Marshmallow is a traditional medicinal plant, which mainly helps against mucous membrane inflammation and persistent irritant cough. The plant, which belongs to the mallow family, contains valuable mucilage, which can quickly provide relief. Marshmallow was formerly used as a kitchen plant. Both the leaves and the roots are edible. The wild stocks of the plant are on the decline in recent years, so it is now under nature protection.
Profile of marshmallow:
Scientific name: Althaea officinalis
Plant family: mallow family (Malvaceae)
Other names: marsh-mallow
Sowing time / Planting time: February – March
Flowering period: June – September
Harvest time: flowers from June; root from the second year
Useful plant parts: leaves , flowers, roots
Location: sunny to off-sun
Soil quality: moderately moist to moist, sandy, nutrient-rich, humus-rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: bronchitis, gastritis, inflammation of the mucous membranes, aphthae, insect bites
Use as aromatic herb: marshmallows, roots as vegetables
Plant characteristics and classification of marshmallow
Origin and occurrence of marshmallow
Wild marshmallow is under nature protection and therefore may not be collected in the wild. Originally based in Asia, it is now found in many parts of Europe, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, on coasts and on salty meadows.
Plant order of marshmallow
The genus name “Althaea” derives from the Greek word “althäeis” for “cure, promote”. The name of the plant family, to which the genuine marshmallow belongs, the mallow family (Malvaceae), is also of Greek origin: “malake” means something like “soft”. Its English name, was transferred to the familiar soft candy, even if it is no longer made with marshmallow today.
Characteristics of the marshmallow
Marshmallow is a hardy perennial with a fleshy, deep-reaching taproot. From this drive firm, soft-haired to felted and unbranched stems, which are up to one and a half meter (5 feet) high. The upright and relatively bushy growing plant should be placed in the bed with sufficient distance to other plants.
Right on the stems develop fleshy, gray-green, 3 to 8 cm (2.5 to 3.2 in) wide leaves that are arranged spirally. They are lobed three to five times and notched irregularly on the edge. Their surface is fluffy soft and hairy.
The flowers of the genuine marshmallow appear from July to September in bunches in the leaf axils. They are 3 to 5 cm (1.2 to 2 in) large, white to pale pink flowers with six to nine outer calyx leaves that smell slightly.
After flowering, disc-shaped schizocarp fruits develop that contain the seeds.
Marshmallow – cultivation and care
Marshmallow thrives best in sunny and sheltered locations. The cotton gardens classic is well combined with other plants in the bed. In addition, the numerous flowers attract many bees and beneficial insects.
The soil should be moist, deep and nutritious. Genuine marshmallow feels at home in the garden as well as on the edge of garden ponds.
Planting / Sowing
Place the young plants in the spring at a distance of 40 to 50 cm (16 and 20 in) in the spring, so that they can develop vigorously. A mulch layer and some compost ensure a good start and healthy growth.
The marshmallow seeds should be put into the field in the expiring winter months February to March. Marshmallows are cold germs and need temperatures around freezing. The seed must spend some time in the soil. The first seedlings appear as well as a longer warmer period after the cold period. As a rule, this is to be expected between the end of April and the beginning of May.
Watering / Care
The perennial is undemanding and easy to maintain. Pay attention to regular and sufficient watering, especially during longer dry periods.
During the season additional supplements of nutrients are usually not required. Assumed that the plants grow in a nutrient-rich soil. In the following season, it is usually sufficient to mix smaller amounts of compost in the garden soil. If no compost is available, fertilizer pellets made from organic fertilizers can also be used. Marshmallow plants display nutrient deficiency mostly through yellow leaves or direct leaf abscission. In such cases, a high nitrogen content liquid organomineral fertilizer should be used.
Harvest and conservation
The leaves and flowers of the genuine marshmallow are picked early in summer – at the beginning of flowering. They can be dried in a shady place with gentle warmth. Keep it well closed and dark. The roots can be dug out, cleaned and dried in the autumn. Allow them enough time to dry out completely, otherwise they will start to mold easily.
In general, all plant parts of the genuine marshmallow can be processed into effective remedies. In the past, the grated roots were predominantly used to make pastilles for coughing and hoarseness. As a culinary herb, on the other hand, the marshmallow has no significance anymore.
Diseases and pests
Common pests that affect the marshmallow are, above all, aphids and spider mites. Aphids usually attach to the plant when young shoots are formed. The risk usually increases when the plants are too dense. Moderate aphid infestation usually does not affect the marshmallow. If the infestation is too high, consideration should be given to treatment with herbal cheese.
Marshmallow is hardy. There are no overwintering measures necessary.
Use of the marshmallow
Marshmallow in the kitchen
As an ingredient in the kitchen, the marshmallow is basically suitable. The popular marshmallows in the US were originally made from extracts of marshmallow root, as well as egg whites and sugar. Such marshmallows are actually from France and were also used as a tasty cough medicine for children.
The subtly sweet-tasting roots can also be used in stir-fry. They blend well with other root vegetables such as carrots or parsley roots and can be served with potatoes or sweet potatoes. Inasmuch as the root is prepared as a vegetable, aromatic spices, e.g. thyme, rosemary or tarragon are used.
The flowers of marshmallow are basically edible and can be used decoratively for salads or desserts. However, a special or characteristic taste should not be expected.
Young leaves and shoot tips are rich in vitamins and can be perfectly mixed into salads or smoothies. The taste of the leaves is rather mild and noticeably slimy. In the Middle Ages, the leaves were cooked similar to spinach or used in fillings.
Marshmallow as a medicinal herb
Genuine marshmallow takes, as already mentioned, a high priority in natural medicine as a medicinal plant and so-called mucus drug. Its roots, leaves and flowers contain valuable mucilage and the ingredients have irritant-repressive, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Marshmallow is usually drunk as a tea and also helps in hoarseness, sore throat, cough and bronchitis as in inflammation of the gums and in the mouth and throat. It also relieves indigestion. Externally applied are infusions of the flowers or ointments from the root of the genuine marshmallow beneficial for minor skin injuries, rashes, abscesses, mild sunburn or wounds.
Preparation of a marshmallow tea
For a cup of marshmallow tea, take a teaspoon of dried root and a teaspoon of finely chopped leaves and flowers. These can be used both fresh and dried.
Important: Apply the plant parts with 150 ml (5 fl oz) of cold water, as the mucilage is destroyed by strong heat. Let the mixture soak for one to two hours with occasional stirring. Then remove the plant parts with a sieve and heat the broth only slightly, without boiling it up.
In case of difficulty swallowing, coughing and hoarseness, you should drink two to three cups a day in small sips. You can also sweeten the tea a little with honey.
Marshmallow tea can also be used externally in the form of ablutions, baths or envelopes. It helps against mild burns, chapped skin and moist eczema.
Boils and even carbuncles are softened by marshmallow poultices. To do this, grate the roots finely and mix them with honey. This paste is spread on a small cloth and placed on the area to be treated. Replace every two to three hours with a new envelope.
Marshmallow can be used for these ailments and diseases
- aching muscles
- bad breath
- bladder stones
- cracked skin
- dry skin
- insect bites
- intestinal mucosal inflammation
- light burns
- oral mucosal inflammation
- peptic ulcer
- sore throat
- stomach acidity
- tracheal inflammation
- wet eczema
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy marshmallow – What to pay attention to?
For the preparation of a marshmallow root many herbalists offer ready-dried and crushed roots. The prices per kilo (2 lbs) are usually between 12 and 20 EUR / $. There are sometimes high differences in quality, depending on the region of origin and cultivation. A few manufacturers also offer lozenges, which are usually taken to strengthen the immune system in winter or generally just before the outbreak of influenza infections.
Who would like to grow marshmallow in the garden should urgently pay attention to the botanical name Althaea officinalis. Under the name garden marshmallow usually a relative of the plant, namely the hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacis) is understood. Some perennial gardeners and other nurseries also offer pottery with grown marshmallow plants. The price per plant is about 3- 5 EUR/$.
The seeds are relatively cheap. A package is about 1.50 and 2.50 EUR/$.