Marshmallow

Our trusted friend

“I value you as my most trusted friend.” This is what ‘marshmallow’ symbolizes in the plant kingdom. One values the herb, in particular, for its soothing essential oils. These have a protective, anti-inflammatory action and are regenerative and lubricating for a dry throat.

Who found marshmallow appetizing?

Nuns, who grew the plant in convent gardens, and used it to prepare roasts, once enjoyed this salt-rich herb. Farmers later continued the tradition. The plant’s young leaves and flowers were also considered a welcome addition to salad.
French confectioners created the sweet treat “pâte de guimauve” – today, these are known worldwide as marshmallows. The sticky, sweet consistency comes from Marshmallow’s active ingredients forming as mucous-like sugary polysaccharide and as the substance of mineral salts.

What does the name signify?

The genus or scientific name  “Althaea” derives from the Greek άλδα_νω (‘aldaíno’, ‘althaino’ or ‘altho’, for short), meaning ‘to heal’ or ‘promoting the body’s own healing powers’. The name “officinalis” means the plant was officially sold as a herbal remedy in drugstores.
The popular name in folklore is ‘Marshmallow’. Other common names are: March Mallow Toot, Cheeses, Sweet Weed, White Mallow Root and Althea.

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What is the appearance of Marshmallow?

Marshmallow is planted in almost every traditional farmer’s garden. The plant is covered all over in soft downy hairs and grows solitary and upright. It has heart-shaped leaves and draws nutrients for growth from salt, so it thrives on saline soils. The flowers are white.

What were its earlier uses?

Hildegard von Bingen recommended drinking Marshmallow in tea to counteract fever. In Benedictine monasteries, the leaves were soaked in oil and then placed on closed wounds, ulcers or bruises and contusions.

How is it used today?

For instance, as a tea for irritating coughs: place 1 tsp Marshmallow root in 1 cup of cold water, allow to infuse for at least 3–4 hrs, or overnight. Then strain and gently heat to lukewarm temperature. Boiling the roots and leaves also proved a good antidote for gastric influenza, especially in children, and gastroenteritis. ‘Snail syrup’, so-called for its consistency, is also made from Marshmallow.
And of course, at Ricola we use the essential oil from the leaves for the soothing and anti-inflammatory effect for the mouth and throat.