Originally, marshmallows were made from the root sap of the marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) plant. It is a genus of herbs that is native to parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Marshmallows grow in marshes and other damp areas. The plant has a fleshy stem, leaves, and pale, five-petaled flowers. The first marshmallows were made by boiling pieces of the marshmallow root pulp with sugar until it thickened. After it had thickened, the mixture was strained and cooled. As far back as 2000 B.C., Egyptians combined the marshmallow root with honey. The candy was reserved for gods and royalty.
This plant actually has a very long medicinal history that started with the Egyptians and moved to Charlemagne who promoted its cultivation in Europe. Hypocrites used it as a wound healer. Its generic name Althaea comes from the Greek Altho to heal and Malake “soft” because of its special softening and healing qualities. The Chinese, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Armenians, in times of famine or failure of their crops, subsisted on wild herbs, the Marshmallow being one of these.
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Use the flowers as an excellent expectorant in cough syrups. The leaves of Marshmallow are used for healing bronchial and urinary disorders. The Marshmallow root is for healing mucous membranes as in gastritis, esophagitis, enteritis, and peptic ulceration.
Doctor John R. Christopher in his book “Every Woman’s Herbal” cites the case of one of his students who treated a woman who had burned one foot and had gone gangrene in the foot with infection to her knee. She was advised at the hospital where she was being treated that the only cure was amputation at the ankle. Under Doctor Christopher’s advice, the student prepared a tea using the entire Marshmallow plant and soaked the woman’s leg in it at a temperature as hot as she could stand, then soaked it in cold water and back into a fresh batch of tea throughout the day. The next day the pain was gone. They repeated the procedure and within 48 hours, the gangrene had left the ankle and foot.
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Every part of the plant is used. Astringent, Absorbent-soothing, Demulcent, Diuretic, Emollient, Expectorant, Galactagogue, Laxative, Lithotriptic, Mucilant, Nutritive, Tonic, Vulnerary. Marshmallows will also increase flow and enrich nursing mother’s milk.
Today Marshmallow is still known as a confectionary, as in the marshmallows we roast in campfires at picnics. But they do not roast like they used to, read the label to see why. The label on a bag of marshmallows today no longer lists any marshmallows. Today’s marshmallows are mostly sugar.
Linking Marshmallow to TheHerbProf.com
Marshmallow is a wonderful herb with a host of health benefits, and at TheHerbProf.com, we’re all about exploring these benefits! Here’s how our website and this subject harmonize:
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So, whether you’re a marshmallow enthusiast or just starting your herbal journey, TheHerbProf.com is your trusted guide. Remember, stay curious and stay healthy! Check our home page here!
Little Herb Encyclopedia, by Jack Ritchason; N.D., Woodland Publishing Incorporated, 1995
The Ultimate Healing System, Course Manual, Copyright 1985, Don Lepore
Planetary Herbology, Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., Lotus Press, 1988
Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, by James A. Duke, Pub. CRP Second Edition 2007
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Published by Dorling Kindersley