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In traditional practices, Marshmallow was used to soothe and moisten mucous membranes of respiratory tract, urinary tract and digestive tract. The marshmallow root and stem secrete mucilage, which helps to soften the skin and are therefore used in various cosmetic treatments. The seeds, flowers and young leaves can be eaten, boiled or fried and used in salads. All parts of marshmallow are edible. This plant has been used in desserts, beverages, candies and cosmetic creams.
The use of marshmallow, spread from Greece to Arabia and India and there it became an important Ayurvedic and Unani medicine. In Ayurveda, the marshmallow root was used to reduce dry cough and increase wet constitutional type. It was considered to be energetically cold, moistening with sweet taste. The leaves are diuretic and expectorant, and are used to soothe the urinary tract and relieve lung dryness. The roots contain a greater amount of mucilage than the leaves, therefore has different preparations and uses. Both the leaves and roots of this plant are also used to treat stomach ulcers, inflammation of stomach and respiratory tract, diarrhoea and constipation. Let’s know about the various health benefits of marshmallow root.
7 Health Benefits of Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow is rich in mucilage, which swells up when in contact with water and acts like soft fiber. It forms a protective layer on mucous membranes of respiratory and digestive tract and skin. It also has natural anti- inflammatory and anti- microbial actions, thereby averts many serious ailments.
1. Suppresses Cough
Marshmallow herb is a very well- known herb to treat dry cough and sore throat naturally. The roots and the leaves are especially used to suppress cough. As this herb contain mucilage, which coats the throat and soothes irritation. Marshmallow herb is very easily available in different forms. The root is available in the form of teas and capsules. Tea is preferred as it is warm and soothes the irritation in the throat in a better way. One can also use dried leaves or root of marshmallow plants by boiling it in water for some time and then consuming it. Both the fresh and dried forms are usually available in herbal shops. Many cough syrups use marshmallow herb as their major ingredient.
An open trial was done by Samuel Buechi et al in 2005, to assess the aspects of safety and efficacy of a combined herbal syrup containing marshmallow root. According to this study, the combined herbal syrup was effective in relieving cough due to cold, bronchitis and respiratory tract diseases with formation of mucus. The syrup had dry ivy leaf extract, thyme, aniseed and marshmallow root as its ingredients.
2. Relieves Skin Inflammation and Irritation
The marshmallow root has anti- inflammatory effects. The active compounds are mucilage polysaccharides – arabinogalactans, galacturonorhamnans, glucans and arabinans. The extract of the marshmallow root stimulates phagocytosis, the release of oxygen radicals and leukotrienes from human neutrophils. Release of cytokines by the extract have demonstrated their potential anti-inflammatory activity. A study was done by Renata Dawid pac in 2013; according to that an ointment containing an aqueous marshmallow root extract (20%) reduced irritation induced by UV radiation or tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol in vivo. Although the anti-inflammatory effect was weaker than that of an ointment containing dexamethasone 0.05% (anti-inflammatory synthetic drug), but the ointment containing both active ingredients has higher anti-inflammatory activity than ointments containing individual active ingredients. Marshmallow root is externally used for treating eczema, furunculosis, and dermatitis.
3. Reduces Inflammation in Digestive Tract and Heals Gastric Ulcer
This herb has soothing and anti- inflammatory actions. The root of this herb is rich source of mucilage, which is an amorphous, transparent or translucent substance. Mucilage readily absorbs water to form gelatinous masses or viscous colloidal solutions. The colloidal character of mucilages and mucoids account largely for their use as therapeutic agents. Mucilaginous substances or drugs have the property of covering and protecting the mucosa of the stomach and are used in the treatment of gastric ulcer. Plants containing mucilages such as marshmallow, are traditionally used in several countries in the treatment of gastric ulcer. According to a review article published in the journal of Phytotherapy Research in 2000, botanical compounds with anti- ulcer activity include mucilages and gums (marshmallow root, gum guar, myrrh), flavonoids, saponins and tannins. The root of this herb helps in soothing irritation and reduces inflammation in the digestive tract, thereby helps in the repair of gut lining.
4. Acts as a Diuretic and Soothe the Urinary Tract
Marshmallow is one of the important medicinal plant used in Unani medicine. All the parts of this herb (root, leaves, flowers and seeds) contain mucilage. It has emmollient, analgesic, astringent, haemostatic, expectorant, laxative, cleansing, demulcent, concoctive, diuretic, emmenagogue, anti-inflammatory and exhilarant properties. Its diuretic property helps the body to flush out excess fluid and cleanse the kidneys and bladder. A review article on the Unani perspective of Althaea Officinalis, published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 2016, suggests that the soothing effect of it reduces inflammation and relieves internal irritation of the urinary tract.
5. Relieves Pain
The analgesic or pain relieving property of marshmallow root, makes this an excellent choice for relieving pain and irritation in sore throat, abrasion, painful conditions of oral and pharyngeal mucosa. Flavonoids of this herb exerting analgesic action do not have adverse effects on gastric mucosa. This property makes this herb an excellent natural remedy for sore throat and painful oro- pharyngeal conditions.
6. Protects against UV rays and Promotes Skin Health
The root of marshmallow is of particular interest as this is thought to contain skin protecting polysaccharides and UV-absorbing compounds which may have potential in protecting against solar-induced skin damage. The acute effects of overexposure of the skin to Ultra Violet rays manifest as erythema (sunburn), whereas chronic effects can develop into skin cancer or lead to premature photoageing. A study was done and published in 2016, to evaluate the root phytochemicals as natural components for Ultra violet protecting dermatological formulations. The study showed that the extracted phytochemicals predominantly protect against indirect UVA-induced oxidative stress and therefore are useful components in dermatological formulations. By reducing oxidative stress induced damage, they promote skin health and maintain the softness of the skin.
7. Helps in Wound Healing
The antibacterial property of this herb, helps in wound healing through various mechanisms. They effectively inhibit the microbial growth, arrest bleeding from fresh wounds, and accelerate wound healing. The free radical-scavenging action and the antimicrobial property of the different phytoconstituents present in the extract enhance the wound healing property. The wound healing property depends upon the concentration of essential oil in the extract, the extracting method and the type of solvents used for extraction. According to a study published in 2015, the hydroethanolic extract of Althaea officinalis (marshmallow) had anti-inflammatory effects and reduced the severity of the inflammation which may contribute to the wound healing. It is useful alone or with other antibacterial factors for treatment of some of the bacterial infections.
Possible Side Effects of Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root is generally well tolerated when taken by mouth or applied topically on the skin. In some persons it may cause low blood sugar levels, stomach upset and dizziness when taken orally. Starting with a low dose and gradually increasing the dose may reduce the side effects. Marshmallow root should be avoided in pregnancy, breast feeding women, diabetes and bleeding disorders. One should also avoid this atleast two weeks before the surgery, as this might affect blood sugar levels, interfere with blood clotting and may increase the chances of bleeding.
Marshmallow herb is an important medicinal plant and all the parts of this herb are useful as traditional herbal medicine. This herb is rich in mucilage and have antitussive effects. Other medicinal properties include diuretic, analgesic, anti- inflammatory and anti- bacterial properties. Apart from its medicinal use, it also has culinary uses. The flowers and young leaves can be eaten. The root of this herbal medicine has a few side effects such as low blood sugar levels and interference with blood clotting. Therefore, regular use of this herbal medicine should be avoided and proper precautions should be taken by pregnant, breast feeding women and diabetic patients.