Marshmallow Plant: Grow for Medicine, Flowers, and Dessert! | Almanac.com

Marshmallow Plant: Grow for Medicine, Flowers, and Dessert!

Marshmallow flower
Photo Credit
Canva and Audrey Barron (for all photos in the article)

Marshmallow's soothing health benefits

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

Marshmallow is truly versatile as a gorgeous flowering perennial, an herb with a variety of medicinal uses, and a sweet treat. Learn more about growing marshmallows in the garden, as well as how to make a healing tea and real good-for-you marshmallows.

What are Marshmallow Plants?

I love growing marshmallows in our orchard along a fence row where she has her own space to grow and expand. A summer-blooming herb, she brings a soft, delicate beauty to the garden.

Marshmallows are herbaceous perennials native to Europe. The plants are part of the Malvaceae family, which includes hibiscus, hollyhocks, and okra

Her Latin name (althaea officinalis) means “heal or cure” because the plant offers a variety of medicinal benefits to calm coughs and colds and as an immune stimulant and digestive aide. 

The root is a nutritious food. It was the ancient Egyptians who first made the sweet treat from the plant’s roots. The entire plant is edible, and the roots and velvety leaves have been eaten as vegetables, often fried with onion and garlic. 

The butterflies, bees, and even hummingbirds adore the flowers of marshmallows, and I find myself taking photos often as the soft glow of her summer bloom is intoxicating. 

In my program, Medicine Woman, I have a lesson on this most gorgeous plant and sing her praises. When we need softness in our lives and soothing for our bodies, marshmallow is a great plant friend to have.

Identifying Marshmallow

The stems and leaves of Marshmallow are a soft sage green and covered with very fine velvety down. 

Marshmallow plants will grow many feet, even up to 8 to 10 feet tall, if really happy. The flowers tend to grow in clusters in the leaf axils/leaf base and have five petals resembling hollyhocks. 

Her pretty pink and white flowers bloom from June to late autumn, and the plant is frost hardy.

She can be found growing wild along roadsides, forest edges, or in fields, although I find it is rarely found wild in my Midwestern location.

Growing Marshmallows

If you are buying seeds, I recommend checking out rareseeds.com and Strictly Medicinal Seeds.

Marshmallow has been naturalized in parts of the eastern USA. This plant prefers damp areas but will grow in average garden soil in full sun.

I recommend having plenty of space for her to expand, as if you are using the medicine on a regular basis, having multiple plants is helpful. You also want to make sure she’s located in a place where you are okay with the soil being distributed from your regular root digging.

  • The seeds are sown in the spring (once the soil reaches 60 degrees). 
  • Sow only 1/4 inch deep; scarify the seeds on medium grit sandpaper and barely cover the seeds with soil, tamping securely.
  • Keep evenly moist and warm until germination.
  • Space the plants 2 feet apart or thin to 2 feet apart once the plant sprouts (about 14 days).

Harvesting Marshmallows

Her main medicine is in her roots. You want to harvest the roots in fall, before the last frost

  • To harvest, dig down with your shovel, staying 6 to 12 inches out from the main stem. Push up the soil and the plant from the underside. Once you pull out the plant, you can clip the roots, leaving the root ball. I like to cut the root ball into a few pieces and replant it. Sometimes, you’ll even see sprouts coming up from the root ball; that means new plants are already planning to come up in the spring! 
  • While harvesting the roots, you can harvest the seeds as well.  The seed pods will be brown and dry (unless it’s been raining).  It is very easy to rub the outer pod with your fingers, and the small, soft, fuzzy seeds will fall out.  From here, save in an envelope or bag.  As with all of our plants, she provides enough seeds to keep her medicine going for you for a lifetime.  
  • Now, her leaves do have similar medicinal benefits to the root but to a much lesser degree.  While waiting on root harvesting season, you can harvest some of her leaves to make tea and enjoy some of her soothing benefits.

The Medicine of Marshmallow 

  • Marshmallow is known for her soothing qualities. She is incredibly soothing to the mucus membranes of the throat, gut, and urinary tract. Her magical property is the mucilage that excretes from her roots once they are wet. 
  • Think of her for dry, irritated coughs, dry pneumonia, and hot/dry bronchitis. 
  • She can help to soothe and heal gastric ulcers.
  • Think of her for an inflamed bladder and/or urinary tract infection.
  • She can even help ease the passage of small kidney stones.
  • She’s also a diuretic, which means she helps get the internal waters flowing through urination.
  • She can be an especially amazing medicine for constipation.
  • Externally, she can be used as a poultice or ointment for red hot conditions like boils, styes, burns, mastitis, insect bites, or stings.

How to Use Marshmallow for Food and Healing

 The best way to use marshmallows is through water extraction—meaning tea!

  • Her mucilaginous properties aren’t well extracted in alcohol, so tincture is not the best way to receive her medicine, although you can find tinctures on the market.
  • You can use the tea in oatmeal or even in soup to help thicken it a bit and add the beneficial soothing qualities.
  • You can make a poultice for minor wounds, insect bites, and rashes by making a tea and then soaking cloth in the tea and applying it to the area.
  • Marshmallow root is also where marshmallows come from! Making your own at home can be a really fun way to bring the medicine into your life, especially for children.

Marshmallow Root Tea

Hot infusion

Add 2 tablespoons of dried marshmallow root into a glass teapot.  Pour over your hot water (165 degrees F) and allow to sit for 10 to 25 minutes.  Strain and enjoy.

We also have a recipe for Lavender and Marshmallow Tea.

Cold infusion

Fill a jar ¼ of the way up with dried marshmallow root and fill with lukewarm filtered water.  Allow to sit for 8 to 10 hours.  Strain and enjoy.

Some herbalists say the cold infusion is better, and some prefer the hot infusion as I do.  

Make Your Own Homemade Marshmallows

Yes, marshmallows are an ancient candy that used actually to be made from marshmallow root! Of course, there’s no longer “marsh mallow” in the modern marshmallow, but you can make your own! 

It’s fairly easy to make this healthy, delicious treat, too. My kids love watching the marshmallows form in the stand mixer and say these are better than anything store-bought.  

Like so much of the processed food on the store shelves, the marshmallows at the grocery store are far from healthy, let alone medicinal.  They are likely to contain corn syrup along with chemical flavoring and food dyes.  

These marshmallows bring the medicine of marshmallow root and the bone-building properties of grass-fed gelatin.  Kids will love them, and they can soothe a tummy or a dry cough, just like the tea.

Try homemade marshmallows! It’s very different, healthy, and delicious.


  • 3 tablespoons grass-fed gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons dried marshmallow root
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • ¼ cup arrowroot starch
  1. First, prepare the dish you want to use.  I like to use my bread pan (9.5 x 5) because it makes nice thick marshmallows.  Line your pan with parchment paper, and then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of arrowroot starch on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Make your marshmallow root tea in a glass teapot with your marshmallow root and 2 cups of hot water.  Allow to steep for 10 minutes, then strain.
  3. In a stand mixer, add ½ cup of your marshmallow tea.  Sprinkle over your 3 tablespoons of gelatin, allowing it to sit and “bloom” for about 10 minutes.
  4. While your gelatin is blooming, you can start on your next step.  Add another ½ cup of your marshmallow tea to a small pot along with your 1 cup of honey and the sea salt.  Slowly bring the tea and honey mixture to a boil.  Whisk while it’s boiling, bringing the temperature up to 230-240 degrees F.  I have tried just boiling for 10 minutes, and it seems the temperature factor is important.  You can use a candy thermometer, but my meat thermometer also worked.  
  5. Now you want to turn your mixer on, with the bloomed gelatin, on low.  Start streaming in your boiled honey tea mixture while you slowly turn your mixer up to high.
  6. Somewhat quickly, you will see the mixture become white and thicken up.  It could take up to 10-15 minutes, but it could be sooner.  As you see soft peaks form and the mixer begins to slow down a bit, your mixture is ready.
  7. Pour your mixture into your pan, smoothing it on top.  Sprinkle over the other two tablespoons of arrowroot on top.  The arrowroot helps to keep the marshmallow from being sticky.
  8. Allow the mixture to sit in the pan overnight or for about 8 hours. Your mixture will firm up well, and from there, you can cut it into squares and enjoy.

Marshmallow is contraindicated for cold, damp conditions.  It can also inhibit the absorption of pharmaceutical medications, so separate ingestion of 2-3 hours is recommended.

Note: I am not a medical doctor, and this is not medical advice. With any new herb, it is a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before adding it to your life.  It is possible to be allergic to any herb. Listen to your body and only take something if it feels good to you.  You are the #1 expert of your own body.  

If you enjoy growing healing herbs, see another wonderful, easy-to-grow herb for your garden: Ashwagandha!

About The Author

Audrey Barron

Audrey Barron is a herbalist, writer, and herbal farmer in Indianapolis, Indiana. Read More from Audrey Barron

2023 Gardening Club