If someone told you to put marshmallow root in your hair, what would you think? You might be picturing a sticky, sugary mess, wondering why anyone would suggest putting a treat usually associated with s’mores or hot chocolate in your hair.
Marshmallow root hair products are a real thing, but the name is a little misleading. Marshmallows (the white, puffy, sugary treats you’re picturing) did indeed originally come from the roots of the marshmallow plant. In fact, ancient Egyptians were enjoying marshmallows back in 2000 B.C.
In the 1800s, the marshmallow made its way to France. Candy-makers would whip sap from the marshmallow plant and use it as the base for marshmallows.
The marshmallows you eat today probably don’t come from the actual plant. Today, the recipe and process have been automated to allow for mass production. The marshmallows you enjoy are probably made from gelatin instead of marshmallow sap (along with ingredients like corn syrup, gum, sugar, food starch, and/or egg whites).
But what about the actual potential health benefits of marshmallow root? And what about marshmallow root hair products?
While the candy marshmallow no longer contains any actual marshmallow root, marshmallow root is still used as a source of both food and medicine. Some of its historical uses are based on a substance excreted by its roots and leaves: a sticky substance known as mucilage, which can be combined with water to form a gel that can coat the throat, stomach, and even skin. Because of this property of mucilage, it has a history of being used to soothe sore throats, calm chapped skin, or reduce stomach irritation.
Marshmallow Root And The Respiratory System
While “most of [marshmallow root]’s suggested uses come from a long history of use in traditional healing systems,” recent studies support the use of marshmallow root to help provide temporary relief from occasional discomfort in the mucus membranes of the throat and lungs.
Marshmallow Root Hair Products
There appears to be support for marshmallow root as a natural way to support respiratory and throat health, and to help ease discomfort in the membrane of tissue. But does it have any benefits for the hair? In an interview with the Huffington Post, board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Baxt confirmed that marshmallow root is often an ingredient in hair care products.
“It [marshmallow root] has a flower, leaves and a root, and is found in stores usually as a tincture, extract, capsules or tea leaves. It is sometimes added to skin and hair care products,” she explained.
The reason for that, according to herbalist Richard Mandelbaum, is that marshmallow root has “has vulnerary (healing), demulcent (moisturizing) and soothing properties that make it highly effective for revitalizing both skin and hair.”
The potential skin or hair benefits of marshmallow root are specific to the root itself – not to marshmallow extracts, which are typically derived from marshmallow leaves. It’s the marshmallow root that contains the mucilages, which may be ideal ingredient in a skincare products. According to Baxt, it’s the mucilage that may also bind to proteins to help hair strands look thicker.
Marshmallow Root Products
You’ll find marshmallow root in a variety of Natural Healthy Concept’s soothing products. Enzymatic Therapy’s Acid-Ease uses marshmallow root and slippery elm to support healthy digestion; Gaia Herbs uses sage and marshmallow root in a soothing and cooling throat coat tea; and MotherLove provides a balm containing marshmallow root to soothe the raw, itchy skin that often follows getting a tattoo.
From your skin to your throat to your hair, marshmallow root is there to soothe. What’s your favorite way to use it?