Native to the British Isles, Marshmallow is a perennial herb with light pink flowers that is commonly found in salt marshes and other moist places.
Its latin name, “althaea” comes from a Greek word “altho” which means, “to heal.”
Although the root and the leaves are used medicinally in Western herbal medicine, the root is most useful for intestinal and urinary disorders, including interstitial cystitis.
Common ailments treated with marshmallow root include colds, sore throat, diarrhea, gonorrhoea, gastritis, esophagitis, enteritis, peptic ulceration and kidney and bladder disorders of all kinds.
When taken internally, marshmallow root is excellent for calming the inflammation of mucous membranes and that includes the bladder!
The main constituents in marshmallow root
Marshmallow root is 25-35% mucilage and the other main constituents are tannins, pectin and asparagine.
Mucilage: A thick, gelatinous substance made up of proteins and polysaccharides that covers the mucous membranes and prevents irritation of the nerve endings.
Tannins: Act on protein to form a protective barrier on the skin or mucous membranes. Tannins have an astringent action, meaning they seal off the area of injury to initiate healing, precipitate protein and condense cellular structures and tissues, contract and firm relaxed or weak tissues and reduce secretions and discharges, such as diarrhea or bleeding.
Pectin: A soluble plant fiber that helps to bind to toxins and escort them out of the body. Pectins also slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Asparagine: An amino acid that is important for a healthy brain and nervous system.
The herbal actions of marshmallow root
The major herbal actions of marshmallow root include demulcent, diuretic, emollient and vulnerary.
Demulcent: Relaxes, soothes, protects and coats mucous membranes, such as the intestinal tissues and mucousal layer of the bladder wall. Demulcents reduce inflammation in the lungs and urinary system.
Diuretic: Increases elimination through the urinary system. A lot of water must be taken with diuretics for best results.
Emollient: A demulcent applied topically to the skin, which soothes, softens and protects skin surfaces.
Vulnerary: Helps the body heal wounds through antimicrobial action and/or promoting the regeneration of damaged cells and/or an astringent action to seal and protect a wound. Marshmallow root does all three of these for wound healing!
The main nutrients in marshmallow root
Marshmallow root is rich in vitamin A, magnesium, iron, selenium and calcium.
It has moderate amounts of vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.
It contains small amounts of niacin, B1, B2, silicon and zinc.
Why marshmallow root for interstitial cystitis? (the lowdown)
- Soothes and protects the bladder wall, as well as the lining of the kidneys, urethra and entire urinary tract
- Anti-inflammatory action
- Helps to nourish and heal tissues
- Can help reduce bladder spasms and pain
- Helps with incontinence by initiating the urine stream
- Gently cleanses the body of impurities and toxins
- Alkalizes the urine and the body
How to make marshmallow root tea
My favourite way to consume marshmallow root for interstitial cystitis is as a tea.
It’s easiest to make a large batch of tea in the morning and drink it at room temperature throughout the day. Extreme hot and cold temperatures can shock a sensitive IC body and lead to irritation.
Add 4 teaspoons of the dry cut root to a quart of water. Simmer slowly for 10-20 minutes, then strain. It will make about 4 cups.
If you prefer to make on a per cup basis, use 1 tsp. of marshmallow root per 1 cup of water.
For a cold infusion, soak the same amount of herb in a quart of water overnight. Strain in the morning and enjoy throughout the day.
Marshmallow root is one of the safest and gentlest herbs around. It is even okay for pregnant women and children and this is not common for herbs.
Wendy Cohan, author of The Better Bladder Book, warns that marshmallow root can sometimes be contaminated with mold, so be sure to choose your supplier carefully and make sure you are getting fresh, organic marshmallow root that has been stored and prepared with care.
Marshmallow root is high in oxalates and therefore may not be a good remedy for everyone with IC. And remember, you can be allergic to anything, so start off with a small amount of tea and watch for any reactions.
Marshmallow root has mild diuretic properties and therefore, I do not recommend marshmallow root in the evenings close to bedtime because it could increase night time frequency. Take your last cup prior to or with dinner.