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Updated January 27, 2013

What is Althaea?

Althaea is a plant used in herbal medicine. The root is white and tastes slightly sweet. In fact, it's also called marshmallow, because it was an ingredient in the original marshmallow recipe.

Althaea can be found online or at health food stores in dried loose form.

Why People Use Althaea

Althaea root contains a high percent of mucilage, a substance that swells and becomes gel-like when mixed with water. Once it has swelled, mucilage is thought to soothe irritation.

1) Cough and Sore Throat

Althaea tea is recommended by some alternative practitioners for sore throat and coughing. The effectiveness of this herbal remedy, however, hasn't been studied. Althaea can also be found at the natural health food store in herbal cough syrups.

2) Ulcers, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease

Some alternative practitioners suggest althaea for these conditions, although it hasn't been tested. The mucilage in althaea is believed to coat the lining of the stomach and intestines and reduce inflammation.

3) Irritated Skin

Some people use althaea to soothe irritated skin. Powdered althaea root is mixed with enough warm water to make a paste and applied to the affected area. A layer of gauze or cloth is placed over the area. If any itching or irritation occurs, it is rinsed immediately. It's usually left on for up to 30 minutes and then the cloth is removed and the area rinsed thoroughly.

Althaea Tea

To make althaea tea, add one to two tablespoons dried althaea root to one cup of boiling water. Allow it to steep overnight and strain out the solids. A typical recommendation is one cup per day.

To shorten the steeping time, powdered marshmallow root may be used, which has been ground to a fine powder and doesn't need to be steeped for as long. It can be made following the same instructions, but steeped for at least one hour before straining.

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Theoretically, althaea shouldn't be taken within two hours of taking prescription drugs. Because althaea coats the digestive tract, it may interfere with their absorption.

Some people are allergic to althaea and shouldn't take it.

Althaea may affect blood sugar levels, so it should not be used by people with diabetes or hypoglycemia unless under the supervision of a health practitioner.

Other Names

marshmallow, althaea officinalis, mallards, sweet weed, wymote, mortification root

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