Evidence Based This post has 15 references
0

6 Health Benefits of Marshmallow + Dosage & Side Effects

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

SelfHacked has the strictest sourcing guidelines in the health industry and we almost exclusively link to medically peer-reviewed studies, usually on PubMed. We believe that the most accurate information is found directly in the scientific source.

We are dedicated to providing the most scientifically valid, unbiased, and comprehensive information on any given topic.

Our team comprises of trained MDs, PhDs, pharmacists, qualified scientists, and certified health and wellness specialists.

All of our content is written by scientists and people with a strong science background.

Our science team is put through the strictest vetting process in the health industry and we often reject applicants who have written articles for many of the largest health websites that are deemed trustworthy. Our science team must pass long technical science tests, difficult logical reasoning and reading comprehension tests. They are continually monitored by our internal peer-review process and if we see anyone making material science errors, we don't let them write for us again.

Our goal is to not have a single piece of inaccurate information on this website. If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please leave a comment or contact us at [email protected]

Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

Marshmallow Benefits
//

The marshmallow plant is most known for lending its name to the sweet confectionery treat. However, this plant has long been used as a medicinal herb for the treatment of various health conditions, such as sore throat and cough. Read on to learn what research has revealed about the marshmallow plant and its potential health benefits.

What Is Marshmallow?

Overview

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

Did you know? The marshmallow treat used to be made from the marshmallow plant, although today’s marshmallow treats no longer contain any trace of the plant.

Extracts from the roots, leaves, and flowers of the plant have several purported benefits and are used to treat various ailments, such as sore throat, cough, and ulcers [1].

According to research, the compounds inside marshmallow may indeed have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and cough-suppressing properties [1, 2, 3].

However, there are few studies performed in humans. More clinical research is needed to fully evaluate the potential health benefits of the marshmallow plant.

The marshmallow plant has long been used as a traditional herbal medicine for various ailments. There is some evidence to support its purported health benefits, but human studies are lacking.

Components

The marshmallow plant contains several compounds that have significant biological activity, including [1]:

  • Mucilage polysaccharides
  • Pectins
  • Flavonoids
  • Phytosterols
  • Tannins

The biological activity of these compounds may, in part, be responsible for the health benefits of marshmallow.

For example, mucilage polysaccharides have demonstrated potent cough-suppressing properties in animal studies [4].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • May help suppress coughing
  • May promote skin lesion healing
  • May improve breast engorgement
  • May have anti-inflammatory effects
  • May have antimicrobial effects
  • May help prevent ulcers

Skeptics

  • Lack of clinical research
  • Studies are based on different formulations
  • Supplements are not standardized

Purported Health Benefits of Marshmallow

Insufficient Evidence For:

The following purported benefits of marshmallow are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of marshmallow for any of the uses listed below. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking marshmallow. It should never be used as a replacement for approved medical therapies.

1) Cough

Clinical studies suggest that marshmallow plant extracts may reduce the severity and duration of cough [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, 5].

In another study looking at 313 children, a marshmallow extract syrup reduced the intensity and frequency of dry coughing associated with throat irritation [1, 6].

A different clinical trial explored the use of marshmallow extract for cough associated with ACE inhibitors, a blood pressure medication that can cause dry cough as a side effect [7].

Out of 60 patients with ACEI-related cough, researchers found that patients who took marshmallow had less severe coughing compared to the placebo group [7].

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 compounds may also form a protective layer on the lining of the throat, which may prevent irritation of the throat [1].

Marshmallow extract may reduce the intensity and frequency of dry cough.

2) Skin Health

One clinical trial including 171 patients found that a topical paste containing marshmallow extract may improve healing in those with cutaneous leishmaniasis, a skin condition caused by parasites [8].

Additionally, cell studies suggest that marshmallow extract may protect skin cells from UV damage [9].

3) Breast Engorgement

A clinical study examined the effects of marshmallow in lactating women suffering from breast engorgement, a painful condition where the breasts are overfilled with milk [10].

The study, which included 40 women, found that a compress with marshmallow extract powder may reduce the severity of breast engorgement [10].

Animal And Cell Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of marshmallow for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

4) Inflammation

There is evidence that certain compounds inside marshmallow (including polysaccharides and flavonoids) have anti-inflammatory effects [4, 2].

One rat study examined the effects of a marshmallow extract liquid solution and found that the extract significantly reduced chronic and acute inflammation [2].

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 [11].

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.

5) Antimicrobial Properties

Based on studies done in animals and cells, extracts from the marshmallow plant may have activity against certain types of bacteria and viruses, including [3, 12]:

  • 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.

6) Stomach Ulcers

Two studies performed in rats suggest that marshmallow extract may help protect against stomach ulcers caused by indomethacin, an NSAID drug used to treat pain [13, 14].

A different rat study also found that marshmallow flower extract may reduce ulcers, as well as lower chronic and acute inflammation [2].

According to some researchers, marshmallow may help protect against ulcers because of its antioxidant and histamine blocking properties [13].

Safety and Side Effects

Marshmallow is generally recognized as safe by the FDA when consumed in amounts commonly found in foods [15].

When used topically on the skin, marshmallow is considered possibly safe.

Clinical trials have used marshmallow extract for up to 4 weeks without any major reported safety concerns [1].

There is insufficient evidence to determine if it is safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding [15].

There is some evidence that marshmallow may disrupt the blood’s ability to clot [15].

Marshmallow is well tolerated when taken in appropriate doses. No side effects were reported in clinical trials, although more research is needed to fully evaluate its safety.

Drug Interactions

If you decide to take marshmallow (or any other supplement) let your doctor know as there may be unexpected and potentially dangerous interactions with your other medications or health conditions. The drug interactions of marshmallow are not well researched and there may be more potential interactions beyond the ones discussed here.

There is some evidence that marshmallow may impair the body’s ability to excrete lithium, potentially leading to a dangerous buildup of the medication.

Marshmallow may also lower blood glucose, which could cause blood glucose levels to become too low when taken with diabetes medications.

Supplementation

In the following sections, we’ll discuss the common forms and dosages of marshmallow that are commercially available. Marshmallow is not approved by the FDA for medical use. Regulations set manufacturing standards for marshmallow supplements, but that does not guarantee that it is safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Forms & Dosage

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

Traditionally, the dried parts of the marshmallow plant are used to make tea.

Marshmallow extracts are also sometimes used topically on the skin.

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

Takeaway

The marshmallow plant is used in traditional herbal medicine for several conditions, including sore throat, cough, and ulcers.

Research suggests that marshmallow extracts may have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and cough-suppressing effects.

Marshmallow is generally regarded as safe when consumed in appropriate amounts. No side effects have been reported in clinical trials.

Few studies have examined the benefits of marshmallow in humans, more clinical trials are needed to fully evaluate the safety and effectiveness of this herbal remedy.

About the Author

Mathew Eng

Mathew Eng

PharmD
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.

Click here to subscribe

RATE THIS ARTICLE

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(4 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
Loading...

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.