As we begin to settle into autumn, and the veil begins to thin, one may find themselves going inward. Going deeper. Down to the root. We've spent our summer months in an outward expression. The body of our being all colorful flowers and broad leaves. The time has come to go beneath the soil.
Many plants, too, will change forms. Plants you've admired for months might wither and lose color above the surface. Leaves of many trees along the road will become golden or amber. In doing so, the plant will have sent all of its energy deep below the surface. Down into the soil. Down to the root.
This time of year, many medicinal plants will be dug up from the soil, their roots harvested for medicine making when the plants energy, and medicine has become concentrated in the roots. One such plant is Marshmallow, also known as Althaea officinalis.
As the name implies, Marshmallow root was used making the original marshmallow candies, while the plant is not used in the pillowy candies found in grocery stores today. In Egyptian tradition, the root was decocted, and in doing so, it became a thick solution, a special ability of the plant. Honey was then added to make a syrup, and egg whites whipped in to make it a sweet, puffy delight.
Marshmallow is in the mucilage-containing Malvaceae family. A mucilaginous herb will swell in water, producing a gel-like substance, an important quality for making marshmallow treats, that can be used to soothe irritation throughout the body. This quality, paired with the cooling actions of Marshmallow, make it an excellent choice for any ailments or conditions with hot, irritated tissues.
Marshmallow root may be an important ally for dry, tickly coughs, sore throats, or chest congestion, with its expectorant and antispasmodic properties. It also has an affinity for the urinary tract, making it useful for inflammation of the bladder and urethra, as well as kidney inflammation and irritation. It can also be used topically as a skin wash, bath, or sitz bath for hot, irritated skin conditions.
In our guts, Marshmallow Root can help to regulate intestinal flora and protect against ingested toxins or bacteria, as well as relax and soothe irritated intestines. This can be especially helpful for those with IBS, IBD, colitis, and Crohn's. It also can be used as a bulking laxative agent, which can “bulk itself up” with the addition of water, to help relieve constipation.
It's cooling, soothing properties may also be helpful for those with a strong solar constitution, or a tendency toward burn out. Marshmallow can help to restore our energy reserves and remind us when it's important to say "no," and balance out the Sun with some Moon energy.
Some other herbs mucilaginous properties that pair well with Marshmallow Root include Violet Leaf, Slippery Elm Bark, Licorice Root, Plantain Leaf, and Fenugreek Seeds.
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