MARSHMALLOW ROOT Althea officinalis
Of all the Mallows, Marshmallow was the most highly respected species and the one most commonly used for medicinal purposes. The whole herb including roots, leaves, flowers and seeds are useful and edible and in previous times were regularly eaten as vegetables. Indeed, in Italy and Spain it was held that a daily draft of Mallow tea would preserve one against any illness at all. While this sounds a little bit too good to be true, Mallows do soothe a great variety of conditions and are worth remembering. Not everybody likes their mucilaginous texture though, when prepared as food, except when it comes in the form of Marshmallow candy. However, Mallow is said to stimulate a different sort of appetite: Mallow seeds sprinkled on the private parts increase the sexual appetite of men, while eating the seeds is said to act as an aphrodisiac for women, which is not surprising since Marshmallow is a herb of Venus. The overall character of this herb is cooling and soothing, which it achieves by virtue of the high mucilage content. For internal use Marshmallow should not be boiled or even infused with boiling water since this destroys the mucilaginous properties. Instead the tea is prepared by cold water extraction. Place a tablespoon of the herb or root in a cup and cover with cold water. Leave to infuse over night. Strain and gently heat up the liquid, but do not allow simmering.
Marshmallow root is an excellent mucilage herb to soothe an irritated digestive tract. It has been recommended for stomach or duodenal ulcers, gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome. The mucilage will line the stomach and intestinal walls and thus form a barrier against harsh stomach juices that irritate inflamed mucous membranes. However, it should be noted that this mucilage barrier may delay the effects of other drugs that depend on the absorption via the digestive system. Marshmallow root can also be used for the same purposes as Marshmallow leaves, to soothe irritated mucosa of the respiratory system and the urinary tract. It may be particularly helpful when kidney gravel or sand are being passed, as it will help to soothe the irritation.
Mallow is cooling and soothing, yet due to its mucilage properties it is also useful for stimulating the heat of passion. It can be used as an aphrodisiac and for fertility rites. It has also been added to incense mixtures for protection against disease, to enhance fertility and ensure the easy delivery of healthy children.