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.
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.
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.
Flavonoids, Asparagine (a natural Amino acid), Starch, Mucilage (up to 35% in the roots), Pectin, Tannins, Calcium, Phosphorus, Trace Minerals, Malic acid.
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.
If making a tea with marshmallow, use cold water not hot, in order to preserve the mucilage properties.
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page. Disclosure: If you purchase from some links on this web page, we may receive some kind of affiliate commission. However, we only ever mention products we would recommend whether we were being compensated or not. Thank you so much for your support of White Rabbit Institute of Healing!