For those days when you need a soothing cup of goodness to treat that “under the weather” feeling, try your hand at making a tonic from a common plant that has always been present in any herbalist’s medicine cabinet- Marshmallow.
Now, before you let your imagination wander to campfires and s’mores, let’s clear the air. We’re not talking about the squishy, sugar-puffed confection here, but the wonderful, healing Marshmallow plant, scientifically known as Althaea officinalis.
The Healing Benefits of Marshmallow
While the plant’s beauty is undeniably eye-catching, its real magic lies hidden, deeply rooted in the ground, waiting to be discovered and harnessed for its potent healing properties.
Just like the most profound truths are often simple, the healing potential of Marshmallow root lies in a simple substance – mucilage. When you mix this wonder root with water, the mucilage expands into a soothing, gel-like elixir, almost as if it’s absorbing the calming essence of the earth itself.
Drinking a Marshmallow root infusion feels like wrapping your insides in a comforting, warm blanket. This is why it’s a trusted companion for those grappling with digestive distresses such as gastritis, acid reflux, or irritable bowel syndrome. But that’s not all! It’s also a whisper of relief for your respiratory health, alleviating coughs, sore throats, and easing the discomfort of the common cold.
And for all the skincare enthusiasts out there, did you know this humble root is a fantastic skin hydrator and soother when applied topically? It’s nature’s very own skincare miracle!
Sourcing and Growing Marshmallow
Identifying common marshmallow plants can be relatively straightforward if you know what characteristics to look for. Marshmallow plants are often found in damp or marshy areas. Here’s how you can identify them:
Leaves: Marshmallow plants have broad, lobed leaves that are somewhat similar in shape to those of a maple leaf. The leaves are typically 2 to 4 inches wide and have 3 to 7 lobes. They are soft to the touch and have a slightly fuzzy texture.
Stem: The stem of the marshmallow plant is sturdy and can grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet. It is covered in fine hairs, which give it a grayish-green appearance. The stem is often branched near the top.
Flowers: Marshmallow flowers are usually pale pink or white and have five petals. They are clustered at the top of the stem and can be quite showy when in bloom. The flowers have a hollyhock-like appearance.
Roots: The roots of the marshmallow plant are thick, fleshy, and tapering. They contain mucilage, a gel-like substance that gives the plant its traditional medicinal and culinary uses.
You can also find marshmallow in health food stores, online retailers, or at your local herbalist’s shop.
But, for the green thumbs among us, why not grow your own Marshmallow plant?Marshmallow is a low-maintenance plant that doesn’t ask for much – a spot under the sun, a bit of space to grow, and some moist, well-drained soil. It grows well from seeds sown in either spring or autumn. With a bit of patience and care, soon enough, you’ll have your own supply of Marshmallow root right in your backyard. Purchase your Marshmallow seeds here.
Harvesting marshmallow root is best performed in late autumn or early spring when the plant’s energy is primarily concentrated in the root system. Use a sturdy shovel and begin to gently loosen the soil around its base. As the earth gives way, you’ll carefully unearth the long, tapered roots. Remember to leave a part of the root system intact, allowing the plant to regrow again next year.
Cut the roots into smaller pieces – this not only makes the drying process quicker but also increases the surface area, releasing more healing goodness when you make your infusion. Lay the cut roots out on a clean, dry towel in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Allow them to air-dry for several days, turning them occasionally to ensure they dry evenly.
You’ll know the roots are ready when they feel dry to the touch and brittle. At this point, store your marshmallow roots in an airtight container, such as a glass jar with a good seal, to protect them from moisture and sunlight. Tuck your jar away in a cool, dry, dark cupboard, where your roots will patiently await their transformation into a soothing, healing infusion. Harvested and stored with love, they’ll keep for up to a year, ready to lend their healing properties whenever you need them.
Crafting a Marshmallow Root Tonic
Now, onto the magical process of transforming these earthy roots into a healing tonic. This humble, soothing cold infusion is something I turn to time and time again, my personal elixir for days when I need a touch of self-care.
What you’ll need:
- ¼ cup of dried Marshmallow root
- 2 cups of filtered water (room temperature is best)
- A simple glass jar with a lid
- A kitchen strainer or cheesecloth
- To begin, put your dried Marshmallow root into your jar.
- Next, pour in the water and stir until the root is fully submerged and saturated.
- Cover the jar with a lid and let the mixture sit overnight, as the roots infuse the water with their healing properties.
- The next morning, use your strainer or cheesecloth to separate the liquid from the root.
- You have now crafted your very own Marshmallow root infusion!
How To Use the Marshmallow Root Tonic
Store it in the refrigerator, and it will stay fresh for up to three days. But once you’ve made your cold infusion, how do you use it?
One of my favorite ways is to enjoy it as a warm cup of goodness – it’s like getting a comforting hug from Mother Nature. You can warm it up on the stove and drink it like tea. It does have a bit of a gooey consistency, so if that bothers you, you can add a little bit of water or echinacea tea for an added boost for your immune system. Some people like adding a bit of honey to enhance its sweet flavor, although I find that the root has a natural sweetness to it that I enjoy on its own.
I love drinking this tonic whenever I am dealing with a cold or an IBS flare-up. During those days, I suggest preparing the tonic every evening, soaking it overnight, and starting your day with a fresh cup to jump-start healing.
For a skin-soothing treat, try adding some tonic to your bathwater and letting yourself soak in its goodness. Your skin will thank you!
This Marshmallow root infusion, steeped with care and patience, is more than just a beverage. It’s a comforting balm for the digestive system, a soothing whisper for an irritated throat, and a gentle healer for our skin.
Every sip is a testament to the healing power of nature, a reminder of our connection with the earth. Whether you’re enjoying it as a warming cup of tranquility, adding it to your bath for a skin-soothing soak, or using it as a base for your homemade cosmetics, this infusion is a celebration of natural wellness.