Marshmallow root

Chinese: 药蜀葵

Pinyin: Yào Shǔ Kuí

Parts used: Dried roots

TCM category: Herbs that cool the Blood

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): SaltySweet

Meridian affinity: BladderHeartLarge intestineLung

Scientific name: Althaea officinalis

Use of marshmallow root (Yao Shu Kui) 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 practitionner, 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 marshmallow root may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coughing Carbuncles Edema Common cold Bronchitis

Key TCM concepts behind marshmallow root (Yao Shu Kui)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), marshmallow root are plants that belong 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 '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 marshmallow root are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that marshmallow root typically help 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 marshmallow root can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Marshmallow root also taste Salty and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Salty ingredients like marshmallow root tend 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 marshmallow root are 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 "spirit" 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 to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on marshmallow root (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

Sources:

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.