Today I harvested Marshmallow leaf. You only have to brush against it to understand that it is a wonderful healing demulcent herb. Marshmallow leaf has a high level of mucilage which accounts for its ability to soothe the mucous membranes either externally on the skin, or internally in the urinary or respiratory tracts.
I use a lot of this herb in my clinic so this is one that I cultivate at my field. I have learnt to harvest the leaves early in the summer while they are at the peak of condition since later in the year they seem to be afflicted by a combination of powdery mildew and rapacious insect damage. The roots can be harvested in the autumn, but it is a tough job to dig them out!
I use the fresh leaves to make tincture and then I dry a good lot of them to use either in capsules, teas or poultices for patients. Marshmallow leaf is really good to include in a general anti-inflammatory and soothing prescription for people suffering from various aches and pains, especially joint degeneration. Although not strictly categorized as an anti-inflammatory herb, I feel that its demulcent and vulnerary properties come into play in these situations. It certainly works well in a prescription with other more conventional anti-inflammatory herbs such as Wild yam and Ginger.
In terms of Tibetan Medicine it has a sweet taste and this means that it is rich in the earth element. As we get older we are more likely to suffer from an excess of ‘rlung’ (related to the air element), Marshmallow leaf with its sweet earthy quality will counteract this and this is one of the reasons why it is often indicated in prescriptions for more elderly patients. However it is not reserved specifically for one particular age group. Its wonderfully soothing and healing properties can be utilized at any age.
As it is so helpful in cases of irritating coughs, I like to include it in my herbal cough elixir, so this is the time of year to make more batches of this. Externally Marshmallow leaf is excellent for applying to wounds which are stubborn to heal.
If you are establishing a herb garden make sure you give space to a couple of Marshmallow plants. You won’t regret it.
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I’ve only used the marshmallow root before not the leaf, but I agree that it has a very earthy taste to it. I had learned that because of its demulcent properties, marshmallow may help with stomach ulcers and other stomach problems.
Hi there – yes I use a lot of marshmallow root in medicines for people suffering from inflammatory problems in the digestive tract. I am sure that the leaf would also be effective here, however I tend to use the leaf in the situations I outlined in my post, and the root for the digestive tract issues 🙂
I was just wondering how I harvest the Marshmallow. Do I just cut it and hang it up to dry? I don’t have a dehydrator or anything like that. I’ve heard of people drying herbs in old cars because it gets hot in there. Does this really work? How much of the plant do I leave? I have so much to learn and I LOVE your blog (I just found it yesterday).
Hi Hannah – I am so glad that you are enjoying this blog. I would suggest cutting the upper portions (about 2 feet) of the flowering stems and hanging them upside down in an airy place in small bunches of say four stems. Try to keep them out of direct sunlight. When the leaves seem dry and brittle strip them off the stems and put them on a tray in the airing cupboard by your hot water tank for 24 hours so that any remaining moisture is completely removed but the herb is not exposed to a high heat directly. You can either dry the stems separately as they will take longer or put them on the compost heap. Store the dry herb in an airtight container in the dark 🙂
I like your blog. I have two questions. The photos of your marshmallow leaves the prettiest leaves of this kind that I’ve ever seen. But where are the flowers that grow with them?
My second questions is, how do I get all the mucilage I hear you talking about? I’ve read that the leaves can actually be more mucilaginous than the roots. So I purchased dried marshmallow leaves from a local herbal store out of curiosity to find out for myself. I don’t see any mucilaginous consistency at all, no matter how many scoops of leaves I put into the water. I’ve long used the roots, so I’m familiar with what they can do.
Hi – I’m so glad that you like the blog. Firstly as I explained I harvest the leaves early as that is when they are at the peak of condition before insect damage and powdery mildew set in. The flowers have not yet developed in the photograph. I harvest and dry the leaves to use as teas. They are certainly demulcent and soothing even if you are unable to discern the mucilage as obviously as with the fresh root. It is definitely there because the infusion is so effective to ease the discomfort of cystitis or an irritating dry cough for example.
Sometimes people confuse Mallow and Marshmallow too, although Mallow (Malva spp) does have similar properties I prefer to use Marshmallow as I find it higher in demulcent compounds. Perhaps you should try growing some Marshmallow and infusing the fresh leaves. You would be able to admire the flowers too that way 🙂