Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering…
What is Marshmallow Root Extract?
At one point in your life, you have probably sat around a fire roasting marshmallows. But you may be surprised to know that marshmallow is more than just a tasty treat. Marshmallow root has actually been in use for centuries to treat infections, improve digestion, and offer many other health benefits. If you’re wondering how this is, it’s important to know that the sweet, sticky marshmallow you put on your s’mores is very different from the natural marshmallow root.
Marshmallow root extract is a perennial herb native to Western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa that has been used for thousands of years as a folk remedy to treat digestive, skin and respiratory conditions. It is also sometimes present in cough syrups and skin products (x).
If the marshmallows we know so well today and the marshmallow root that has been used for health benefits for centuries are so different, why do we call them the same name? The “fluffy” quality of marshmallow root is actually the reason that the popular candy got its name. The extract from marshmallow swells up in the body to form a soft gel-like substance, a texture we associate with the marshmallow candies as well.
What do we extract from the root that helps provide all these positive health benefits? Well, the plant’s leaves, thanks to the special compounds present within them. The leaves can help produce teas and tinctures that may potentially provide numerous health benefits.
Benefits of Marshmallow Root Extract
The main reason marshmallow root extract has this healing ability is due to the mucilage it contains. Described below are some ways that this extract can treat a number of conditions.
Marshmallow root can treat skin problems such as wounds, burns, scrapes, ulcers and insect bites. This is because of the mucilage the plant secretes, which kills bacteria (x). For this reason, it is often an ingredient in skin ointments for clearing issues like infections and wounds.
Marshmallow root has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help relieve skin irritation and inflammation (x). A paper published in 2013 reported that ointments containing 20 percent marshmallow root extract reduced skin irritation because it stimulates specific cells that act as an anti-inflammatory. However, it is more effective as an ointment that also contains an anti-inflammatory synthetic drug than it is by itself (x). The root and stem of the marshmallow are effective in healing skin inflammation because the plant secretes mucilage. This helps soften the skin, lower swelling and kill bacteria.
A number of digestive issues such as constipation, heartburn and intestinal colic may be treated with marshmallow root. It helps coat the inside of the stomach, which prevents acid from causing discomfort in the stomach.
In 2011, research found that marshmallow flower extract showed potential benefits in the treatment of gastric ulcers in rats. However, more research is necessary to expand on these findings.
According to research, marshmallow root may be an effective treatment for other digestive disorders, such as leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is a result of particles leaking outside tiny openings in the gut lining, which allows them to enter the bloodstream where they can trigger autoimmune reactions. Along similar lines, marshmallow may also help restore the lining of the gut. This is because it can help form a protective layer around small junctions (x, x).
Coughs and Colds
Due to its high mucilaginous content, marshmallow root can be useful in treating coughs and colds. Reported from a 2005 study, an herbal cough syrup that contained marshmallow root was effective in relieving coughs due to colds, bronchitis or respiratory tract diseases with formation of mucus. In this study, symptoms improved in 86 to 90 percent of the 62 study’s participants.
When marshmallow is combined with other anti-inflammatory, antibacterial herbs and essential oils such as echinacea, lemon, oregano or cypress, it is very effective for beating a cold or the flu. All of these combined can be effective at targeting the bacteria that is causing the sickness and can help ease discomfort in the throat (x, x, x).
When taken at the onset of discomfort, marshmallow root can help speed up the healing process and kill bacteria that cause various ailments such as bronchitis, tonsillitis, urinary tract and respiratory infections (x, x).
In a 2011 study, researchers examined the effects of marshmallow root supplementation on blood lipid profiles and liver function for one month. The researchers reported that the marshmallow proved positive effects on acute and chronic inflammation, which just happens to be a leading cause of heart disease (x).
Marshmallow Root Dosage Side Effects
While marshmallow root is typically well tolerated, it can cause side effects such as upset stomach and dizziness. One way to help prevent potential side effects is to start using it at a low dose and gradually work your way up to a full dose. Another way to help reduce risk of side effects is to take it with a glass of water.
Low Blood Sugar
Marshmallow root may interfere with your normal blood sugar control. Therefore, be cautious if you are diabetic, pre-diabetic or taking insulin. Check with your doctor and monitor your blood sugar while using marshmallow root (x).
Marshmallow root also has an effect on fluid retention and blood platelet formation. Stop taking marshmallow at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery to avoid side effects related to bleeding.
You should avoid using this extract if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have diabetes or if you have a surgery scheduled within two weeks.
Always consult your doctor before adding a new medication or supplement to your daily routine.
Marshmallow Root Extract Supplement
There are a number of active ingredients found in marshmallow root that make it an effective medicinal supplement. These include flavonoid antioxidants, amino acids like asparagine, polysaccharides like pectin and anti-mucilaginous compounds.
Marshmallow Root Extract Dosage
The ideal serving size for marshmallow root extract is 1,200 mg (roughly 1/4 tsp). Take it once or twice daily. Like with all supplements, be sure to reach out to a doctor before adding this to your regimen. If you begin experiencing extreme side effects, discontinue use immediately and see a doctor.
The Bottom Line
Marshmallow root has been in use for centuries to treat a variety of health conditions, but most commonly skin conditions, digestive disorders and respiratory conditions. The main reason it provides this wide range of health benefits, is because it is a natural “mucilage,” meaning it acts like a soft fiber that can swell to form a protective, thick coating around membranes. It comes in a number of forms and supplements. While most users tolerate it well, it is important to note that some side effects may occur. Always consult your doctor before using marshmallow root as a supplement or treatment.
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.