Marshmallow

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Posted by admin | Posted in Marshmallow | Posted on 05-10-2010

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Marshmallow is one of the most useful herbs, though not as most non-herbal people think. Get that idea of a sugary confection out of your mind.    If you like this profile, the complete one, with many more medicinal and cosmetic recipes, is part of the Herbalpedia CD.

Althaea officinalis, of the Malvaceae family, is a tall perennial (3-4 ft.), covered with large pink flowers in late summer. The leaves have the texture of velvet, with the lower leaves being circular, 3-5 lobed, toothed and 1¼ to 3¼ inches wide. The upper leaves are ovate to lanceolate, pointed, lobed and toothed. It has woolly stems and several spreading, leafy branches. The flowers are generally solitary, 1-2 inches across, borne from the upper leaf axils, five pink or white, obovate, notched petals. It flowers July through September.

Cultivation: Perennial. Zone 4. Marsh mallow grows in marshes, bogs, damp meadows and along stream banks. The plant is a downy, erect, 5-foot perennial with a long taproot. The stems, which die back each autumn, are hairy and branching. The roundish, gray-green leaves, 1 to 3 inches long, are lobed, toothed, and covered with velvety hairs. The flowers, pink or white, bloom in summer. They are up to 2 inches across and give rise to round fruits called “cheeses,” one of the herb’s names.
In moist soil under full sun, marsh mallow is a hardy plant that grows easily from seeds, cuttings, or root divisions. Seeds should be planted in spring (germination in 2-3 weeks), root divisions in autumn. Thin them to 1-2 foot spacing. A well manured field followed by a good cover crop the year before planting should provide all the nutrients needed. Needs to be irrigated deeply at least once a week in the west. Young plants should be intensely weeded the first year. Do not harvest roots from plants less than two years old. In autumn, when the top growth has died back, dig out mature roots and remove the lateral rootlets. Wash, peel, and dry them whole or in slices. Roots harvested in the fall seem to have a higher mucilage content than those harvested in winter or spring. They can be dug with a root digger or by hand. The expected yield is 1,000-1,500 pounds of dry root per acre. The root is mainly used, being split and dried as quickly as possible a 92F to avoid a mildew attack. The leaves have to be watched while being dried for any developing rust fungus. The marsh mallow root has a weak but distinctive smell but the leaves are odorless.

History: The botanical name comes from a Greek word, altho, meaning “to heal”. The modern name comes from the Anglo-Saxon merscmealwe (merse means “marsh,” and mealwe is “mallow”) Marsh mallow was a food before it was a medicine. The Book of Job mentions a plant that was eaten during famines. And during the Middle Ages when crops failed, people boiled marsh mallow roots, then fried them with onions in butter. A dish of mallow was considered a delicacy by the ancient Romans and the Chinese also used a species of mallow for food. Backpacking guides suggest the plant for wilderness foragers today. Fresh young tops are still eaten in France as a spring tonic. The French first candied marsh mallow roots centuries ago (pate de guimauve). They peeled the root bark, exposing the white pulp, and boiled it to soften it and release its sweetness. Then they added sugar. The result eventually evolved into the confection marshmallows.

The plant’s history as a medicinal goes back to Theophrastus (372-286BC) who reported that marsh mallow root was taken in sweet wine for coughs. Hippocrates prescribed a decoction of marsh mallow roots to treat bruises and blood loss from wounds. The Greek physician Dioscorides recommended marsh mallow root poultices for insect bites and stings and prescribed the decoction for toothache and vomiting and as an antidote to poisons. 10th century Arab physicians used mallow leaf poultices to treat inflammations and early European folk healers used marsh mallow root both internally and externally for its soothing action in treating toothache, sore throat, digestive upsets, and urinary irritation. Culpeper recommended it and by the mid-19th century, it was included in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. In the 9th century, Emperor Charlemagne ordered marshmallow cultivated in his monasteries.
Those about to undergo torture by hot irons during the Inquisition would paint their skin with an ointment of mallow sap, white of egg and plantain seeds. A coating of this ointment would lessen the effects of the burns and so hopefully prove their innocence.

Properties: Root: demulcent, diuretic, vulnerary, emollient,
Leaves: demulcent, expectorant, emollient, anti-catarrhal, pectoral, alterative, diuretic, lithotriptic; yin tonic

Nutritional Profile: Very high in aluminum, iron, magnesium, selenium, tin. Also has substantial quantities of calcium and magnesium.

Energetics: cool, moist, sweet, bitter

Meridians/organs affected: lungs, stomach, kidneys

Constituents: Root: Mucilage, 18-35%: consisting of a number of polysaccharides: one is composed of L-rhamnose, D-galactose, D-galacturonic acid and D-glucuronic acid; another a highly branched L-arabifuranan, another a trisaccharide structural unit and one with a high proportion of uronic acid units; about 35% pectin, 1-2% asparagines, tannins; In the leaves: mucilage including a low molecular weight D-glucan; Flavanoids such as kaempferol, quercitin and diosmetin glucosides; Scopoletin, a coumarin; polyphenolic acids, including syringic, caffeic, salicyclic, vanillic, p-courmaric, etc.

Language of Flowers: humanity and benevolence

Medicinal Uses: Used whenever a soothing effect is needed, marsh mallow protects and soothes the mucous membranes. The root counters excess stomach acid, peptic ulceration, and gastritis. It reduces the inflammation of gall stones. Marsh mallow is also mildly laxative and beneficial for many intestinal problems, including regional ileitis, colitis, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome Marshmallow’s ability to bind and eliminate toxins allows the body to cleanse itself. For this reason, it is added to arthritis, laxative, infection, female tonic, vermifuge and other cleansing formulas. Taken as a warm infusion, the leaves treat cystitis and frequent urination. Marsh mallow’s demulcent qualities bring relief to dry coughs, bronchial asthma, bronchial congestion, and pleurisy. The flowers, crushed fresh or in a warm infusion, are applied to help soothe inflamed skin. The root is used in an ointment for boils and abscesses, and in a mouthwash for inflammation. The peeled root may be given as a chewstick to teething babies. The dried root contains up to 35% of mucilage, 38% of starch and 10% of pectin and sugar. Extracts have to be made with cold water if they are to contain the mucilage and not the starch, the latter dissolving only in hot water. If marsh mallow is to be used for gargling rather than taken internally as a tea, the starch will be of additional benefit. Marsh mallow root is very high in pectin. Taking pectin is an effective way to keep blood sugar levels down.

APPLICATIONS:
Flowers—Use a syrup made from the infusion as a cough expectorant;
Leaves—use for bronchial and urinary disorders;
Roots—decoction: for inflammations such as esophagitis and cystitis, use 25 g root to 1 liter water, and boil down to about 750 ml. ; tincture: use for inflammations of the mucous membranes of the digestive and urinary systems; poultice—Use the root or a paste of the powdered root mixed with water or honey for skin inflammations and ulcers; ointment—for wounds, skin ulceration, or to help draw splinters, melt 50 g lanolin, 50 g beeswax, and 300 g soft paraffin together, then heat 100 g powdered marshmallow root in these liquid fats for an hour over a waterbath. When cool, stir in 100 g powdered slippery elm bark.
The root boiled in milk, will prove beneficial in treating diarrhea and dysentery. It will also enrich the milk of nursing mothers, and at the same time increase milk flow. Combining both Blessed Thistle and Marshmallow for enriched milk is especially effective. Marshmallow’s ability to bind and eliminate toxins allows the body to cleanse itself. For this reason, it is added to arthritis, laxative, infection, female tonic, vermifuge and other cleansing formulas.

Tincture—20-40 drops 3 times per day. High in minerals, especially calcium, nutritive. High in oxygen. Feeds cells and stops putrefaction. Rejuvenative to lungs, cleanses and rebuilds. Good for weak digestion, chronic constipation, irritations associated with diarrhea and dysentery, enteritis, gastritis, peptic ulcer. Two to 4 heaping tablespoons of powder a day, mixed with water (or yogurt, oatmeal, applesauce or maple syrup) to make a paste will increase stool motility.

Combinations:
Ulcerative conditions, internal or external: comfrey
Bronchitis: licorice and white horehound
Often mixed with slippery elm to make ointments

Marshmallow Root Cough Syrup
1½ -2½ tsp chopped dried marsh mallow root
2 cups water
2 cups refined sugar
¼ cup orange juice
Stir the marsh mallow root into the water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the decoction into another saucepan; you should have about a cup. Over low heat, gradually stir in the sugar, so that a thick syrup forms. Simmer the mixture for another 5 minutes. Make sure the grains are fully dissolved. Stir in a small amount of water if the mixture gets too thick. Let the mixture cool slightly; then gradually mix in the orange juice. Pour the syrup into a sealable container and cover it when it is cool.

Allergy Tea
2 cups water
½ tsp each echinacea root and marshmallow root
1 tsp chamomile flowers
½ tsp peppermint leaf
¼ tsp ginger rhizome
Combine water and echinacea and marshmallow roots in a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients. Steep for 15 minutes, then strain out herbs. For a 50-lb child give 1-2 cups daily.

Cosmetic Uses: Use in facial steam for dry, sensitive skin; boil leaves or use the liquid from steeped root, warmed or cold as a healing softener for dry skins, chapped hands and sunburn; make into an eye compress to soften skin around eyes. The pulverized roots make a soothing and drawing poultice and are occasionally blended in ointments and creams to soothe chapped hands. Marshmallow stimulates skin-cell growth and soothes skin that is irritated from being dry and flaky.

Marsh Mallow face mask
4 tsp untreated acacia honey
2 tsp almond oil
2/3 oz fresh marsh mallow leaves
1/3 oz wheat starch
20 drops blackcurrant macerated in glycerin
5 drops peppermint essential oil
4 ½ oz still mineral water
Simmer the marsh mallow leaves gently in a covered pan for 10 minutes until nearly all the water has gone. If using dried leaves, use 1/3 oz with 5 oz water. Blend all the ingredients in a blender for one minute. Smooth over the face and neck or any area which has been irritated by the sun, wind or other factors. Leave for at least half an hour, then rinse with tepid water and dry. It makes the skin beautifully soft and relieves inflammation in young and old alike. It keeps for a day or two in the refrigerator.

Toxicity: Medical literature contains no reports of any harm from marsh mallow. If it causes minor discomforts such as stomach upset or diarrhea, use less or stop using it. The absorption of other drugs taken simultaneously may be delayed.

Ritual Uses: Sometimes used to cure impotency, and is sometimes used as an Aphrodisiac. The seed of the herb may be gathered beneath a full moon, and this made into an oil which is used upon the genitals. An amulet may be made of either leaf or root, and its energy kept near the genitals to achieve the same purpose. As a Funereal Herbe, it may be used in rituals for the dead, or may be grown upon the grave.

Culinary Uses: Eat fresh seeds alone or sprinkled like nuts on salads; toss flowers on salads; mix young leaves into salads and add to oil and vinegar; steam leaves and serve as a vegetable. Some Middle Eastern peoples boil marshmallow and then fry it with onions and butter. A confection made from the herb was the inspiration for the candy called marshmallow.

Recipes:
Marshmallows

Make sure the mallow roots aren’t moldy or too woody. Marshmallow gives off almost twice its own weight of mucilaginous gel when placed in water.
4 tablespoons marshmallow roots
28 tablespoons refined sugar
20 tablespoons gum tragacanth (or gum arabic)
Water of orange flowers (for aroma or instead of plain water)
2 cups water
1-2 egg whites, well beaten
Make a tea of marshmallow roots by simmering in a pint of water for twenty to thirty minutes. Add additional water if it simmers down. Strain out the roots. Heat the gum and marshmallow decoction (water) in a double boiler until they are dissolved together. Strain with pressure. Stir in the sugar as quickly as possible. When dissolved, add the well beaten egg whites, stirring constantly, but take off the fire and continue to stir. Lay out on a flat surface. Let cool, and cut into smaller pieces.

Gingered Pumpkin Soup
1 Tbsp butter
3-4 whole marsh mallow plants, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped gingerroot
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4-6 cups baked pumpkin
½ cup cow or soy milk
Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the marsh mallow and ginger until tender. Transfer to a large cooking pot, add the vegetable broth, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until the marsh mallow and ginger are softened. In a blender, combine approximately 1 cup pumpkin, 1 cup broth mixture, and 1/8 cup milk. Puree until smooth. Pour pureed soup into another large cooking pot; repeat the blending step until all the pumpkin has been pureed. Heat soup until just warmed thorugh; do not boil. (Growing 101 Herbs that Heal)

Roast Beef
1 large roast
2 onions, peeled and chopped
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
6-8 dandelion roots, chopped or sliced
1-3 burdock roots, chopped or sliced
2-4 hollyhock or marsh mallow roots, sliced
3-4 potatoes, chopped
4-6 carrots, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400F. Place all ingredients in a large baking pan or roasting pan, with 1-2 inches of water in the bottom. Bake for 1 hour. Lower temperature to 325F; continue to cook 1 ½ to 2 hours longer, or until roast is tender, juicy and done as desired. (Growing 101 Herbs That Heal)

References:
The Healing Herbs, Michael Castleman, Rodale Press, 1991
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, 1993
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, Andrew Chevallier, Dorling Kindersley, 1997; ISBN: 0-7894-1067-2
Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, Tammi Hartung, Storey Books, 2000; ISBN: 1-58017-215-6
Herbal Medicine, Rudolf Fritz Weiss, distributor: Medicina Biologica, 1988
Herbs for Health and Healing, Kathi Keville, Rodale, 1997; ISBN: 0-87596-2939-
Magic and Medicine of Plants, Reader’s Digest, 1986
The Complete Book of Herbs, Lesley Bremness, Viking, 1988
The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia, Kathi Keville, Mallard Press, 1991
Master Book of Herbalism, Paul Beyerl, Phoenix Publishing, 1984
Medicinal Herbs in the Garden, Field & Marketplace, Lee Sturdivant and Tim Blakley, San Juan Naturals; 1998; ISBN: 0-9621635-7-0
Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies, Jude C. Williams, Llewellyn Publications, 1992
Textbook of Modern Herbology, Dr. Terry Willard, C.W. Progressive Publishing, 1988
The Herb Book, John Lust, Bantam Books, 1974
Nutritional Herbology, Mark Pedersen, Pedersen Publishing, 1987
Flora’s Dictionary, Kathleen Gips, TM Publications, 1990
Thorne’s Guide to Herbal Extracts, Terry Thorne, Wisteria Press, 1992
Natural Beauty, Aldo Facetti, Fireside Books, 1990

Resources:
Crimson Sage, http://www.crimson-sage.com Plants

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