Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) Information and Uses

Marshmallow is a medicinal plant native to Eastern Europe. It is a perennial plant with light pink flowers. In India, it is known as Khatmi and mainly found in Kashmir. For medicinal purpose the leaves and dried roots are used. The dries roots are sweet in taste. They are slimy due to high mucilage content and have pleasant odour. Richness in mucilage make this herb emollient, demulcent, expectorant and anti-tussive. The roots are especially useful in cough, urinary ailments, and in gastroenteritis, peptic and duodenal ulceration and ulcerative colitis.

Traditionally, Marshmallow is used in treatment of asthma, cold, cough, congestion, diabetes, constipation, hoarseness, stones, inflammation, bronchitis, gastritis, enteritis and cystitis.

marshmallow roots uses"Althea officinalis flor". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

General Information

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Marshmallow is Althaea officinalis L. Its synonyms are Malva officinalis and A. taurinensis DC. It belongs to plant family Malvaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae: Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta- Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta- Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta- Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida- Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Dilleniidae
  • Order: Malvales
  • Family: Malvaceae – Mallow family
  • Genus: Althaea L. – marshmallow
  • Species: Althaea officinalis L. – common marshmallow

Vernacular names/Synonyms

  • English: Common Marshmallow, Marshmallow, Hollyhock.
  • Common Indian name: Khatmi.
  • Siddha: Shemai-tutti.
  • Unani: Khatmi, Gul-Khairu.
  • Urdu: Aslua Khitmi, Reshah-e-Khatmi.
  • Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: dried root, leaves and flowers.
  • Plant type: Herb.
  • Duration: Perennial.
  • Distribution: A perennial plant native to Eastern Europe and northern Africa, naturalized in North America. It has widespread idstribution from west-Europe to Siberia.
  • Habitat: marshy areas.

Plant Description

Perennial herb 60 to 120 cm high;Stem erect with short petioled velvety leaves;Flowers axillary, pinkish-white, 6 to 9 sepals of the epicalyx bind at the base 8 to 10 mm long;Heart-shaped petals and sepals five in number, many stamens fused with each other to anthers in a column;ovaries in a ring;styles numerous;mericarps smooth and downy;Fruit disc-like and open up into the mericarps;seeds compressed, dark brown kidney-shaped, glabrous.

Roots Description

Roots 0.2 to 3 cm in diameter, light brown in colour, strongly longitudinally furrowed, often spirally twisted;fracture, short, texture rough, internally yellowish white;odour, pleasant;taste, sweet and mucilaginous.

Medicinal Properties of Marshmallow plant

  • Analgesic: acting to relieve pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
  • Antiirritant: reduces signs of inflammation, such as swelling, tenderness, pain, itching, or redness.
  • Antitussive: prevent or relieve a cough.
  • Diuretic: Promoting excretion of urine/agent that increases the amount of urine excreted.
  • Decongestant: used to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Demulcent: relieving inflammation or irritation.
  • Deobstruent: Removing obstructions;having power to clear or open the natural ducts of the fluids and secretions of the body.
  • Expectorant: promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
  • Emollient: Soothing and softening effect on the skin or an irritated internal surface.
  • Hypoglycemic: Reducing level of the sugar glucose in the blood.
  • Laxative: tending to stimulate or facilitate evacuation of the bowels.
  • Litholytic: Tending to dissolve calculi.
  • Nephrotonic: tonic for kidney.

Constituents of Roots

Galacturonic acid, galactose, glucose, xylose & rhamnose, polysaccharide althaea mucilage-O, asparaginene, betaine, lecithin and phytosterol, polysaccharides.

The leaves contain the coumarin scopoletin.


One teaspoonful leaves juice in one cup water;5 grams leaves in day;5–6 g root three times a day;Root tea;

Ayurvedic Properties and Action

Rasa (taste on tongue): Madhura (Sweet)

Guna (Pharmacological Action): Guru (Heavy), Piccila (Slime), Snigdha (Unctuous)

Virya: Sita (Cooling)

Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Madhura

Action: Mutral, Pittahara, Vatahara, Vedanasthapana, Shleshmasaraka, Kaphaghna.

Important formulations: Gojihvadi Kvatha Churna.

Therapeutic Uses in Ayurveda

Burning sensation in urination, irritation, cold, cough, painful urination, bleeding disorder, diseases of throat.

Medicinal Uses of Marshmallow

  • The dried roots of Marshmallow contain starch, mucilage (18-35%), pectin, flavonoids, phenolic acids, sucrose, tannins and asparagines.
  • Due to high content of polysaccharide Marshmallow is effective in the oral and pharyngeal mucosa irritation and inflammation.
  • These roots are slimy and are useful in treatment of ulcers, urinary disorders and cough.
  • German Commission has declared Marshmallow effective as a demulcent (soothes mucous membrane).
  • The dried root is consumed in tea for its antitussive effect.
  • The oral intake of roots counters excess stomach acid, peptic ulceration and gastritis.
  • Externally, the roots are applied on varicose veins, skin ulcers, abscesses, cuts, burns.
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