Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Despite having eaten s'mores, peeps, and Rice Krispie treats for years, I only just learned that marshmallow is a plant! The herb Althaea officinalis is native to Europe and has a mucilaginous root (meaning it's slimy like okra). It was blended with egg whites and sugar several centuries ago to make a chic dessert, but roots and leaves have been used by herbalists for millenia to soothe the following conditions: abscesses, bedsores, boils, burns, chest pain, convulsions, cramps, hemorrhoids, inflammation, insect stings, irritated skin, sore throat, splinters, stomach ulcers, toothache, varicose veins, and wounds. It was described by Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder in 1st c. Greece, Charlemagne in 8th c. France, and John Gerard in 16th c. England. Gerard prescribed it for pain: "The mucilage or slimie juice of the roots, is mixed very effectively with all oils, ointments, and plasiters that slacken and mitigate paine. It cureth rifts of the fundament, it comforteth, defendeth, and preserveth dangerous greene wounds from any manner of accidents that may happen there, it helpeth digestion in them, and brings old ulcers to maturation." Even if you make your own, today's marshmallows do not contain any ingredients from the plant, but they do satisfy the sweet tooth. If you don't have access to a campfire, go to Cosi - they'll bring the makings for s'mores and let you roast the marshmallows right at your table!

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