Marshmallow – An ancient treat soothes many ills
Marshmallow – Althaea officinalis – has nothing to do with the confectionery you find in the stores these days. Once upon a time however, since Ancient Egyptian times in fact, marshmallows were made from mallow root and it would have made a delicious way to benefit from it’s many health giving properties.
In 77AD Pliny the Elder said, “…whoever swallow daily a spoonful of the juice of any of the mallows shall that day be free from all diseases.”
Often found growing at the edges of marshes (hence the name) marshmallow likes it’s soil wet and the position sunny. This perennial grows up to 3-4 ft (1 – 1.2 m, has coarse leaves and lovely pink to mauve flowers. Although all parts are used, the root is the most important. Harvest flowers and leaves in the summer and the root in fall/autumn.
Medicinally all parts of the marshmallow plant are used for their soothing, cleaning and healing properties. The flowers make expectorant cough syrups, and the leaves are used to soothe and heal bronchial complaints as well as urinary disorders and cystitis. The seeds too can be decocted and used to loosen up a chesty cough. Externally the root can be used to treat wounds, ulcers, burns, bites and skin inflammations. Internally it soothes the mucous membranes, eases gastric complaints, peptic ulcers and urinary inflammations.
In the kitchen you can add chopped mallow root to stews and casseroles (chop it when reasonably fresh, it hardens a lot as it dries). The flowers and young leaves make a lovely addition to your summer salads.
I am about to add it to my herb garden, hoping that I can keep the ground moist enough during our harsh summer.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone