When you hear the word “marshmallow,” your mind may conjure up images of fluffy, sugary treats toasted over a campfire. However, there’s more to the word marshmallow than just the sweet treats we are familiar with today.
The marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) has a rich history and a range of potential health benefits, particularly from its leaves. In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of the marshmallow plant, exploring its historical significance and the many advantages it offers.
Historical use and facts about marshmallow leaf
Marshmallow originally grew in salty soils, but now thrives in moist, uncultivated ground. It is found in southern and western Europe, western Asia, and the northeastern region of North America. Its upright stems reach heights of 3 to 4 feet.
Marshmallow plants produce attractive pink or white flowers that are often used in ornamental gardening. These flowers are known for their delicate and aesthetically pleasing appearance. Marshmallow is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for several years. While the marshmallow roots and leaves are traditionally used for medicinal purposes, leaves and flowers are also edible. They can be used in salads, teas, or as a garnish.
- Ancient Egypt (2000 BCE): The marshmallow plant, known then as “Athèr,” was highly regarded in ancient Egypt for its medicinal properties. The ancient Egyptians not only used the leaves but also the root of the plant for various purposes. The root was used to make a sweet confection by mixing it with honey, a delicacy reserved for gods and royalty. This early marshmallow root candy was very different from the modern marshmallow treats we know today, but it was the precursor to the sweet marshmallow we associate with campfires and hot cocoa.
- Greek and Roman Influence (5th Century BCE to 5th Century CE): The knowledge of marshmallow’s benefits spread to ancient Greece and Rome. Greek physician Hippocrates mentioned the use of marshmallow for its therapeutic properties in his writings. The Greeks and Romans used marshmallow to treat various ailments, particularly for its soothing effects on the throat and digestive system. It was often used to make medicinal teas and poultices.
- Medieval Europe (Middle Ages): As the Roman Empire declined, the knowledge of marshmallow’s medicinal properties persisted in medieval Europe. Marshmallow leaves were still commonly used to treat a range of health issues, including sore throats, digestive problems, and skin irritations. The mucilaginous quality of the leaves made them particularly valuable for these purposes.
- Modern Applications (19th Century Onward): In the 19th century, the traditional medicinal use of marshmallow leaves continued, and they were included in herbal remedies. During this time, the sweet confection known as marshmallows began to evolve into the fluffy, sugar-coated treats we enjoy today. However, the modern marshmallow candy no longer contained marshmallow root as an ingredient but retained the name due to its historical association.
Today, marshmallow leaves are still used in herbal medicine for their soothing properties, and marshmallow root extracts are occasionally used in natural remedies. The sweet marshmallow treats we consume today have largely diverged from their ancient medicinal origins, but the legacy of marshmallow’s use in traditional medicine continues.
What does “mucilage content” mean?
One of the key medicinal properties of the marshmallow plant is its high mucilage content. Mucilage is a thick, gel-like substance that is produced by various plants and some microorganisms. It is made up of complex carbohydrates, primarily polysaccharides, such as arabinose, galactose, and glucose. This mucilage is beneficial for soothing and protecting mucous membranes, making it useful for addressing a range of health issues, especially those related to the respiratory and digestive systems, as well as skin care.
Marshmallow leaf and smoking
Marshmallow leaf is a common alternative to tobacco for smoking. It is found in herbal tobacco and herbal cigarettes. It burns evenly and has a neutral flavor. Marshmallow leaf contains no nicotine and is not addictive. Marshmallow leaf is also gaining popularity as a mixer for cannabis.
Bud Love has discovered that marshmallow leaf is a perfect companion to cannabis. Whereas cannabis can be harsh to smoke and cause coughing, adding marshmallow leaf results in a much smoother smoke with no coughing. Marshmallow leaf forms the base of Bud Love to which the mother cannabinoid – CBG – and terpenes are added.
Marshmallow leaves have a long and storied history, dating back to ancient civilizations that recognized their healing properties. In modern times, these leaves continue to offer a range of benefits, from soothing sore throats and inflamed chests, to promoting skin health. Whether used as a traditional remedy, incorporated into contemporary herbal medicine or smoked alone or with cannabis, marshmallow leaves deserve their place in the spotlight. So, the next time you think of marshmallows, remember that there’s more to this plant than meets the eye—there’s a world of health and history waiting to be explored.
––This article comes to you from the Bud Love team.
The World Health Organization (WHO) monograph states that medicinal uses for marshmallow root are not supported by clinical data. The FDA classifies marshmallow root as an herbal supplement and as such does not support its use as medicine. Although no serious side effects have been reported with consumption of marshmallow root, it is important to talk to your doctor before you start taking it.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects, and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.