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By Witchipedia, Herbs

Marsh mallow: Folklore, Healing & Magical Uses

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

A perennial, Marsh mallow (Althea officinalis) grows 3-4 feet high and the stem only puts out a few lateral branches. Leaves are palmate and lobed, 3-5 inches long and fuzzy, as is the stem.

White flowers with a violet base appear in late summer to early autumn and are followed by flat seedpods called “cheeses” from August to October. The whitish roots are tough and fibrous and pliable and grow long, thick and tapering.

It can be found growing wild in salt marshes and ditches.

Other Names:
Mallards, Mauls, Schloss Teai, Cheeses, Mortification Koot, mallow, white mallow, common marsh-mallow, marshmallow, mortification root, sweet weed, wymote

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Marshmallow has a rich history rooted in ancient Egyptian and Roman civilizations, where it was used for medicinal purposes, especially for respiratory issues.

Its cultivation requires a wet and marshy environment, as the plant thrives in damp soil, making it a unique addition to gardens or wetlands.

Harvesting and preparing marshmallow involve collecting the root and leaves, which are used to make herbal remedies and skin-soothing products.

Beyond its medicinal benefits, marshmallow has practical household uses, such as making natural hand creams and poultices for skin irritations.

History and Folklore

A European native, marshmallow was brought to America as a medicinal plant.

The name Althaea comes from the Greek altho, to cure.

FolkloreDescription
Soothing PropertiesMarshmallow has long been associated with soothing properties and is believed to calm coughs, sore throats, and digestive issues
ProtectionIn some folklore, marshmallow is believed to offer protection against evil spirits and negative energies
Love and RomanceMarshmallow has been used in love spells and rituals to attract love, enhance desire, and foster romantic relationships
Table 1: Folklore and Legends

A dish made from marshmallow was a delicacy in ancient Rome.

Cultivation

Sow seeds in the spring, prefers a moist situation with full sun. It can tolerate most soil types, including saline soils, but will not survive without lots of sunlight. This plant is self-fertilizing and will reseed.

Harvesting & Preparation

Leaves should be picked just as the plant begins to flower. The root has the highest mucilage content in the winter and should be harvested as late as possible in the season, on a dry day, from plants at least two years old.

Household Use

The dried root can be used to clean your teeth, or given to teething children to chew on.

Fiber from the roots and stem can be used for paper making.

The dried and powdered root can be used to bind ingredients when making pills.

Boil the root until a thick syrup forms. The syrup can be used as glue.

Marshmallow can be used in just about any cosmetic product including soap, lotions, shaving lotion, mouthwash, and toothpaste.

Culinary Use

The leaves are used as a potherb. May be added raw to salads or to soups to thicken them. They are mucilaginous and adding too much to the soup will make it slimy.

The root can be boiled and then fried with onions and butter for a vegetable.

The root of this plant was once used to make pate de guimauve, a sweet confection similar to today’s marshmallows. Prior to that, a similar treat was made in Egypt using marsh mallow sap and honey.

Marshmallows no longer contain Marsh Mallow, but instead use gelatin. The sap was mixed with egg whites and sugar and whipped into a foamy meringue, baked and cut into squares and used for sore throats.

The root can be boiled in water to create a consistency similar to egg whites. The water can then be used as a substitute for egg whites.

The seeds may be added to salads for an extra crunch.

Medical Use

Marsh Mallow contains a great deal of mucilage, which is soothing to mucous membranes, especially the digestive and respiratory tracts. This makes it useful for asthma, bronchitis, colds, coughs, inflammatory bowel conditions, ulcers, and general wound healing.

The dried root is often added to lotions to sooth the skin.

Marsh mallow can be used as a gentle laxative and has general soothing properties. A sweet paste can be made of the root to soothe the throat. Or the root can be steeped in water for several hours and drunk.

Healing PropertiesDescription
Respiratory HealthMarshmallow is known for its soothing effect on the respiratory system and is often used to alleviate coughs, colds, and bronchitis
Digestive AidIt is believed to have a calming effect on the digestive system, relieving symptoms such as indigestion, heartburn, and stomach ulcers
Skin ConditionsMarshmallow has emollient and anti-inflammatory properties that make it useful for soothing skin irritations, burns, and insect bites
Table 2: Healing Properties

Fresh leaves are used to stimulate the kidneys. A strong tea may also be made of the leaves and flowers to encourage the passage of stones. Drink daily, once or twice, four days on and three days off.

The powdered root, with water added, or the crushed fresh root can be used as a poultice to prevent gangrene in stubborn inflammations. You can also add slippery elm to this to enhance the effect. It should be applied as hot as possible and changed frequently. The leaves can also be used as a poultice for stings.

An infusion of the leaves can be used to bathe the eyes.

In France, Marsh Mallow is one of the ingredients in tisane de quartet fleurs, a traditional cold remedy.

Magical Use

Marsh mallow is a feminine plant ruled by the element of water, the moon or Venus and Libra or Cancer. It is associated with Althea, Aphrodite and Venus.

Marsh mallow is a protective and cleansing herb. Burning marshmallow cleanses an area, indoors or out or steep the leaves and flowers in oil and use the oil to anoint yourself when you feel the need to be protected from demons or spells cast against you.

If you are journeying in the astral and wish some extra protection, apply this oil before you enter your trance.

Magical UsesDescription
Protection SpellsMarshmallow can be used in protection spells and rituals to ward off negative energies and create a protective barrier
DivinationSome practitioners use marshmallow in divination rituals to enhance intuition and psychic abilities
Love and AttractionMarshmallow can be incorporated into love spells and charms to attract love, strengthen relationships, and promote harmony
Table 3: Magical Uses

Marsh mallow is also used for love and fertility spells and is suitable for handfastings or to enhance sex magick. If your mate has left home, or likes to wander, a vase of marsh mallow flowers in your window will guide him/her home. To fight infertility and impotence, gather marsh mallow seeds under the light of the full moon and use them in sachets or aphrodisiac powders, or make oil from them and apply it directly to the genitals.

Also associated with death and rebirth, marshmallow can be used in departing rituals and those to honor the dead or planted on or near gravesites.

Additional Comments

Marshmallow root can be used in place of slippery elm where needed.

Marsh Mallow is high in carbohydrates. Diabetics should take this into consideration.

Marsh Mallow mucilage may absorb other medicines taken at the same time and thus reduce effectiveness.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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