Mallow Family (Malvaceae)
Please note that this information is largely based on De la Foret (n.d.) except where noted. See Reference section for all reference details.
Marshmallow is in the mallow family of plants, many of which have traditionally been eaten as foods. The sweet treat, marshmallow, was traditionally made from the root of marshmallow. It is a widely appreciated demulcent herb, which means that it triggers a response in the body to coat tissue membranes with a protective film. Marshmallow, like other demulcent herbs or foods (like okra), has a gooiness or sliminess substance called mucilage.
While the gooiness generated by a marshmallow infusion or poultice can soothe and protect tissue it comes in direct contact with, it also triggers a response which can then have a similar effect for tissues it doesn’t directly come in contact with. Different demulcent herbs or foods can have this effect for particular organs or tissues, and marshmallow has an affinity for mucous membranes. Marshmallow is also soothing for internal or external inflammatory conditions.
(De la Foret n.d.)
Marshmallow is thought to help with dry coughs by triggering a moistening effect, and may also help alleviate coughing. It can help soothe an inflamed or sore throat.
As marshmallow has an affinity to mucous membranes, the urinary tract is one of the places it can stimulate a soothing effect for irritated, inflamed tissue. This is helpful for urinary tract infections, cystitis, or kidney stones. As a diuretic, it is also helpful for urinary issues, by supporting the movement of fluid out of the body.
Marshmallow is considered very healing for inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract, such as colitis and ulcers, and also helpful with constipation. Marshmallow root is useful for healing internal wounds in the digestive system.
Marshmallow can be applied topically to soothe irritated or inflamed conditions - sunburn, burns, rashes, stings, bites, bruises, swellings.
(De la Forêt, n.d.)
Marshmallow root can have an immunostimulant and antioxidant effect, supporting the immune system to fight infection - this has been shown in an in vitro study (Ali Shah et al., 2011).
Marshmallow leaf and root contains a lot of mucilaginous polysaccharides, a slimy substance that extracts well in cool water. If the root is simmered or cooked, then starches are also extracted, and this is how the confectionary, marshmallow, was traditionally made.
Marshmallow is considered safe. Because its coating effect can affect absorption of medicine, and even food, it is best to take any medicinal doses a few hours after taking other medicine or food.