Known interactions

No interactions found.

Application of Mallards

Scientific Name: Marshmallow

Other Names: Althaea officinalis, Althea, Mallards, Sweet Weed, Wymote

Who is this for?

Marshmallow root and — to a lesser extent — marshmallow leaf both contain significant percentages of mucilage, a natural gummy substance that does not dissolve in water. Like other mucilage-containing substances, marshmallow swells up and becomes slick when it is exposed to fluids. The resulting slippery material coats the linings of the mouth, throat, and stomach to relieve irritation and control coughing associated with respiratory or stomach conditions. For example, marshmallow has been used to treat sore throats and to alleviate heartburn. Marshmallow may also have mild anti-infective and immune-boosting properties, but further study is needed to confirm these possible effects.

Topically, marshmallow is used to soothe and soften irritated skin. A commercial ointment that contains up to 10% of powdered marshmallow leaf or root may be applied to chapped skin or insect bites.

When should I be careful taking it?

Because marshmallow may possibly reduce blood sugar levels, individuals with diabetes should be careful when taking it. Blood sugar levels may need to be checked more often, as well.

What side effects should I watch for?

No side effects have been associated with using marshmallow. However, since few reliable studies of its use have been conducted in humans, it may have side effects that are not yet known. If you experience unexplained side effects while taking marshmallow, you should stop taking it and tell your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects.

What interactions should I watch for?

When mixed with water or other fluids, marshmallow forms a sticky, slippery gel. In theory, taking marshmallow by mouth could block the absorption of other drugs that are taken at the same time. If you take marshmallow, do not take any other drugs within 2 hours.

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

Believed to be native to swampy coastal areas of Europe, marshmallow now grows in damp areas of Asia, Europe, and Scandinavia. Strongly resembling the related plant, hollyhock, marshmallow can also be found along the upper east coast of the United States. After the first year of growth, marshmallow plants consist of tall, thick stems with broad leaves that are covered in soft hairs. Early in the spring, its young leaves may be eaten as a salad ingredient. Large white, pink, red, or purple flowers bloom from mid-June until the first frost. For use in medicine, leaves are collected in late summer and second- or third-year roots are harvested after the stems die down in the autumn. Thick root bark is removed before the soft, white marshmallow roots are dried for use. In addition to its medicinal uses, marshmallow is also used to thicken and stabilize foods and to flavor beverages and foods. The candy known as marshmallows is now made from sugar and egg whites. Originally, however it was made with the roots of the marshmallow plant.

Dosage and Administration

Both the leaves and roots of marshmallow may be found in commercial oral dosage forms that include extracts and syrups. Dosing varies according to the type and concentration of the product and the condition being treated. If you decide to use marshmallow, follow the directions on the package you purchase.

Teas made from marshmallow may be taken up to three times a day. Marshmallow leaf tea may be made by adding 2 to 5 teaspoons of dried leaf to about 5 ounces of hot but not boiling water, allowing it to soak for 10 minutes, and then straining out the solid particles. For marshmallow root tea, place 2 to 5 teaspoons of the dried powdered root in about 5 ounces of warm water and let it soak for at least an hour before straining out the solids. The resulting tea may be heated or consumed cold.

For use on the skin, shredded or powdered marshmallow root may be mixed with enough warm water to form a thick paste, which may be spread onto a soft cloth. The resulting poultice may be heated or simply applied to irritated skin as often as needed. If the skin at the area where marshmallow is applied blisters or becomes more irritated, the marshmallow preparation should be washed off with warm water and it should not be re-applied.


Primarily due to a high content of mucilage and possibly due to slight anti-infective and immune-boosting effects, marshmallow is taken by mouth to soothe sore mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tissue. It may also relieve topical irritation when applied to the skin.


Taking marshmallow potentially may decrease blood sugar levels. Therefore, individuals with diabetes should monitor blood sugar levels carefully while taking it.

Side Effects

No side effects have been attributed to taking or applying marshmallow.


Because it coats the gastrointestinal tract, oral marshmallow preparations may interfere with the absorption of drugs or other herbals in the body.


Anon: Althea. In: DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA, eds. Facts and Comparisons: The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO, Facts and Comparisons. February 2000.

Grieve M. Mallow, marsh. In: A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publishers, 1971. Available at: Posted 1995. Accessed September 4, 2003.

Haughton C. Althaea officinalis (L). No date given. Available at: Accessed September 12, 2003.

Hoffmann DL. Marshmallow. Herbal Materia Medica. No date given. Available at: Accessed September 4, 2003.

Jellin JM, Gregory P, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al, eds. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 3rd Edition. Stockton CA: Therapeutic Research Facility, 2000.

Muller-Limmroth W, Frohlich HH. Effect of various phytotherapeutic expectorants on mucociliary transport [Article in German] Fortschritte der Medizin. 1980;98(3):95-101.

Nosal'ova G, Strapkova A, Kardosova A, Capek P, Zathurecky L, Bukovska E. Antitussive action of extracts and polysaccharides of marsh mallow (Althea officinalis L., var. robusta) [Article in German] Pharmazie. 1992;47(3):224-226.

(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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