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Can Marshmallow Help with Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Last updated:

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Marshmallow & COVID-19

The marshmallow plant is regularly used as an herbal medicine for coughing and throat irritation. Research suggests that this plant may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties as well. Does marshmallow have a role in the current coronavirus outbreak? Find out what the science says.

This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light. No effective or FDA-approved products are currently available for the treatment of the new coronavirus. Overall, the best preventive measures you can take against COVID-19 are basic standard precautions, including social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Does Marshmallow Have a Role in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Not to be confused with the confectionery treat, the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) has been used as a traditional herbal medicine since ancient times [1].

Fun fact: the confectionery form used to be made from the marshmallow plant, although today’s marshmallow treats no longer contain any trace of the plant.

Extracts from the marshmallow plant are purported to help with several conditions, such as constipation, ulcers, and inflammation.

There is also some evidence that marshmallow may help with cough, reduce lung inflammation, and have antimicrobial effects, which makes this plant an exciting candidate for future research on respiratory conditions.

That said, there is no evidence yet that marshmallow can treat or prevent the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this article, we’ll go over how marshmallow extracts may interact with the immune system and lung health.

The marshmallow plant may help with cough, reduce lung inflammation, and fight certain types of infection, but there is no evidence that it can treat or prevent coronavirus.

How Can Marshmallow Help?


Clinical studies suggest that marshmallow plant extracts may reduce the severity and duration of dry cough, a common symptom of COVID-19 [1].

For instance, one study of 822 patients with dry cough due to throat irritation found that marshmallow lozenges and syrup helped improve cough symptoms within 10 minutes [1, 2].

In another study looking at 313 children, a marshmallow extract syrup reduced the intensity and frequency of dry coughing associated with throat irritation [1, 3].

Several other clinical studies have found similar results in adults and children [1, 4].

How exactly does the marshmallow plant help suppress coughing?

According to some scientists, certain compounds inside marshmallow may interact with serotonin receptors, which play a role in the body’s cough reflex [1].

Marshmallow extract may reduce the intensity and frequency of dry cough, possibly by interacting with serotonin receptors.

Lung Inflammation

There is evidence that certain compounds inside marshmallow (including polysaccharides and flavonoids) have anti-inflammatory effects [5, 6].

One rat study examined the effects of a marshmallow extract liquid solution and found that the extract significantly reduced chronic and acute inflammation [6].

A different study looking at rabbits suggests that marshmallow extract may have anti-inflammatory effects comparable to dexamethasone, a steroid medication commonly used to treat inflammation [7].

Some researchers suggest that one way marshmallow extract may reduce inflammation is by forming a protective layer on the lining of the throat and gut, which can shield these tissues from irritation [1].

Animal studies show that marshmallow extract may have potent anti-inflammatory effects.


Based on studies done in animals and cells, extracts from the marshmallow plant may have activity against certain types of bacteria and viruses, including [8, 9]:

  • L. monocytogenes
  • P. aeruginosa
  • P. vulgaris
  • S. aureus
  • Herpes virus
  • Influenza virus

However, no clinical trials have been performed, so it’s impossible to say if marshmallow extract would have any effect on infections in humans.

Cell and animal studies demonstrate that marshmallow extracts may have antibacterial and antiviral properties, but human studies are lacking.


There is no established safe dose for marshmallow. Consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interact with your other medications or health conditions.

Marshmallow is available in a number of forms, including dried roots, dried leaves, a macerate (soaked in liquid), and syrup.

Generally speaking, doses equivalent to 2-15 g daily have been used for cough and throat irritation [1].


Extracts from the marshmallow plant may potentially help suppress coughing, reduce throat inflammation, and help fight certain types of infection.

While the effects of marshmallow on the current coronavirus outbreak have not been studied, it is a potential candidate for future research on respiratory conditions.

For now, the best preventive measures you can take against COVID-19 are standard precautions, including social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Learn More

About the Author

Mathew Eng

Mathew Eng

Mathew received his PharmD from the University of Hawaii and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Washington.
Mathew is a licensed pharmacist with clinical experience in oncology, infectious disease, and diabetes management. He has a passion for personalized patient care and believes that education is essential to living a healthy life. His goal is to motivate individuals to find ways to manage their chronic conditions.

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