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The History of Marshmallow

Marshmallow, Marshmallow
Lots of roots, useful roots
Soothes the inflammation,
Since the ancient Egyptians
Expectorant, demulcent,
Heals wounds, diuretic

When you hear “marshmallow” you might possibly be envisioning that white fluffy treat that is often melted over a campfire.

In fact, the plant Marshmallow can be eaten in many ways! And yes, they were the original marshmallows, though the confections we eat today have no marshmallow left in them, and don’t taste the same.

Originally marshmallows were made to help soothe dried, irritated coughs, with a sweet taste.

A long time ago, Marshmallows were made by combining powdered Marshmallow root with a sweetener and other ingredients to make confections that children could suck on to soothe sore throats and dry coughs. The first marshmallow candies were made over 3,000 years ago in Egypt!

The root can be boiled to create a mucilaginous egg white substitute. The roots are eaten as a vegetable in some parts of the world.

Marshmallow is sweet, moistening and cooling. The root is eaten as a vegetable in some parts of the world and contains calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamins A, C and B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin, B3 (niacin), and N5 (pantothenic acid.

Flowers can be sprinkled in salads and eaten raw.

The leaves are also edible but due to the hairs, taste best after cooking.

The seeds have a nutty taste and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Marshmallow doesn’t stop there. He has a lot of great medicinal uses too!

I mentioned that Marshmallow was given to children to relieve coughs and sore throats. A tea or syrup can also be made and used for soothing the respiratory tract. Marshmallow will also relieve inflammation and help to expel mucus from the lungs.

Because of his diuretic properties, Marshmallow is cleansing to the bladder. Combined with Marshmallow’s demulcent and emollient properties, he is soothing to the lining of the bladder and is great added to formulas for soothing urinary tract infections, bladder infections, edema, kidney stones, cystitis, and other urinary issues. As an antispasmodic, he can also help to calm spasms in the bladder.

For the digestive system, Marshmallow is soothing to the stomach lining, intestines and the esophagus for digestive upsets, ulcers, acid reflux, and inflammation of the gut. As a vulnerary, he can also help to heal those issues, as long as the root of the cause is also addressed.  I like to combine Marshmallow leaf with other herbs such as Calendula, Plantain, Chamomile, Peppermint and Ginger to make a healing tea, a recipe I learned from herbalist Ryn Midura, and have given it to clients with gut issues. I have found it helpful for healing the gut from irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, gastritis, and rheumatism, along with a change in diet as many of these things are caused by intolerances to foods such as gluten and dairy.

Marshmallow helps with constipation, especially when drank as a cold infusion.

Chewing on a piece of marshmallow root can help relieve a toothache. The cold infusion can be used as a mouthwash to sooth and heal all sorts of mouth sores including canker sores, ulcers, cuts and bites (ever bite your cheek?), inflamed gums and as a gargle for sore throats.

Marshmallow is great for lactating mothers, and can help to stimulate the flow of milk. He is also very nutritive and rejuvenative, making him a good choice for convalescing persons, tired mothers and elderly folks. Topically, the leaf or root can be applied to help relieve mastitis.

Externally, the roots or leaves can be made into a poultice to relieve skin inflammations, ulcers, wounds, bruises, cuts, mild burns, sun burns psoriasis and so on. And, while Marshmallow is a demulcent and brings about moisture, he can also work in an astringent or drying manner when used in a dry form. If you have a wound that is oozing and weeping, sprinkling a powder of root or leaf will absorb the moisture, help to dry up the wound and heal it. Herbalist jim mcdonald likes to mix Marshmallow and Goldenseal to make a great wound healing powder.

For eye irritation, a wash in an eye cup can sooth dry, irritated eyes and inflammation.

To recap, Marshmallow root can be dried and powdered to sprinkle on weepy wounds.

The leaf or root can be made as a cold water infusion to help moisten the body and sooth many systems including the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems.

The leaf or root can be made into a poultice to apply topically to dry, irritated skin conditions.

And finally, the root can be chewed for mouth afflictions.

Marshmallow root can be dug in the spring or fall, and the leaves can be harvested just before flowering. The flowers should be harvested right as they open.

Old Fashioned “Real” Marshmallows

(How they were made before corn syrup took over!) Recipe is adapted from A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra. These taste like those circus peanuts you buy at the store…a personal childhood favorite of mine!

2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons Marshmallow root powder

Baking tray

Parchment paper

Airtight container

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Beat whites until very foamy and not quite stiff. Beat in Vanilla.

Slowly beat in sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time. When sugar is completely  mixed in, add the Marshmallow root powder.

Drop mixture using a teaspoonful at a time on a baking tray covered with parchment paper, Bake 1 hour.

Remove from sheet and let cool.

To store, tightly cover and place in the refrigerator for several days.

Variations:

For Valentine’s Day, mash up 6 Raspberries and add to the mix after adding the Marshmallow root powder.

Split the spoonful in half and drop side by side using your fingers to taper the end into a heart shape. After cooling, wrap in tissue paper and place in a bag for freshness.

They can also be dipped in melted chocolate for chocolate covered marshmallows. Divine!

Fun Related Marshmallow Videos and Resources

Want to learn to make a cold water infusion with your kids? Check out my new Monday Making series. This week’s episode is on making a Marshmallow cold water infusion!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f3A3H5m1MY

Want to listen to “The Gift of Marshmallow”? This story is from the Yarrow issue of Herbal Roots zine and it can be found on YouTube here:
Want to learn MORE about Marshmallow? Check out my eBook on this soothing plant!

Marshmallow is a great “beginner” herb for kids to learn about and is part of my “New to Herbs” year long course for kids. This is the first of my two beginner courses.

To learn more about my courses and to enroll, head to: https://herbalrootszine.teachable.com/


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