English: Marshmallow root

Chinese: 药蜀葵

Parts used: Dried roots

TCM category: Herbs that cool the Blood

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): SaltySweet

Organ affinity: Bladder Heart Large intestine Lung

Scientific name: Althaea officinalis

Use of Yao Shu Kui (marshmallow root) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 50 - 100 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Facilitates urination and stops coughing. Eases inflammation and removes toxicity.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Yao Shu Kui may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coughing Carbuncles Edema Common cold Bronchitis

Key TCM concepts behind Yao Shu Kui's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yao Shu Kui belongs to the 'Herbs that cool the Blood' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that cool the Blood treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category Yao Shu Kui is Cold in nature. This means that Yao Shu Kui typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Yao Shu Kui can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Yao Shu Kui also tastes Salty and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Salty ingredients like Yao Shu Kui tends to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Yao Shu Kui is thought to target the Bladder, the Heart, the Large intestine and the Lung. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on Yao Shu Kui

Various studies have shown that Althaea officinalis possessed anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, demulcent, soothing and antittusive pharmacological effects.1

Antitussive activity of various plant polysaccharides was confirmed and Althaea officinalis exhibited the most expressive antitussive activity.2


1. Ali Esmail Al-Snafi (2013). The Pharmaceutical Importance of Althaea officinalis and Althaea rosea : A Review. International Journal of PharmTech Research, Vol.5, No.3, pp 1378-1385.

2. Sutovska M, Nosalova G, Franova S, Kardosova A. The antitussive activity of polysaccharides from Althaea officinalis l., var. Robusta, Arctium lappa L., var. Herkules, and Prunus persica L., Batsch. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2007;108(2) 93-99. PMID: 17685009.