The numerous health benefits of the marshmallow plant (Althea officinalis) make it one of my favorite teas. Used for centuries to cure ailments and irritations of the mouth, throat, and intestinal tract, marshmallow root tea is one of the most effective ways of soothing a sickness.

Even though the name has passed to them, marshmallow treats don't contain any part of the extract. The most important aspect of the plant in terms of its healing potential is mucilage, the part of the plant which becomes paste-like when combined with some liquid. Because of this, emollients like poultices, or teas made from the plant are well known for being able to sooth inflamed skin or coughs and stomach aches.

For many centuries, Europeans have known the benefits of the teas made from the plant. Native to Europe, western Asia as well as North America in the salt marshes of my native eastern seaboard; the roots along with the velvety leaves and pale pink or white flowers are used in healing remedies. The plant's genus name 'Althea' comes from the Greek word for 'cure.' Its modern name developed due to its favoring of damp and marshy habitats.

Rich amounts of vitamins which boost the functioning of the immune system such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C are found in this plant. Specific ailments which can be helped by marshmallow root tea are:

  • Sore throat and cough: For hundreds of years, few remedies have been as successful at curing sore throats as marshmallow root tea. Due to the aforementioned mucilage in the plant, it will coat and soothe the inflamed mucous membranes of the throat.
  • Heartburn, stomach, and intestinal problems: In addition to its other benefits, some British health experts think that marshmallow tea can help soothe ulcers and lessen the ache of heartburn. My most memorable experience with this tea was when I was a young girl and had a bad allergic reaction to a milk protein (I was allergic to milk and all its products when I was younger) and I was lying in misery throwing up every half an hour or so, growing steadily more dehydrated as well as ripping my digestive tract to hell. However, several cups of marshmallow tea sipped slowly over several hours stopped my vomiting and lessened the affects of my dehydration when nothing else could.

While I think that using the dried herb is the best, the liquid extract is also effective. In preparation of the tea itself, I recommend as a good general use recipe that you use 1- 3 tsp of the dried herb for every 1 cup of very warm water. Alternatively, you can use the liquid extract of the plant; add 1 tsp of it for every 1 cup of water. For general sickness, drink about 3 cups a day. While hot water can be poured over the marshmallow, I recommend that you use cold water and then warm the tea up before drinking it. Steep the tea for about 5 minutes and then strain it. If you wish to use it externally as a balm, compress, or poultice, add just enough water to the chopped root to make a paste of it; you'll be able to notice the right consistency. It should be easily malleable but not runny.

Important things to remember when using the tea or the poultice are that it may delay the absorbtion of certain drugs when taken at the same time. Also, marshmallow is very high in a soluble plant fiber called pectin which lowers blood sugar levels. Be very careful of this property if you take insulin or other such things for diabetes; talk to a physician before using the tea. Overall, though, there are no side effects to using the tea and it has been utilized for centuries safely.


Sources:

http://www.herbalhut.com/marshmallow.asp
http://www.solar.com.au/shop/product91.html
http://www.wholehealthmd.com/refshelf/substances_view/0,1525,10042,00.html

I have had several inquiries as to where this herb can be purchased. I would recommend phoning your local health food stores first and asking if they carry it. However, if that option isn't available to you, the second website in my sources (http://www.solar.com.au/shop/product91.html) sells it online.

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