i was looking for something in the supermarket the other day and wound up in the tea aisle (as you do) and found something called “heartburn soother.” i get heartburn all the time so i was psyched to find some kind of possible herbal remedy. so far i can’t tell if it works since it passes before the tea is even done steeping (2 bags for 15 minutes of covered steeping? what?), but it got me curious about marshmallow root, the main ingredient.
marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is a pretty little (actually tall) flowering herb that grows around salt marshes and rivers in europe, africa and asia. it has since naturalized to the eastern USA– i’ve seen it growing along barnegat bay in new jersey. dried marshmallow root has been used since ancient egyptian times to soothe sore throats, and was even mentioned in homer’s iliad as a healing herb. this is due to its demulcent properties caused by the soft fiber mucilage found in high quantities in the marshmallow plant’s root. demulcent plants (including flax and chia– ever notice that goo around the seeds? yeah) coat irritated mucous membranes and help ease discomfort associated with heartburn, urinary issues (kidney, bladder and urinary tract infections), cough, cold and flu, bronchitis, mouth and gastric ulcers, wounds or chapped skin, diarrhea and irritable bowel. bonus: marshmallow roots also contain high levels of pectin which can help to lower blood sugar levels. the root of its scientific name is actually greek for “to heal,” so i think marshmallow is probably magic.
the tea i bought is a marshmallow-mint combo and is prepared hot, but it has been suggested that a cold infusion extracts the mucilage more purely. soak 4 tablespoons of the dried root in a quart of water for at least 4 hours, and strain before you use it. the tea will be slightly yellow and thick, and make sure to squeeze any get that gets stuck in your strainer into the tea- that’s the good stuff. i think i’m gonna have to order some pure marshmallow root just so i have it already prepared when i need it..
again, because the mucilage in marshmallow root coats your mucous membranes, it affects the absorption of other meds and should not be taken within an hour of any prescriptions.
the green pharmacy, by james a duke ph.d.