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Marshmallow (Althaea) Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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Marshmallow is an herb that has its origin in Africa. It has been utilized since ancient times with culinary purposes and also the roots and leaves are being used to make medicine. Althaea comes from the Greek word “altho,” which means healing.  Romans considered it a palatable vegetable and the dish of marshmallow was one of their favorite foods. It was commonly used as a food source by people from China, Syria, and Egypt, while the Arabs used marshmallow leaves as a bandage for soothing inflammation.

It has been used with success in traditional medicine in order to heal the irritated mucus membranes and sore throats.

Marshmallow Functions & Benefits

The mucilage, contained by the marshmallow root and leaves, can be mixed with water in order to create a gel that has amazing healing benefits. According to “The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines,” this mix made by marshmallow root mucilage alleviates the irritation and is offering protection for mucous membranes.

Interstitial cystitis, usually known as Painful Bladder Syndrome is a health condition that frequently manifests as an urgent or frequent need to urinate or sometimes both of these symptoms. This urge is accompanied by different pain levels ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain in the pelvic and bladder area. The marshmallow root represents a good complementary remedy for treating this condition. It may help in soothing and protecting the mucus membrane of the bladder. Hot infusion of marshmallow root may be helpful for relieving pain and inflammation in many inflammatory diseases. It is commonly taken for minimizing the discomfort caused by urinary problems. This soothing and calming effect is also useful for lungs, digestive tract, urinary tract, bladder, and mouth tissues protection. It is also effective for the treatment of bladder infections. There have been many studies regarding the effectiveness of marshmallow for treating irritated mucous membranes. It has been observed that the healing of the damaged cells in vitro has been significantly improved. Researchers from the Institute for Pharmaceutical Biology and Phytochemistry in Germany claim that it represents an efficient treatment for tissue regeneration and validate marshmallow traditional usage for irritated mucous membranes.

There are many positive effects that have been reported regarding marshmallow root.  It is a good remedy for common cold, asthma, bronchitis, cough, and sore throat. Also it may sooth skin inflammation. It may treat indigestion and stomach ulcers. Other medicinal uses include the thyroid imbalances, frequent urination, acid reflux, bronchial irritation, IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, cough, and teeth problems.

The irritable bowel syndrome is represented by one disease or a mixture of intestinal imbalances such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Inflammation and irritation are commonly issues for people who are suffering from IBS. Many of the symptoms include constipation, cramps, abdominal pain, colon spasms and many others. They may vary from mild to very powerful ones and IBS may affect people’ social lives and, also, their ability to do everyday activities. Unfortunately, there is no cure available for IBS and the treatment differs from one individual to another depending on the symptoms. Although it hasn’t been scientifically proven, many researchers believe that it is generated by the immune system’s exaggerated response. Many herbalists consider that marshmallow has anti-inflammatory benefits and may help in soothing the pain and inflammation, preventing stomach ulcers, digestive tract disorders, and irritation.

Due to its antibacterial properties, it is frequently used in natural toothpaste in order to combat mouth bacteria and germs and related teeth problems. But this use is still not approved by the US Federal Drug Administration and, before using toothpaste made from marshmallow root, it is best to consult your dentist.

There have been a few studies made on animals and humans and American Botanical Council is claiming that marshmallow root may be considered a good remedy for cough. It also may promote lactation when used alongside other herbs, such as fenugreek, alfalfa, and blessed thistle. It also may enhance the effectiveness of fenugreek for increasing milk supply on lactating woman. It may fight bacteria and it may enhance the immune system’s functions. Marshmallow root powder may be used for stomach ulcers and bronchitis.

Most of these uses and benefits haven’t been proven to be effective through scientific studies.  This doesn’t mean that there is no truth in these claims. It simply means that mainstream medicine has not yet absorbed this information.


According to the Natural Standard and UMMC, marshmallow taken in small quantities has no reported side effects and it is considered to be safe and well-tolerated. It has not been reported as dangerous for pregnant or lactating woman, but it is best to seek for professional medical advice before the beginning of any treatment.

People that are suffering from diabetes have to be extra careful and seek for a doctor’s opinion and monitoring while using this herbal remedy, because it may decrease their blood sugar levels. It is recommended that you take this treatment under strict medical supervision if you are having any disease. It may interact with and delay the absorption of other drugs and it should not be taken at the same time as other medication. It is indicated to take this herb several hours before or after any other treatment in order to avoid possible interactions. On large doses, some side effects may occur due to the fact that it may raise the accumulation of lithium in the body.

Some people may be allergic to marshmallow. Some of the symptoms include tightness in the chest or throat, difficulty in breathing, itchy skin, swelling, or hives. If any of the above-mentioned signs occurs, medical monitoring, and supervision is mandatory and, also, the use should be immediately discontinued.


It may be used with culinary, ornamental, and medical purposes. Today, there are many available forms of marshmallow on the market. The roots and dried leaves are used in tinctures, supplements, capsules, ointments, gels, creams, fluid extracts, decoction, infusions, dried extract, natural toothpastes, and cough syrups.

All of these remedies may be found in pharmacies and in herbal stores. Also, there are a multitude of online websites that are offering best prices at a low shipping cost for these products. For culinary and ornamental purposes, it may be found both in supermarkets and also online.