Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) is one of my very favorite skin care herbs. It is demulcent, healing and softening. The mucilaginous (aka slippery, gooey) texture is famous as the now-unrelated, dessert-concoction marshmallow. Yes, you can make real marshmallows with the herb that are highly nutritious.
I purchase marshmallow root from here. Either the powder or the whole root is wonderful, depending upon for what you want to use it!
Marshmallow has many applications. The root is most commonly used, yet the flower, leaf and stem have the similar properties in lesser concentration. If it is summer or spring and you are growing marshmallow, use the upper portions. In the fall, harvest the root for use throughout the winter.
The leaves are best when harvested before the plant flowers (like most herbs). There are some varying opinions out there as to whether the root should be extracted by cold or hot decoction. I have tried both ways and do not notice a difference in texture (and hence properties). I would suggest you try both and see what you think and then share below!!
To make a cold extraction:
- For a water-based infusion, put the herb in a jar at approximately 2 teaspoons per cup, add cold water and allow it to steep overnight or for several hours.
- For an oil-based infusion, fill the jar about ¾ full with herb, pour cold oil (olive oil, etc) over and allow to steep for at least 2 weeks.
Used in powder or whole form, marshmallow can be made into the following natural products:
- Infused oils, the basis for salves, balm and creams (slightly or completely dried)
- Cleansing mix (use dried herb for this)
- Poultices (fresh or dried)
- Face masks (fresh or dried)
Marshmallow is salty, sweet, cool and moist. This gives us a good indication for its best uses: those that are warm/hot and dry. It is also used as a dissolver of hardness (like lumps and bumps).
Hot and dry skin conditions include:
- Sensitive skin
- Dry skin, including dry psoriasis and dry eczema (as a wash)
- Aging skin
- Marshmallow root is plumping and can sooth out fine lines, even redness and heal abrasions, nicks and other small cuts present on the skin.
Additional properties and uses of marshmallow root for the skin:
- The most anti-inflammatory of all the common mucilages (remember, inflammation is the cause of many skin ailments)
- Emollient- water follows salt and marshmallow has a salty nature
- Softens and breaks up hard tissues
- Primary remedy for a broad range of conditions, normalizer that reestablishes balance
- Specific for people who have hardening of personality, intolerance and to regulate lower chakras and strong emotions
- Great for use on sore nipples