We often get asked what the ingredients are in our famous Nanna’s tea! So today I want to talk about one of them, the yummy herb called marshmallow root.
And no we didn’t just add it to make the tea taste amazing, it plays a pivotal role in the health of the kidneys and urinary tract.
So let’s look into why we love this herb so much here at The Kidney Coach and why we use it in our Nanna’s tea.
Marshmallow is botanically known as Althea officinalis and yes, the marshmallow plant was once used to make marshmallows. Those soft and spongy confections, which are an essential ingredient for toasting over an open fire, had their origins in the herbal world but modern-day marshmallows no longer contain any part of marshmallow root. The genus name for marshmallow is derived from the Greek word altho, which means to cure, indicating how highly regarded the plant was in ancient times.
Mostly native to Europe and parts of Asia, it has been used in traditional European medicine for more than 2000 years. Traditionally marshmallow leaf and root are used for respiratory tract mucous membrane inflammation, dry cough, inflammation of the gastric mucosa, diarrhea, peptic ulcers, constipation, urinary tract inflammation, and urinary stones.
Topically, marshmallow leaf and root are used for abscesses, for varicose and thrombotic ulcers, as a compress for breast engorgement during breastfeeding, as a poultice for skin inflammation or burns, and for other wounds.
- Demulcent (relieves inflammation and irritation)
- Vulnerary (wound healing)
- Expectorant (for coughs)
Indications of use
- Dry spasmodic coughs
- Divestive inflammation such as peptic ulcers, colitis, constipation
- Urinary inflammation – UIT’s or cystitis
- Dry and itchy skin
- Sore throat and dry mouth
- UV damage – apply topically to the skin
- bacterial infections, including bladder infections, urinary tract infections and respiratory infections
- water retention, bloating and PMS
- inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disorders
- Phenolic acids
Anti Inflammatory Effects
In vitro and animal research suggests that marshmallow has anti-inflammatory effects. Marshmallow root extract may stimulate phagocytosis and the release of oxygen radicals and leukotrienes from human neutrophils. These actions allow white blood cells to mop up and combat damage caused by bacteria. Additionally, marshmallow extract may induce the release of cytokines, interleukin-6, and tumour necrosis factor from human monocytes, this boost to the immune system allows infective agents to be resolved faster when compared to controls that did not use marshmallow root.
An experimental study found that the anti-inflammatory properties of marshmallow alone were superior to dexamethasone monotherapy in rabbits, which is a pretty impressive claim as many of our kidney patients are placed on corticosteroids for numerous kidney-related conditions, the addition of marshmallow root could potentially mean using a lower dose of corticosteroids, which in turn may reduce any negative side effects and resolve inflammation faster than using steroid treatment alone.
These animal studies showed that acute inflammation was inhibited by 41 – 78% when marshmallow root was used and chronic inflammation by 52 – 68%, pretty impressive figures don’t you think!
Inflammation, as we say over and over again here at the Kidney Coach, is the key driver in not only Chronic Kidney Disease but also in many of the diseases linked to kidney diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
The anti-inflammatory effects of marshmallow root are thought to be due to the presence of flavonoids which decrease the release of inflammatory mediators, stabilize cell membranes, and inhibit cyclooxygenase enzyme activity.
Marshmallow acts similarly to water pills or your classic diuretics by increasing urination volume and flashing out excessive water. Diuretics help to cleanse the kidney and bladder of toxins and relieve water retention.
Diuretics are often also prescribed for those diagnosed with cardiovascular issues to reduce blood pressure.
Studies suggest that marshmallow has antimicrobial activity against L. monocytogenes, P. aeruginosa, P. Vulgaris, and S. aureus, which are various types of bacteria. Some animal research suggests that marshmallows’ antimicrobial effects may be explained by suppression of mucociliary action and stimulation of phagocytosis, which is the mechanism used by the immune system to remove bacterial infections.
This action makes marshmallow root particularly useful in things like urinary tract infections which can be a complication of chronic kidney and renal disease.
More animal studies have suggested that marshmallow might reduce plasma glucose levels, theoretically due to it’s fibre-containing mucilage. This is great news for those diagnosed with diabetes who also have chronic renal or kidney disease. Adding marshmallow root to your daily regime might help lower and stabilise blood sugar levels and decrease the damage caused to the kidneys by having chronically unstable blood sugar levels.
Animal research shows that a marshmallow flower extract can significantly increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol the good fat in rats. The researchers suggest that this effect is due to pectin. The increase in HDL was only observed at a dose of 50 mg/kg daily. Doses of 250 mg/kg and 500 mg/kg daily did not appear to increase HDL levels. It is unclear why higher doses didn’t increase HDL.
Increasing healthy fats plays a protective role in preventing cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of chronic kidney disease.
Note that this was only observed in the flowers of the Marshmallow plant and not the root, it is the root that we use in our Nanna’s kidney tea.
Alcoholic extract of the flower of Marshmallow flowers increased the outflow of the coronary artery of isolated guinea pig’s heart and markedly dilated the blood vessels in the hind limbs of rats. The extract also showed a transient blood pressure-lowering effect on anesthetic cats. The same extract was also shown to inhibit platelet aggregation induced by adenosine diphosphate – which is a platelet agonist that causes platelets to change shape and stick together, increasing the change of blood clots, for this reason, Marshmallow showed an inhibitory effect on thrombosis formation.
Prevention of Kidney Stones
In both preventive and curative protocols, treatment of rats with hydroalcoholic extract of Marshmallow roots significantly reduced kidney calcium oxalate deposits compared to the placebo group. The use of Marshmallow root also reduced elevated levels of calcium oxalate in the urine. The study drew the conclusion that Marshmallow root was effective in preventing and eliminating calcium kidney stones in the kidneys due to its diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects and the presence of mucilaginous polysaccharides in the plants that may be associated with the lowering of urinary concentrations of stone-forming constituents.
So now that you have seen some of the amazing things that Marshmallow root can do lets have a look at how to take it and in what dosage we would recommend.
Dried herbal root – 40 – 100gms per week as a herbal tea
Liquid extract 1:1 in 30% alcohol 20 to 100mL weekly
As with any new medications we always recommend that you first speak to your general practitioner or health care provider. Adding Marshmallow root to a herbal tea is a very safe and effective way to consume the plant, and is why it is a major component of our famous Nanna’s Kidney Tea.
We hope that this information was useful, if so please feel free to share it with your family and friends, or head over to our Kidney Coach Facebook page and drop us a comment to let us know how you have found this amazing plant!