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Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

prawoslaznspThe marshmallow is a plant with a tradition of use in confectionery and gardening, and it is also widespread in herbal medicine.

What does the marshmallow look like and where does it come from?

The marshmallow hails from the Mediterranean basin (the lands at the Black Sea, specifically) and the steppes of Western Asia. It is found in wild habitats on lowlands or cultivated for industrial use (which is more often the case).

The marshmallow grows one and a half metre tall. The marshmallow features light yellow flowers growing at the angles of leaves, primarily at the top of the plant. The flowers are singular and rarely in groups of several next to each other. The leaves are wide and palmate with serrated edges and sharp tips. The leaves are numerous and only some surround the few flowers. Herbal medicine mainly uses the marshmallow root, which is cylindrical and with a maximum diameter of 3 centimetres. The marshmallow root is dark brown when fresh from harvest. Once the bark has been peeled, the white creamy, grainy inside is exposed.

Active ingredient contents in the marshmallow

The marshmallow root is the so-called mucilage material. The mucilage of the marshmallow is a valuable source of galacturonic acid, galactose, glucose, arabinose and rhamnose. Apart from mucilage compounds, marshmallow extracts also contain pectin, saccharose, asparagines, starch and flavonoid glycosides.

The actions of these mucilage ingredients involves coating, alleviating and protection of the mucosa in the throat, the larynx and the vocal cords. The extract of the marshmallow is also a mild expectorant (stimulates cough) and anti-inflammatory. Due to the mild composition of the marshmallow extract and the pleasant taste of marshmallow based syrups, paediatricians have been increasingly prescribing the formula to children.

Therapeutic indications for the marshmallow extract

Marshmallow extract has indications for support in the treatment of coughs and sore throat. Both in the form of syrups and lozenges, the marshmallow has a coating and soothing effect. Marshmallow syrups also stimulate secretion of mucus which facilitates expectoration.

Marshmallow extracts are available alone; however, it is more frequent and beneficial for therapeutic effects in the form of composite preparations (the syrup Bronchopect, a dietary supplement). Combination of marshmallow with natural ingredients, such as thyme herb extracts or acerola fruit extract enables more effective action. The syrup Bronchopect is a preparation which combines these extracts, i.e. marshmallow, thyme and acerola. The action of the thyme extract moisturises and "refreshes" the throat. The organic vitamin C from acerola fruits improves the functioning of the immune system. Finally, the marshmallow coats the throat, and moisturises the larynx and the vocal cords which enables normal and pain-free speech.

Does the marshmallow have other uses?

There are currently attempts to prove the thesis that the mucilage from the marshmallow and some other plant species of the same family reduce the blood sugar level (have a hypoglycaemic effect) in extraintestinal administration (bypassing the intestinal transport).

In external applications, marshmallow in a gargle reduces inflammation of the throat and of the oral cavity while alleviating sore throat. It can also be administered on the skin as a compress (i.e. cataplasm). The compresses or poultices of the marshmallow facilitate the healing of wounds, boils and burns.

How to make a marshmallow poultice?

You need three table spoons of dry marshmallow leaves, boiling water and dressing gauze. Pour two glasses of boiling water over the marshmallow leaves and brew under cover for around 20 minutes. Then filter out the leaves, put them on the gauze and roll into a compress that is easy to apply on the wound. Remember that the cataplasm cannot be too hot to avoid burning the affected area.

How is marshmallow used in confectionery?

It has been found that heating powdered marshmallow root with sugar can give a sweet and delicate base for creams and confectionery masses.

Products containing Marshmallow

Tips - Marshmallow

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