Raise your hand if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics at least once in your life. Chances are, most of us have. Antibiotics are being prescribed even for simple ailments like a cold and sore throat. Perhaps some of us realize now how damaging antibiotics can be for our gut health (it gets rid of the bad guys AND the good guys!). And when we create discord among our gut bacteria, other issues can follow. Not only that, but the overuse of antibiotics can cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is not good, guys. Seems to defeat the purpose, don’t you think?
It makes me so mad (screaming into a pillow right now!) when I hear how often antibiotics are prescribed. How about trying something natural first, which may have little to no side effects? Now let me clarify that of course there is a time and a place for antibiotics. I just think we don’t mind that “time and place” part very well.
Since the cold and flu season is upon us, I want to introduce you to an herb you may not have tried yet. Ladies and gents, I bring to you….marshmallow root!
No, it doesn’t taste like marshmallows. But it can be very powerful! Marshmallow (althaea officinalis) is a plant native to Europe and used medicinally in many parts of the world. The roots, leaves, and flowers can all be used, but today we are going to focus on the root. Marshmallow root contains lots of beneficial constituents, such as flavonoids, antioxidants, and amino acids. It is anti-bacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral. Just anti-all!
Namely, it’s useful for supporting the respiratory system. You know that cough that lingers on and on? That cough that keeps you from falling asleep because you just can’t seem to expel whatever crap is stuck in there? Marshmallow might be helpful. Brew yourself a cup of marshmallow tea (add your sweetener of choice), sit back, relax, and read on!
Marshmallow root comes from a classification of herbs known as demulcents, which describes its ability to form a soothing and cooling film over the mucous membrane. In doing so, it helps to alleviate irritation of the membrane brought on by excessive coughing and/or illness.
This slimy film can help coat a sore throat, ease a stomachache, and help you expel the junk you’ve been trying to cough up (3).
Marshmallow is helpful for alleviating swelling, congestion, and pain associated with a cough or cold. It can help reduce swelling of the lymph nodes, encourage healing, and suppress the urge to cough (4).
It can also help with symptoms of bacterial infections as it is anti-bacterial. It contains phagocytes that swallow up bacteria and dead cell tissues, which helps with the healing process. Go, marshy, go!
Marshmallow root can be helpful for alleviating heartburn and digestive upset because of its soothing and cooling properties.
It may also help preserve the gut lining due to its filmy nature, which can plug up the holes in the gut that may contribute to leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs when the gut allows food particles and other substances to leak into our blood, causing digestive upset and autoimmune reactivity. Thus, marshmallow root could be beneficial for all sorts of digestive ailments from leaky gut to ulcerative colitis (5, 6).
For simpler ailments, marshmallow has also got your back. Common digestive complaints such as heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and general discomfort could be alleviated by marshmallow root.
Remember that slimy film we discussed? This is known as mucilage (think mucous), which swells when combined with liquid to form a protective coating around membranes. This quality helps to modulate inflammation of the skin, kill bacteria, and provide moisture for the skin (7).
Slap some marshmallow salve on your sunburn to help the healing process! Marshmallow root can be helpful for soothing itching, swelling and redness of the skin. Marshmallow salve could also be beneficial for eczema.
How to Make Marshmallow Tea
I like to order my marshmallow root from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their herbs are organic and high quality.
First step, do not boil water. You will actually want to make a warm or cold-water infusion of marshmallow root in order to preserve its demulsifying properties. Simply pour a cup of water over a tablespoon of herb and let it do its thing in the fridge overnight (or at least for a few hours). Strain and then drink!
Again, don’t expect the sugary marshmallow taste. You may want to add some sweetener to your brew. I recommend raw, organic honey. Enjoy!