When people start talking about marshmallows, most people tend to think about that bag of big fluffy white snacks that people like to take with them on camping trips. However before these essential components to s’mores became a mass produced snack item, they were actually made from the root of a plant that could be found growing in the marshlands. The marshmallow plant, also known as Althea, has a white root that is slightly sweet to the taste. Along with being a traditional ingredient in everyone’s favorite campfire snack, Marshmallow root was also used in traditional medicine to help soothe coughs, irritations and help to combat heartburn.
It’s all about the mucilage
Marshmallow, or althea root (as most health food stores like to label it), contains a high percentage of mucilage. Mucilage is a substance that swells up and takes on a gel like consistency when it is mixed with water. This gel like substance can then coat the inner lining of your throat and esophagus and help protect and soothe it making it an ideal additive to natural cough and sore throat remedies.
This ability to coat and soothe also makes marshmallow root tea an ideal remedy for mild heartburn because of its ability to shield the lining of the esophagus from the harmful effects of stomach acid reducing inflammation and irritation. It is also thought to be helpful in cases of ulcers, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease because it can also help coat the lining of the stomach and intestinal walls.
Besides being used as a tea to help with a host of digestive and throat ailments, Marshmallow root can also be used as a paste to help soothe irritated skin. Simply mixed the powdered root with enough water to make a paste and apply it to the affected skin and then wrap with a layer of gauze. However, be sure to rinse off immediately if any itching or irritation occurs.
While drinking marshmallow root tea will help keep stomach acid from irritating the lining of your esophagus, there are also certain side effects that you should be aware of. Since mucilage does coat the digestive tract, it will also interfere with the absorption of prescription drugs so be sure to give it at least two hours to wear off before taking your daily pills. Marshmallow is also capable of affecting blood levels so people with diabetes or hypoglycemia should consult a physician before taking it.