What do Marshmallows and skincare have in common? A lot as it turns out…..
Althaea Officinalis (leaf/root) also known as Marshmallow plant is an upright perennial with a fleshy taproot, downy stems and velvety leaves. It develops pale pink flowers in the summer. No connection yet with skincare and sweets, right? Stick with us.
The Marshmallow has a long history when it comes to medicinal properties. These are reflected in the name of the genus, which comes from the Greek althainein, meaning “to heal”. Marshmallow is traditionally used as a treatment for the irritation of mucus membranes, including use as a gargle for mouth and throat ulcers and gastric ulcers. Since the middle ages the root has been used as a treatment for sore throat . OK so we get that its medicinal now lets find out about its specific skincare benefits. Still no sign of sweets though – starting to crave a sugar fix.
Its skincare uses are varied and works on a number of levels. Firstly, it helps to minimize skin inflammatory processes and is therefore also useful for fighting any skin degeneration, as well as cellular oxidation. It has very beneficial effects on skin problems and diseases and helps in healing wounds, burns and irritation. Marshmallow not only has good anti-inflammatory properties, but also seem to boost the immunity at cellular level. An inhibition and reduction in hyaluronidase leads to better moisture levels in the skin as well as boosting the dermal structure and improving wound healing processes, while at the same time reducing skin aging and diminishing inflammation. OK so we know that it has very effective skincare properties but what is the connection with sweet Marshmallows?
The French recipe pâté de guimauve (or “guimauve” for short), included an eggwhite meringue and was prepared using Mashmallow root. Pâté de guimauve closely resembles contemporary commercially available marshmallows, which no longer contain any actual marshmallow. So you see this delicate little plant can not only solve skincare issues, but can also be used to whip up a yummy treat. If you are that way inclined a recipe for traditional marshmallow preparation is below!
Pastes Formed With Gum - Pate De Guimauve - Marsh-Mallow Paste
Extract from “The Complete Cook”, by J. M. Sanderson.
3 lbs Arabic Gum
8 oz roots of fresh marsh-mallows
1 dozen rennet apples
3 lbs loaf sugar
Peel, core, and cut the apples in pieces. Cleanse the roots, and slice them lengthways in an oblique direction; add this to seven pints of water; soft or river water is the best when filtered; put it on the fire and boil for a quarter of an hour, or until reduced to six pints; pound and sift the gum through a hair sieve; strain into a pan with the gum; put it on a moderate fire, or into a bain-marie, stirring it until the gum is perfectly dissolved; then strain it through a coarse towel or tamis cloth, the ends being twisted by two persons; add it to the sugar, which has been previously clarified and boiled; dry it well over the fire, keeping it constantly stirred from the bottom. When it has acquired a thick consistency, take the whites of eighteen eggs and whip them to a strong froth; add them to the paste, and dry until it does not stick to the hand when it is applied to it; add a little essence of neroli, or a large glassful of double orange flower water and evaporate again to the same consistency. Pour it on a marble slab well dusted with starch-powder flatten it with the hand; the next day cut it into strips, powder each strip, and put them in boxes. Powder the bottom that they may not stick.
Alternatively go to your local sweet shop (there seems to be many of them popping up) and buy yourself a packet!
1. Gualtiero Simonetti (1990). Stanley Schuler. ed. Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Herbs and Spices. Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0-671-73489-X.
2. John S. Williamson & Christy M. Wyandt 1997. Herbal therapies: The facts and the fiction. Drug topics
3. Petkewich, Rachel (2006). “What’s that stuff? Marshmallow”. Chemical & Engineering News 84 (16): 41