An herbal remedy used for multiple ailments, marshmallow root is the base of the marshmallow plant. Medicinally, the root may be used for anything from chapped skin to the common cold. Marshmallow root may also be used as a cosmetic ingredient.
The uses of marshmallow root in medicine vary widely. The remedy has been used to treat gastritis, Crohn's disease, asthma, indigestion, diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Ulcers, cough, eczema, sore throat, abnormal pap smears, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, and the common cold have also been treated with the herb. Minor external problems like chapped skin and small cuts or wounds may also be relieved through the use of marshmallow root.
Marshmallow root, also known as althea officinalis, gets its soothing properties from the presence of mucilate. A slick substance that does not dissolve in water, mucilate makes up nearly a third of the root's composition, and causes the marshmallow to become slippery. This substance provides the same effects for the irritated skin, stomach, or other areas of the body that marshmallow is used on, making it a popular expectorant during cases of bronchitis and whooping cough.
Though limited, the root may be able to help combat infection as well. Increasing the effectiveness of the immune system is another possible use for marshmallow. The plant may be used as a poultice for sprains, bruises, burns, muscle aches, and general inflammation. Weight loss can be stimulated by using marshmallow root as well, since it causes the stomach to feel full.
To use marshmallow root, apply one and one quarter teaspoons (six grams) of the substance daily to the affected area. A similar dosage in capsule or tablet form is also generally recommended, as well as a tincture of one to three teaspoons (five to 15 milliliters) taken each day as needed. If served as a tea, up to five servings are recommended in one day's time.
Nontoxic, the root is generally considered safe for use. As with any herbal supplement, however, marshmallow should be used under the supervision of a physician. Its sugar content could be hazardous to those with diabetes. The mucilagin contained within the root may also reduce the potency of prescription drugs as well.
Damp marshy areas make up the marshmallow plant's habitat. While the plant grows in the United States today, it was originally native to Europe, particularly in Denmark and England. Both the leaves and the root can be used for medicinal purposes, the latter being used more frequently than the former.