Facts about the Health Benefits of Marshmallow Tea
Marshmallow treats, marshmallow crème, roasted marshmallows, marshmallow tea…..tea? Yes, tea; although not made from the sweet confection treat that most people associate with the name. Rather, the beverage is made from the root of an herb named Marsh Mallow, and possesses some really great health benefits that just may turn a marshmallow sweet eater into a marshmallow tea drinker.
The Marsh Mallow is a perennial herb; aromatic, ornamental and medicinal. It originated in Asia, Africa and Europe but has since been widely established in the United States. The bushy plant grows to approximately 4 feet in height, sporting five petaled blooms that are typically white, purple or red. Flowers usually appear in late summer, followed by a round fruit that is commonly called “cheese”. Since the 1500’s, the mallow plants have been used as both food and medicine in a variety of cultures including Egyptian, Chinese, Syrian, Greek and Armenian. Although not used as food in the United States, the leaves, flowers and specifically the root are valuable in medicinal purposes.
The medicinal value of the mallow is attributed to the high concentration of mucilage in the plant. Mucilage is basically a type of glue, or bonding ingredient that is found mostly in the roots of the mallow. This mucilage is not a substance that is generally broken down within the digestive system of humans; instead, it soaks up toxins that could be present in the bowel. It also provides a slippery effect that makes it useful in soothing passageways such as the throat. Interestingly enough, although the tea is not made from the candy, the candy was originally made from the powdered root of the mallow plant; added along with sugar to water and then allowed to congeal before the confection was eaten.
Typically, marshmallow tea is concocted from the leaves of the plant; the cleaned, harvested leaves are added to boiling water and left to steep for several minutes. The combined efforts of the dried leaves and the ground root in a beverage further increase the healing powers that the plant provides. The tannins and mucilage in the leaves and roots impart into the water to form a beverage that is beneficial in treating several disorders, such as:
- Urethritis, UTIs
- Removing “gravel” from kidneys that may otherwise develop into stones
- Relieve soreness in the throat
- Soothe bronchial tubes
- Aid in easing pain of mouth irritation
- Digestive conditions such as colitis, gastritis and some ulcers
- Relieves bloating; light diuretic
In addition to drinking marshmallow tea, a paste made from the crushed leaves and ground root is a soothing poultice with antibacterial properties.
The leaves of the marsh mallow plant can be harvested at any time through the plant’s growing cycle. To store them for future use, dry the leaves in a dark, dry, airy place until they are fully dehydrated and crisp to the touch. Place the dried leaves in an airtight container until needed. Autumn is the best time to harvest the root, but before the plant itself has died back and withered. Choosing a second year plant is best to obtain the largest of roots. The marshmallow root will be large, fibrous and feel spongy to the touch. Using a sharp knife, cut away portions of the root while leaving the crown intact with a few roots still attached. This will ensure that the marshmallow will return to thrive the following season. Dry the root until it is fully dehydrated before crushing it to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle.
Although it may sound like an odd drink, marshmallow tea has been used for centuries to ease many disorders. The healthy benefits as well as the tasty flavor of the drink just may encourage more people to sip this beverage on a regular basis.