Okay, so not exactly the white, gooey, explode-in-the-microwave marshmallow we know and love today. But rather, the herb — marshmallow root. It was only over centuries that we developed the medicinal marshmallow root into our current lovely fluffy treat by adding a ton of sugar and corn syrup. Still, so delicious.
Marshmallow root has been around for over 2,000 years and most likely dates back even further passing between countless cultures and civilizations. Considered one of the oldest desserts known to man, Romans treated the marshmallow as a delicacy and other stories tell of Egyptians making candies out of marshmallow root and honey. Marshmallow continued to spread through Greece, the Middle East, and finally to Asia where people began using the root for more medicinal purposes.
Fun Fact: The first marshmallow treat that even somewhat resembled what we know as today’s marshmallow version, was made in France in 1850. It took another 50 years when in 1900 the marshmallow root was added to corn syrup, egg whites, and water, then heated and poured into molds. Only in 1955 the marshmallow was mass manufactured as the squishy, sweet treat we have today.
All parts of the marshmallow plant can be used medicinally: the flowers, leaves, and root. The herb has a sweet taste that can be made into cold infusions, syrups, powders, and of course, marshmallows. But marshmallow works particularly well because, (I know this will sound kinda gross but hear me out), the root produces a natural thick mucus that soothes, cools, and brings relief to all kinds of inflammation in the body.
And so, just like in centuries past, today you can also use marshmallow medicinally to soothe a sore throat, dry coughs, boost the immune system, help with urinary problems, inflammation in the digestive tract, heartburn, and can also be used topically to help soothe burns, rashes, and other skin irritations.
That’s one powerful little herb.
And with the cold weather creeping in, this is the perfect time to start getting in the habit and practice of using marshmallow. Not only will it be cold and flu season soon, but we’ll start to eat heavier and richer foods that can wreak havoc on the digestive system. So instead of popping Tums every other meal and grabbing your Sudafed for that cold, marshmallow can help soothe indigestion and the extra stress on your body and immune system during cold season.
So how do you use marshmallow root?
The easiest way to reap all the goodness and benefits of the herb is by drinking it as a cold infusion tea. It is incredibly easy to make.
- Jar with a lid
- Marshmallow root – (The herb is easy to find anywhere online though I always get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)
- Lukewarm water
- Fill the jar ¼ of the way with your marshmallow root.
- Fill the rest of the jar with the water and cover with the lid.
- Let the infusion sit on the counter for at least 4 hours or overnight. The water should turn to a soft yellow color.
- Then, strain out the marshmallow root so you’re only left with the liquid which will be thick and gooey.
- Once you get past the initial adjustment to the texture, you’ll find the flavor sweet and cooling so drink up and enjoy!
During this coming winter season try out the marshmallow root infusion and experiment with how much or little helps ease your symptoms. And if you’re feeling ambitious and have a craving for the traditional marshmallow treat to throw in your cocoa for those frigid days, click here for Herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt’s recipe on how to make actual marshmallows from the marshmallow root. Ridiculously tasty.
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