I have struggled with severe GERD, ulcers, and esophageal scarring most of my life. Of course the foods I love the most also wreck the most havoc. Coffee, heavily spiced foods, wine, and my beloved jalapeno peppers leave me struggling through heart burn and worse. While heart burn is uncomfortable, I am more concerned with the long term damage unchecked GERD creates. For me, a holistic approach–including herbal strengthening of my digestive system — has resulted in greater freedom, fewer side effects, and a stronger digestive system than experienced before. By enjoying my temptations in moderation rather than excess, reducing stress, increasing exercise, and a program of digestive herbal strengthening I have been able to reduce my dependence on Prevacid/Prilosec and can still enjoy my occasional treats!
There are many herbs that assist the digestive system; and, many different ways to incorporate them into daily life. I will be writing more in the coming weeks discussing these options; but, today I want to talk about Marshmallow Tea. This herbal tea is not only delicious; but, it is a fantastic option as an “herbal foundation” for digestive health.
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) has been used for thousands of years, across multiple continents and in a variety of cultures as both food and medicine. Yes, there is a link to the much loved modern marshmallow. The French used to make a sweet confection with Marshmallow to treat children’s coughs and stomach aches. The introduction of gelatin and corn syrup completely altered the original marshmallow; and became what we know today. Who would have thought the original inspiration for a beloved campfire treat was the root of a plant!
Historically, Marshmallow has been used to help inflammation in the skin (eczema), the entire digestive tract, and lungs (dry coughs). It’s leaves and roots contain flavonoids, betaine, beta-carotene, vitamin B, and calcium. All these are great for nutritional and system health. But there is another component that makes Marshmallow particularly well suited for it’s historical uses. It is mucilage — a gummy substance that forms a gel when combined with water. This gel coats, soothes, reduces inflammation, and moisturizes. I am not surprised the founders of current medicine would have utilized these traits in strengthening GI tracts assaulted by stomach acid.
The German Commission E has existed since 1978 and is the scientific advisory board that makes recommendations regarding herbal safety and effectiveness to the “Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte.” This regulatory agency is the German version of the United States FDA. The German Commission E is comprised of scientists across multiple disciplines that studied hundreds of herbs utilizing clinical studies, case studies, literature, field studies, etc. Herbal remedies have been used successfully for thousands of years; however, this agency determines which herbs can also be validated through modern scientific inquiry. Marshmallow root was determined an effective treatment for GI issues and cough. Click here to see the published monograph. In the United States, marshmallow has not often been evaluated for effectiveness. There is one modern scientific study the University of Maryland Medical Center states “confirm[s] that marshmallow preparations help soothe irritated mucous membranes due to:
3) Common cold/sore throat
5) Inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
7) Stomach ulcers
8) Skin inflammation
For me personally, I thought the evidence was worth giving Marshmallow tea a shot and I am glad I did. Marshmallow is a very gentle and safe herb. However, there are a few precautions:
1) those with diabetes should monitor blood sugar more closely as one study has shown it may lower blood sugar levels.
2) Marshmallow coats the stomach the absorption of some medications may be reduced. If you take other medications ask your doctor for guidance. You may be able to take your meds so many minutes before or after drinking Marshmallow tea. But don’t try this without asking your doctor for guidance.
3) Marshmallow may raise lithium in the body. If you take lithium do not take Marshmallow without discussing with your doctor.
Now for the fun part. Making and enjoying Marshmallow Tea!
What you need:
Two glass quart jars with lids
Dried Marshmallow Root — I either use what is in my garden or purchase from Mountain Rose Herbs. Here is a link to purchase from them if needed.
strainer and spoon
Place 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of dried marshmallow root in a quart jar. I use 1/2 because my stomach issues have been longstanding and severe. Most people would only need 1/4 cup. Use your judgement.
Fill the jar with cold water
Place the lid on and shake. Let sit for at least 30 min. An hour is better and the best is let it sit overnight. You will notice a waviness to the liquid after a very short period. This means your tea is becoming strong medicine. You are seeing the mucilage transferring from the roots into your drink.
When ready strain into another quart jar. Use your spoon to press all the liquid you can from the roots. Add the leftovers to compost.
Pour a cup and enjoy! You can drink several cups throughout the day. Keep refrigerated and throw away any leftovers within a couple days. It won’t last that long though. This tea is delicious as is — which is a statement from me. I am an Alabama girl and I like my drinks sweet. This is one of the few I don’t need honey to enjoy. Feel free to leave a comment letting me know your thoughts and if this brew helps!
I am not a doctor and each persons health is unique. All herbal remedies have the possibility of interacting with medication, causing allergy, impacting other health issues, etc. Information in this article is for information and educational purposes only. Please check with your doctor before trying any herbal supplement or remedy including Marshmallow tea. The statements and suggestions in this article are the opinion of the author. They have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease.