The marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) is a perennial native to Europe and much of temperate Asia, also growing throughout North Africa and eastern North America. Typically growing 3-4 ft tall, it is flowered by a pale, scalloped shaped petal and light purple stamen. Its roots are rich in mucilaginous polysaccharides; a substance generated by the breakdown of the plant’s starches resulting in a protective mucilage and source of glucose for plant cells.
Marshmallow root has been used by both the ancient Egyptians and Romans as a food and for its medicinal properties. The root was often cooked with other vegetables when substantial food sources were scarce. The dried root can also be rehydrated and soaked to draw out its mucilaginous properties.