Marshmallow | Yao Shu Kui
COMMON NAME (Chinese Name)

Marshmallow (Yao Shu Kui)


Althaea officinalis


The entire marshmallow plant contains antitussive, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, and may be useful in treating respiratory infections like bronchitis, pertussis, and even non-infectious bronchial asthma. Moreover, drinking marshmallow tea has shown some promise for relieving almost any kind of cough (including spontaneous and dry coughs as well as infectious, inflammatory, and wet coughs). This is likely because most marshmallow extracts also have demulcifent and soothing properties as well. In animal studies, marshmallow supplements have been shown to actively inhibit the cough reflex, though that effect is apparent for a significantly shorter period of time when the cough is related to inflammation in the airways.

One of the most commonly reported topical uses of marshmallow root extract is the treatment of gingival abscesses. Marshmallow root extract can make a somewhat effective oral rinse, though alcohol-based mouthwash and antibiotics tend to be more effective in the treatment of oral infections. That said, extracts drawn from different parts of the plant (especially alcohol/water based extracts) do consistently demonstrate some degree of antimicrobial and antifungal activity. Several studies have suggested that marshmallow extracts may have novel and valuable uses as topical treatments for skin inflammation, wound healing, and UVA-induced skin damage.

In Chinese medicine marshmallow is categorized as an herb that tonifies yin. It is classified as cool, moist, and bland and primarily affects the Lung, Stomach, Intestines, and Bladder meridians.


Interestingly, using hot-water decoction as the means of extraction may not render any antioxidant compounds from the plant, though maintaining water temperature near 60°C/140°F for a long extraction period seems to help draw out more of those antioxidant properties. Nevertheless, people interested in the antioxidant effects of marshmallow supplementation may want to look into alcohol-based extracts, since the antioxidant effects will be easier to access. 


Marshmallow supplements may have notable diuretic effects. Consequently, people who are sensitive to or already taking diuretic medication should avoid using marshmallow root supplements. Common side-effects may include increased urine output and diarrhea, as well as symptoms of dehydration.

Marshmallow supplements derived from any part of the plant may also have abortifacient effects, so women who are pregnant should not take any of them. That said, women who are breastfeeding may find that topical applications of marshmallow leaf extracts, in combination with warm and cold compress treatment, may help improve lactation. As with any supplement, you should consult a physician, certified herbalist, or other qualified healthcare professional before taking.


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