharmacopeia registries in Germany and, at one time, the US. Thanks to its rich history of use, marshmallow is understood to be safe, with no real contraindications. We also have centuries of evidence of its efficacy, with the tradition of the ancients guiding us to this soothing and delicious remedy.
The root of the marshmallow plant is usually used, ground into a powder or put into a tea. The most common and reliably effective use of marshmallow is for sore throats, especially during cold & flu season. This is because of the demulcent/emollient properties, meaning it is soothing to the tissue it comes in contact with. For that reason, a pill or capsule won’t do much for a sore throat, though it may have some benefit for the intestines.
If you think about marshmallow treats and their sticky texture, you can get an idea of the way a demulcent works to coat inflamed tissues. This is where marshmallow shines, especially in a good cup of tea. It sticks to and coats the throat, then applies anti-inflammatory actions to help it to heal.
You might also find marshmallow in a mouthwash, as a cough remedy, or in a soothing topical preparation.
I’ve included marshmallow in my Let There Be Milk tincture in order to help the breastfeeding mother to improve digestion, which leads to a better nutritive state and ability to produce that liquid gold.
Marshmallow is truly a gift we’ve been able to preserve through countless generations. By keeping it at the forefront of our remedies and teas, we are able to honor the wisdom of the ancients and the gifts of the earth. Plus, it really works!
Make Your Own Real Marshmallows
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own marshmallows, purchase some dried marshmallow root powder. You can add other demulcent herb powders, like slippery elm bark. The rest of the ingredients will typically be gelatin, honey and/or sugar, and water. This mama blogger has a good recipe and tutorial to follow.
Add homemade, real marshmallows to Nursing Nectar tea for sore throats, extra breastfeeding support, or just a lovely cup of tea. It’s also a great way to soothe little tummies and throats when they don’t want to take a yucky syrup.