Have you ever wondered why they're called "marshmallows" anyway? At one time, marshmallows were made from demulcent marshmallow root, Althaea officinalis, which in Greek althea literally means “to heal.” In ancient Egypt, only the pharaohs and priest class consumed marshmallows as it was a complicated multi-day process, made from the marshmallow's fresh sap. The plant is also known as "mortification root" because of it's ability to ease fears and anxieties and get us through the frightening campfire ghost stories.
Marshmallow leaf and root are commonly used to treat stomach ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, inflammation of the stomach lining, and pain and swelling of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory tract.
From a postpartum perspective, applying a marshmallow compress can help sooth breast pain and swelling caused by breastfeeding or plugged ducts. For this purpose, Susun Weed suggests steeping 2 ounces of dried marshmallow root in a half gallon of boiling water overnight. In the morning, reheat to near boiling, pour into a sink or basin and (once water is tolerable, but still very hot, soak breasts until infusion cools. Due to its tissue healing, lubricating and antibacterial properties, it makes a wonderful addition to a sitz bath or postpartum herbal soak. It's also a galactagogue, which in herbal speak means it increases a mother's milk supply. Marshmallow root is a gentle laxative making it a useful ally for new mamas that often experience constipation in the days shortly after giving birth.
During pregnancy, you can safely use this herb to make skin more elastic, which can serve as a good prevention of stretch marks and possibly lessen the risk of tearing during birth. Another common complaint of many an expectant mom is heartburn. According to herbalist Rosemary Gladstar,
“The best herbs to use for treating heartburn are those that calm the nervous system and are good digestive nervines, such as chamomile, hops and lemon balm. Mucilaginous herbs, such as marshmallow, licorice, and slippery elm, will soothe the irritated stomach lining.”
~Rosemary Gladstar, Herbal Recipe For Vibrant Health