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Marshmallow Mucilage (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is a tall plant that can be found growing in damp areas, such as meadows and marshes across Europe and Western Asia.

Traditional healers and herbalists have used it since ancient times. Its botanical name derives from the Greek word ‘althein,’ which means ‘to heal.’

The leaves and stem are covered in downy hairs, and the whole plant contains lubricating mucilage, particularly concentrated in the roots. The leaves are harvested in summer and the roots gathered in the autumn for use in various herbal remedies.

The Egyptians mixed the viscous root mucilage with honey and made it into sweets.

In the 19th century, doctors created a predecessor of the ‘marshmallow’ sweet we are familiar with today to treat children with sore throats; beating the juiced root, eggs, and sugar into a foam. The marshmallow sweets available today no longer contain the herb.

For centuries, doctors and herbalists have used the roots and leaves of the plant medicinally to treat ailments, such as mouth irritation, coughs and asthma, or illnesses of the digestive system and urinary tract. Marshmallow tea can soothe sore throats, and capsules made from it can help with coughs, or even bronchitis.