Benefits and Side Effects of Marshmallow Root

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

While many people are unfamiliar with marshmallow root, it is a powerful herbal element that can be used for a variety of health concerns, so understanding its uses, potential benefits, and possible side effects is very important.

What is Marshmallow Root?

Marshmallow root is the root of the marshmallow plant, which bears the scientific name Althaea Officinalis. This is the plant that is processed to create the well-known marshmallows that you add to desserts and hot chocolate, but the root has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Dating back to ancient Egypt, marshmallow root has been cultivated and applied due to its impressive nutrient content, which includes starch, pectin, various antioxidants, organic acids, and natural sugars. [1]

The actual marshmallow root is yellow, thick and quite long. The root is commonly dried after it is removed from the plant, where it can be further processed into various medicinal treatments, ointments, teas, and salves.

Uses of Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root can be used in various forms, but the most popular ones are as a gargle, an ointment, an herbal supplement, and a tea.


The most common form of marshmallow root is dried, chopped and shaved, which is ideal for brewing an herbal tea. You can add 2 teaspoons of marshmallow root to a cup of hot water, but not boiling and allow the dried root to steep for 4-5 minutes. Adding honey to this mixture is recommended, as the flavor can be slightly bitter. Do not consume more than 2-3 cups of this tea per day. [2]


A cold infusion of marshmallow root can also be made by soaking the dried root in cold water for 5-10 minutes. You can then remove the marshmallow and use the remaining water to gargle. This can reduce inflammation in the throat and help the active ingredients in this herbal drink get absorbed by the body. [3]

Herbal Supplement

For most people, the simplest way to consume marshmallow root is through herbal supplements, which are widely available. Since marshmallow root’s potential benefits were recognized, it has become a common fixture, in varying strengths and potencies, in natural health food stores and herbalists.

Marshmallow root in a spoon on a wooden table

Marshmallow root helps in relieving pain and inflammation. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


The dried marshmallow roots can be mixed with a small amount of warm water to form a kind of paste. This ointment or salve can be topically applied to areas of inflammation for rapid relief. You can also soak this root in water, then rub the infused water on aches and pains, as well as on irritated patches of skin. [4]

Benefits of Marshmallow Root

Some of the most impressive benefits of marshmallow root include its ability to improve the health of the skin, protect the respiratory system, optimize digestion, strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation, among others.

Skin Care

For centuries, marshmallow root and its extract have been used to soothe inflammation of the skin and clear up a number of skin afflictions. The most common form of this is as an ointment, which can be applied to areas of psoriasis, acne, wrinkles or age spots. The antibacterial nature of the root will prevent infections, while the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help speed healing and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

Hair Care

Using marshmallow root on hair can help to moisturize, detangle and protect your hair from falling out. When you soak this root in water overnight or mix the shavings of this root into one of your existing products, you can apply it to the hair to get out difficult knots and increase the shine of your hair. High in protein and various key minerals, your hair will look radiant and your scalp will be inflammation-free after using this natural hair wash.

Soothes Respiratory System

This medicinal root is perhaps best known in traditional medicine for its soothing effect on the respiratory system. You can gargle with this root infusion or make a warm tea, both of which can help to relieve the pain of a sore throat, soothe the irritation that causes coughing, and help to cut through the mucus and phlegm in your respiratory tracts. This root tea can even help attack the underlying infection that is causing bronchitis, sinus infection or inflammatory issues. [5]

Boosts Immunity

There are antibacterial and antiviral properties of marshmallow root that makes it an important support tool for the immune system. By preventing pathogens from taking hold throughout the body, it is able to reduce strain on your system and boost your metabolism. This root is particularly well-known for its impact on the gut, which is where more than half of the immune function of the body occurs. [6]

Reduces Inflammation

Whether you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or arthritis, marshmallow root can soothe the swelling and reduce discomfort, helping to relieve the symptoms quickly. This reduction in inflammation is very important for the gut, where marshmallow root can prevent gastric ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux disease. [7]

Manages Diabetes

Some research studies point to the blood sugar-lowering potential of marshmallow root. By regulating the release of glucose and insulin in the body, marshmallow root is able to protect people with diabetes from spikes and drops in blood sugar and is an effective preventative measure for those at high risk of developing diabetes. [8]

Improves Digestion

The stimulating and anti-inflammatory nature of marshmallow root, along with its mucilage and pectin content, can help to improve the digestive process in the body, speeding up peristaltic motion and improving the efficiency of nutrient uptake. [9]

Detoxifies the Body

Marshmallow root is well-known as a diuretic and is closely linked to kidney health. By consuming 1-2 cups of marshmallow root tea each day, you can speed up the process of eliminating excess fats, salts, toxins and water from the body. [10]

Helps in Weight Loss

When marshmallow root comes in contact with water, it swells in size, which can have a similar effect as fiber in the body. Basically, the body feels that it is full, which will eliminate snacking between meals and overeating, two factors that can compromise your weight loss goals. [11]

Side Effects of Marshmallow Root

Despite the many benefits of this herbal remedy, there are some potential side effects, such as a dangerous drop in blood sugar, complications with pregnancy and negative interactions with other medications.


If you are pregnant, it is not recommended that you use marshmallow root in any form, as it can have stimulant effects on the body, which could induce labor prematurely or complicate the pregnancy in other ways.

Drug Interactions

Certain drugs will be less effective if taken in conjunction with the marshmallow root. The presence of mucilage and other active ingredients in this herbal remedy may inhibit the medication’s ability to be absorbed by the body. If you are on any medications, speak to your doctor before adding this root to your natural health regimen. [12]

Blood Sugar

While controlling blood sugar can be great for diabetic patients, an excessive amount of marshmallow root can cause blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels, particularly if you use this herb in conjunction with other diabetic medications. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

Rate this article
Average rating 3.7 out of 5.0 based on 41 user(s).