Marsh Mallow

Scientific Name(s): Althaea officinalis L. Family: Malvaceae (mallows)

Common Name(s): Altheae radix , althea , marshmallow

Uses

Althea mucilage has been used to soothe dermal irritations, sore throats, and coughs. It appears to have bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Dosing

There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of marsh mallow. Classical daily doses of the root or leaf in cough and bronchitis were 6 g.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

Althea extracts generally have not been associated with toxicity.

Botany

Marsh mallow is a perennial that grows to 5 feet in salt marshes and moist regions throughout Europe, western and northern Asia, and the eastern US. Its 3-lobed leaves are velvety, and the plant resembles hollyhock ( Althaea rosea ). The plant blooms from July to September. The family Malvaceae is known as the mallow family, and confusion may surround the common nomenclature and identification of the plants in this group. The root is collected in the fall, peeled of its brown corky layer, dried, and used in commerce. The leaves share many of the properties of the bark and also have been used in traditional medicine. 1 , 2

History

Marsh mallow root has been recognized as a source of useful mucilage, which has been used for more than 2 millennia to treat topical wounds and as a remedy for sore throats, coughs, and stomach ailments. The mucilage is incorporated into ointments to soothe chapped skin and is added to foods in small quantities (approximately 20 ppm) to provide bulk and texture. 1 One report discusses althea-type plants in a Neanderthal gravesite in Iraq. 3

Chemistry

The root contains 25% to 35% of mucilage, 1 , 4 but the content of the individual, purified mucilaginous polysaccharides is much lower. The mucilage content varies considerably with the season, being highest in the winter. A purified mucilage has been shown to be composed of L-rhamnose:D-galactose:D-galacturonic acid:D-glucuronic acid in a molar ratio of 3:2:3:3. 1 Asparagine (2%), sugars, pectin, and a tannin have also been identified in the root. 2 , 4 Fatty oil of althea has been addressed. 5 Flavonoid compounds of the leaves, flowers, and roots also have been described, including glucosidoesters and monoglucosides. 6 , 7

Uses and Pharmacology

Dermal irritation

The mucilaginous properties of the althea root yield a soothing effect on mucous membranes.

Animal data

Althea reduces the transport velocity of isolated ciliated epithelium cells of the frog esophagus in vitro and may be useful in the management of coughs and colds because of its ability to protect mucous layers in the hypopharynx along with its spasmolytic, antisecretory, and bactericidal activity. 8 Althea extract and polysaccharide were tested for antitussive activity in cats. Although the polysaccharide component was more effective, both possessed cough-suppressing capabilities. 9

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of marsh mallow for dermal irritation.

Other uses

Combinations of althea extracts with steroids have been used in the management of dermatologic conditions, 10 , 11 and the plant appears to possess anti-inflammatory activity that potentiates the effect of topical steroids. 12

Dosage

There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of marsh mallow. Classical daily doses of the root or leaf in cough and bronchitis were 6 g. 13

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

Althea extracts generally have not been associated with toxicity.

Bibliography

1. Evans WC. Pharmacognosy . 13th ed. London: Bailliere Tindall; 1989.
2. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons; 1980.
3. Lietava J. Medicinal plants in a Middle Paleolithic grave Shanidar IV? J Ethnopharmacol . 1992;35:263-266.
4. Windholz M, ed. Merck Index . 10th ed. Rahway, NJ: Merck & Co. Inc.; 1983.
5. Mishina AS, Kornievskii IuI, Shkurupii SM, Dolia VS. Fatty oil of Althea officinalis, stoloniferous valerian and golden wallflower [in Ukrainian]. Farm Zh . 1975;Sep-Oct:92-93.
6. Gudej J. Flavonoid compounds of leaves of Althea officinalis L. (Malvaceae). Part 1. Glucosidoesters and monoglucosides. Acta Pol Pharm . 1985;42:192-198.
7. Gudej J. Determination of flavonoid in leaves, flowers, and roots of Althea officinalis L. Farmacja Polska . 1990;46:153-155.
8. Muller-Limmroth W, Frohlich HH. Effect of various phytotherapeutic expectorants on mucociliary transport. Fortschr Med . 1980;98:95-101.
9. Nosal'ova G, Strapkova A, Kardosova A, Capek P, Zathurecky L, Bukovska E. Antitussive action of extracts and polysaccharides of marsh mallow (Althea officinalis L., var. robusta) [in German]. Pharmazie . 1992;47:224-226.
10. Piovano PB, Mazzocchi S. Clinical trial of a steroid derivative (9-alpha-fluoro-prednisolone-21-acetate) in association with aqueous extract of althea in the dermatological field [in Italian]. G Ital Dermatol Minerva Dermatol . 1970;45:279-286.
11. Huriez C, Fagez C. On the association of althea and dexamethasone: Dexalta ointment [in French]. Lille Med . 1968;13(suppl):121-123.
12. Beaune A, Balea T. Anti-inflammatory experimental properties of marshmallow: its potentiating action on the local effects of corticoids. Therapie . 1966;21:341-347.
13. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs . Boston, MA: American Botanical Council; 1998.

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