Earthsong Organic Marshmallow 100 seeds

Althaea officinalis

Carefully selected collection of medicinal seeds for you to create your very own herb garden.

A UK native perennial with mucilaginous roots used by herbalists for relieving dry coughs and irritable digestion, or for making a comforting herbal tea to relax an agitated mind.

Marshmallow is one of the kindest yet strongest plants there is. The leaf is very soft and strokable. The ascendant stems are firm yet flexible, yielding with the wind. The roots are fat and chunky, holding their healing-mucilage. And the flowers, a treat for the eyes and the salad bowl.

As the name suggests, marshmallow is happy in (but not limited to) wet, heavy soils, and is well suited to the more boggy parts of the garden that many herbs would rather avoid. It is one of our taller plants, growing to well over 2m, so is best positioned at the back of a bed.

The Earthsong Seed Nursery is in the South-West of the UK & are in the process of officially converting to organic with the Soil Association.

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Description

The leaves can be harvested from the first year, but you’ll need to wait until the autumn of the 2nd or the even the 3rd year before harvesting the root.

Marshmallow is a herb that benefits from some stratification to break the seed’s dormancy. This can be done in two ways; either sow the seed directly outdoors in the autumn or cold-moist stratify (mix the seed with moist sand, seal in a bag and store in the fridge) for 3-4 weeks before sowing indoors in the spring. Sowing outdoors is a good method if you have a lot of seed, but if you only have a small amount, probably best to follow the second method.

If stratification sounds like too much effort, don’t worry – you should still get some germination from non-stratified seed but you may get a lower germination rate.

Pot up as soon as the seedlings have grown its true leaves then plant out when it has grown to around 4-6 inches. Its affinity for dampness makes it a good herb to grow in heavy clay soils, although it does seem to tolerate most soil types. It can grow in full sunshine or partial shade.

Relieving dry cough and upset and irritable digestion are the dominant roles of marshmallow. As its primary mucilage ingredient is sensitive both to heat and alcohol it is best taken as a powder or extracted in cold or warm (not hot) water.

You can expect almost immediate relief as the effect is almost entirely from the physical properties of the mucilage on the mucosal lining of the upper digestive system. The effect on the airways is likely to be due to consequent reflex action on tissues of the respiratory system. This reflex action can extend to soothing the mind as well as marshmallow helps to soothe any rough and agitated edges.

Marshmallow contains over 10% mucilage which acts as its primary therapeutic constituent. Mucilage will trap liquid to form gel like substances and will also swell to many times its original volume. Mucilage forms a protective layer over damaged mucosal membranes, allowing time for cellular regeneration and healing to occur but also protects membranes from further deterioration, for example, damage from gastric acid exposure. Longer term use of mucilage also allows time for damaged cells to heal.

Externally, the marshmallow mucilage can draw fluid and toxicity from wounds and infections. In small dosages, mucilaginous compounds restrain the peristaltic action within the gut and work well to promote an antidiarrheal action. In larger dosages, they can promote a gentle laxative effect.

You can harvest the soft leaves throughout the summer whenever they ‘feel right’; when the leaves feel like velvet and have a bit of ‘give’- this is usually when they are a couple of feet tall until flowering starts to go over. Pick the leaves off individually, discarding any damaged leaves or rust. Dry them thoroughly and store in an airtight container for soothing cups of tea.

Harvest the roots in their second- or better still, their third year. As the roots can really spread deep and wide start to dig some way out from the base and slowly work your way in so you don’t snap off too many root-arms. Then give them a careful wash so as not to break the skin and release the mucilage. Slice into 0.5cm slices, lay out on a drying rack and place somewhere warm or in a dehumidifier at 42C for at least a day.

The best way to enjoy Marshmallow is to infuse 6–15 g/day of dried leaf or root in cold water for a couple of hours: the mucilage can withstand temperatures only up to 60oC. Strain this and enjoy the experience of drinking pure Althean silk.

Make a soothing cough syrup with Marshmallow.

Marshmallow is also a very effective poultice for drawing out splinters and infection from wounded skin as well as helping with dry skin.

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