Marshmallow Root (Yao Shu Kui)

Marshmallow (Yao Shu Kui)

Botanical Name: Althaea officinalis

Marshmallow is a wonderful plant for treating both hot dry and hot damp acute conditions. The plant is famous for its moistening properties. Marshmallow is also used to coat sore throats, treat irritated hot bladder infections and lubricate hot achy joint pain. Don’t confuse it with blue mallow, a similar plant but different species that is mostly used externally. Marshmallow is not the candied marshmallows used in desserts, but it can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

Below is an overview of Marshmallow, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Marshmallow.

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Western Name: Marshmallow

Also Known As: Mortification Root, Sweetweed, Cheeses, Cheese Flower

Organs/Systems: Lungs, Stomach, Bladder, Large Intestine

Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Anti-inflammatory, Demulcent, Laxative, Expectorant.



Pin Yin: Yao Shu Kui

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Stomach, Lungs, Bladder

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Promotes Yin/Clears Heat: moistens lung, sore throat, unproductive dry cough, pneumonia, pleurisy, constipation, swollen gums. Reduces Inflammation/Softens Boils/Clears Damp: wet diarrhea, mucous cystitis, bladder infections, local skin infections with putrification, boils, ulcers, abscesses, mastitis, cuts and burns. Moistens the Sinews: sprains, aching muscles and joints, fibromyalgia. Promotes Lactation.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Marshmallow is an erect perennial that can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall with a strong tap root that is yellowish on the outside. The stem and leaves are covered in soft hairs, and the grayish-green leaves are rounded to triangular in shape with pointed and  serrated edges. The flowers are five-petaled and either pale pink or white.  The flowers give way to round flattish fruits known as “cheeses.”

Marshmallow is an African plant that is abundant in tropical regions and native to most countries in Europe from Denmark southward.  It likes salt marshes, damp meadows or growing by the sea on tidal rivers.

Marshmallow Root (Yao Shu Kui) Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, Roots, Flowers

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Cooling, Slightly Bitter

Caution: Generally considered safe.

History/Folklore: Marshmallow has been used by the Ancient Egyptian, Greeks and Indian cultures as a medicine. It is mentioned in Homer’s the Iliad (written 2800 years ago).  The plant’s Latin name, althaea,  derives from the word “Althara” which comes from the Greek word for cure.

The Roman herbalist, Pliny said, “Whosoever shall take a spoonful of the Mallows shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him.”  The Romans consumed the boiled root that was creamed like butter as a culinary delicacy.

The French ate the young tops of marshmallow in salads as a kidney tonic. It has been used in Syria, as a food and during times of famine has been known to help keep rural poor populations alive.

The entire marshmallow plant contains high-grade mucilage that helps coat sore throats, upset stomachs and irritated intestines.

Marshmallow is a pure demulcent, moistening but not also nourishing in the way that many other demulcents are such as slippery elm and Irish moss.  The plants ability to both moisten dry intestines as well as treat damp heat are important attributes and useful in treating many hot, damp, acute conditions.

The use of the plant in cough syrups and its sticky quality may explain the origins of the popular marshmallow confection, even while the plant is not an ingredient in the soft marshmallow candy we eat today.

Teas containing both the roots and the leaves seem to be more effective than just using the roots or the leaves individually.

In Chinese medicine, by virtue of the plants moistening and lubricating abilities, it is considered a Yin herb.

Marshmallow bark has been used as a hemp substitute.

Key Constituents:

Flavonoids, Asparagine (a natural Amino acid), Starch, Mucilage (up to 35% in the roots), Pectin, Tannins, Calcium, Phosphorus, Trace Minerals, Malic acid.

Did you know?

NOT Blue Mallow

Don’t confuse marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) with blue mallow (Malva sylvestris). They have similar properties, but blue mallow is mostly used externally.


Eaten in Times of Famine

Marshmallows are used as flavoring agents in food. When the roots are boiled first and fried with onions and butter, they can be enjoyed as a food.  In the Bible and Middle East, it is said that mallow plants were eaten in times of famine.

Fun fact!

Marshmallow Tea

If making a tea with marshmallow, use cold water not hot, in order to preserve the mucilage properties.

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ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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