Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)
Print    Email
Bookmark and Share

Health Information

Health Information

Health Information

Complementary and Alternative Medicine - Cam

Search Health Information    Marshmallow

Marshmallow

Uses

Common names:
Althea
Botanical names:
Althea officinalis

Parts Used & Where Grown

The marshmallow plant thrives in wet areas and grows primarily in marshes. Originally from Europe, it now grows in the United States as well. The root and leaves are used medicinally.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
2 Stars
Common Cold and Sore Throat (Elm Bark, Licorice)
5 to 8 ounces of tea, four to six times per day, for two to seven days
In one study, Throat Coat tea was effective in providing rapid, temporary relief of sore throat pain in people with acute pharyngitis.

In a double-blind study, a proprietary product containing marshmallow root , licorice root , and elm bark (Throat Coat) was effective in providing rapid, temporary relief of sore throat pain in people with acute pharyngitis.2 Throat Coat was taken as a tea in the amount of 5 to 8 ounces, 4 to 6 times per day, for two to seven days.

1 Star
Asthma
Refer to label instructions
Marshmallow, which has a soothing effect on bronchioles, has traditionally been used for asthma.

Traditionally, herbs that have a soothing action on bronchioles are also used for asthma. These include marshmallow , mullein , hyssop , and licorice . Elecampane has been used traditionally to treat coughs associated with asthma.3

1 Star
Common Cold and Sore Throat
Refer to label instructions
Herbs high in mucilage, such as marshmallow, are often helpful for relief of coughs and irritated throats.

Herbs high in mucilage, such as slippery elm , mallow (Malvia sylvestris), and marshmallow , are often helpful for symptomatic relief of coughs and irritated throats. Mullein has expectorant and demulcent properties, which accounts for this herb’s historical use as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion. Coltsfoot is another herb with high mucilage content that has been used historically to soothe sore throats. However, it is high in pyrrolizidine alkaloids—constituents that may damage the liver over time. It is best to either avoid coltsfoot or look for products that are free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

1 Star
Cough
Refer to label instructions
Marshmallow has a long history of use for treating coughs and has been shown in one study to have cough-relieving abilities.

A number of herbs have a rich history of use for treating coughs due to colds, bronchitis , or other mild conditions. Only a few studies have examined the effectiveness of these herbs. However, their effectiveness is well-known by practitioners of herbal medicine the world over. Among those herbs that have been shown to have some degree of cough-relieving activity are marshmallow ,4 sundew ,5 and coltsfoot .6 Use of coltsfoot should be limited to preparations of the leaves and flowers only, as the root is high in pyrrolizidine alkaloids, constituents that may be toxic to the liver.

1 Star
Crohn’s Disease
Refer to label instructions
Marshmallow helps soothe inflamed tissues. Doctors sometimes use this herb in combination with slippery elm, cranesbill, and several other herbs to sooth the digestive tract.

Doctors sometimes use a combination of herbs to soothe inflammation throughout the digestive tract. One formula contains marshmallow , slippery elm , cranesbill , and several other herbs.7 Marshmallow and slippery elm are mucilaginous plants that help soothe inflamed tissues. Cranesbill is an astringent. Clinical trials using this combination have not been conducted.

1 Star
Diarrhea
Refer to label instructions
Herbs high in mucilage, such as marshmallow, may help reduce the irritation to the walls of the intestinal tract that can occur with diarrhea.

Herbs high in mucilage, such as marshmallow or slippery elm , may help reduce the irritation to the walls of the intestinal tract that can occur with diarrhea. A usual amount taken is 1,000 mg of marshmallow extract, capsules, or tablets three times per day. Marshmallow may also be taken as a tincture in the amount of 5–15 ml three times daily.8

1 Star
Gastritis
Refer to label instructions
Marshmallow is high in mucilage, which may be advantageous for people with gastritis because its slippery nature soothes irritated mucus membranes of the digestive tract.

Demulcent herbs, such as marshmallow , slippery elm , and bladderwrack , are high in mucilage. Mucilage might be advantageous for people with gastritis because its slippery nature soothes irritated mucus membranes of the digestive tract. Marshmallow is used for mild inflammation of the gastric mucosa.9

1 Star
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Refer to label instructions
Mashmallow is a soothing herb traditionally used to treat reflux and heartburn.

Other herbs traditionally used to treat reflux and heartburn include digestive demulcents (soothing agents) such as aloe vera , slippery elm , bladderwrack , and marshmallow .10 None of these have been scientifically evaluated for effectiveness in GERD. However, a drug known as Gaviscon, containing magnesium carbonate (as an antacid) and alginic acid derived from bladderwrack, has been shown helpful for heartburn in a double-blind trial.11 It is not clear whether whole bladderwrack would be as useful as its alginic acid component.

1 Star
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Marshmallow is a demulcent herb, meaning it seems to work by decreasing inflammation and forming a barrier against irritants such as stomach acid.

Demulcents herbs may be used to treat indigestion and heartburn. These herbs seem to work by decreasing inflammation and forming a physical barrier against stomach acid or other abdominal irritants. Examples of demulcent herbs include ginger , licorice , and slippery elm .

The mucilage content in slippery elm appears to act as a barrier against the damaging effects of acid on the esophagus in people with heartburn. It may also have an anti-inflammatory effect locally in the stomach and intestines. Two or more tablets or capsules (typically 400–500 mg each) may be taken three to four times per day. Alternatively, a tea is made by boiling 1/2–2 grams of the bark in 200 ml of water for 10 to 15 minutes, which is then cooled before drinking; three to four cups a day can be used. Tincture (5 ml three times per day) may also be taken but is believed to be less helpful. Marshmallow and bladderwrack may be used the same way as slippery elm.12

1 Star
Peptic Ulcer
Refer to label instructions
High-mucilage-containing herbs such as marshmallow have a long history of use for irritated or inflamed mucous membranes in the digestive system.

Marshmallow is high in mucilage. High-mucilage-containing herbs have a long history of use for irritated or inflamed mucous membranes in the digestive system, though no clinical research has yet investigated effects in people with peptic ulcer.13

1 Star
Ulcerative Colitis
Refer to label instructions
Marshmallow is an anti-inflammatory and soothing herb that may be effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis.

Aloe vera juice has anti-inflammatory activity and been used by some doctors for people with UC. In a double-blind study of people with mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis, supplementation with aloe resulted in a complete remission or an improvement in symptoms in 47% of cases, compared with 14% of those given a placebo (a statistically significant difference).14 No significant side effects were seen. The amount of aloe used was 100 ml (approximately 3.5 ounces) twice a day for four weeks. Other traditional anti-inflammatory and soothing herbs, including calendula , flaxseed , licorice , marshmallow , myrrh , and yarrow . Many of these herbs are most effective, according to clinical experience, if taken internally as well as in enema form.15 Enemas should be avoided during acute flare-ups but are useful for mild and chronic inflammation. It is best to consult with a doctor experienced with botanical medicine to learn more about herbal enemas before using them. More research needs to be done to determine the effectiveness of these herbs.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Marshmallow (not to be confused with confectionery marshmallows) has long been used by herbalists to treat coughs and sore throats .1 Due to its high mucilage content, this plant is soothing to inflamed mucous membranes. Marshmallow is also used by herbalists to soothe chapped skin, chilblains (sores caused by exposure to cold), and minor wounds.

How It Works

Common names:
Althea
Botanical names:
Althea officinalis

How It Works

Mucilage, made up of large carbohydrate (sugar) molecules, is thought to be the active constituent in marshmallow. This smooth, slippery substance is believed to soothe and protect irritated mucous membranes. Marshmallow has primarily been used as a traditional herbal soothing agent for conditions of the respiratory and digestive tracts.16

How to Use It

The German Commission E monograph suggests 1 1/4 teaspoon (6 grams) of the root per day.17 Marshmallow can be made into a hot or cold water tea. Often 2–3 teaspoons (10–15 grams) of the root and/or leaves are used per cup (250 ml) of water. Generally, a full day’s amount is steeped overnight when making a cold water tea, 6–9 teaspoons (30–45 grams) per three cups (750 ml) of water, or for fifteen to twenty minutes in hot water. Drink three to five cups (750–1250 ml) a day. Since the plant is so gooey, it does not combine well with other plants. Nevertheless, it can be found in some herbal cough syrups. Herbal extracts in capsules and tablets providing 5–6 grams of marshmallow per day can also be used, or it may be taken as a tincture—1–3 teaspoons (5–15 ml) three times daily.

Interactions

Common names:
Althea
Botanical names:
Althea officinalis

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Common names:
Althea
Botanical names:
Althea officinalis

Side Effects

Marshmallow is generally safe with only rare allergic reactions reported.

References

1. Nosal'ova G, Strapkova A, Kardosova A, et al. Antitussive action of extracts and polysaccharides of marsh mallow (Althea offcinalis L., var. robusta). Pharmazie 1992;47:224-6 [in German].

2. Brinckmann J, Sigwart H, van Houten Taylor L. Safety and efficacy of a traditional herbal medicine (Throat Coat) in symptomatic temporary relief of pain in patients with acute pharyngitis: a multicenter, prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complement Med 2003;9:285-98.

3. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 222-4.

4. Nosal'ova G, Strapkova A, Kardosova A, et al. Antitussive action of extracts and polysaccharides of marsh mallow (Althea offcinalis L., var. robusta). Pharmazie 1992;47:224-6 [in German].

5. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 38.

6. Wichtl M, Bisset N (eds). Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers and Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994.

7. Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. London: Churchill Livingstone, 1999, 1335-49.

8. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 166-7.

9. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 167.

10. Golan R. Optimal Wellness. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, 373-4.

11. Chevrel B. A comparative crossover study on the treatment of heartburn and epigastric pain: Liquid Gaviscon and a magnesium-aluminum antacid gel. J Int Med Res 1980;8:300-3.

12. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 167.

13. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 167.

14. Langmead L, Feakins RM, Goldthorpe S, et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2004;19:739-47.

15. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1989, 114-5.

16. Tomoda M, Shimizu N, Oshima Y, et al. Hypoglycemic activity of twenty plant mucilages and three modified products. Planta Med 1987;53:8-12.

17. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 166-7.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

© 2014 St. Mary's Health System   |  3700 Washington Avenue  |  Evansville, IN 47750  |  (812) 485-4000