Eastern Shore Food Lab

Althaea officinalis - Marsh Mallow

Marsh mallow began to flourish in North American salt marshes after being introduced from Europe and Asia. This iconic plant is valued not only in its contribution to the sweet, gooey campfire treats we enjoy today, but also because of its remarkable medicinal qualities.

Scientific Name:  Althaea officinalis 

Common Name: Marsh Mallow, Marshmallow

Etymology: Althaea— Gr. Derivative althein/althainein “to heal, get well;” officinalis—L. “of the dispensary.”

Edible Parts

Marshmallow roots and leaves can be steeped to make a tea. Historically, the roots of the marshmallow were powdered and whipped with sugar, egg whites, and other ingredients to form the white, fluffy candy resembling what we enjoy around campfires today. While the marshmallow plant is no longer used in modern day marshmallow candies, the name of these candies derives from the historical use of this plant.

Historic Medical Uses

Marshmallow was used in ancient Greek medicine and in traditional European Medicine since the time of the Common Era. It was used to treat wounds, skin irritation, digestive issues, throat irritation, muscular pain, toothaches, and urinary irritation. Ancient rituals using the marshmallow plant deemed it an aphrodisiac and a way to bid homage to the dead.

Documented Medicinal Uses

In the United States, extracts from the marshmallow plant are used in dietary supplements to soothe cough and irritation. In Germany, marshmallow tea is a common medicinal tea for cough and irritation. The plant also is a source of mucilage, and is said to soothe wounds and chapped skin when used in a topical ointment, and upset stomach and sore throat through ingestion of a small dosage in combination with food.

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Forest Garden Layer: groundcover

Sources

  • Basch, E., Ulbricht, C., Hammerness, P., & Vora, M. (2003). Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis L.)
  • Monograph. Journal Of Herbal Pharmacotherapy3(3), 71
  • EBSCO CAM Review, B. (2013). Marshmallow as a dietary supplement. Salem Press Encyclopedia Of Health
  • Schmitt, D. J. (2013). Marshmallows, a Medicine! Hopscotch, 25(1), 10.