I was delighted with our first harvest of Marshmallow root from the bed we planted. In celebration, I decided to make a truly delicious herbal preparation from this wonderful healer - real herbal marshmallows!
Traditionally, marshmallows were made using real Marshmallow root, a wonderful herb that has an abundance of gooey mucilage and pectin, providing the soft structure of marshmallows. The ingredient list on a packet of modern day marshmallows showed the following ingredients, with no real Marshmallow in sight:
Sugar, Wheat Glucose Syrup, Water, Gelatine, Corn Starch, Flavours, Colour.
Many of the homemade recipes on the web also use little or no Marshmallow root, instead relying on the sugar and gelatin to provide the structure of the marshmallows. Of the recipes I found using real Marshmallow root, the root was often extracted using hot water - which does not sufficiently extract the wonderful gooey constituents that you need for creating that fluffy structure.
Here’s the trick - to best extract the mucilage from Marshmallow root, start with a cold water infusion. Simply let the chopped herb sit in cold water for 2+ hours and you will notice the water get thick and gooey - this is the mucilage and pectin coming out. Simmering the mixture after this further extracts other constituents.
Now the marshmallow extract just requires some sweetening, a little vanilla to flavour, and something to give some firmness to the structure. Options for this include egg whites, gelatin, gum tragacanth or agar (these last two are vegan options). I chose gelatin for this recipe, however I would also add egg white next time for increased fluffiness.
Apart from the fun of making this herbal creation, why is Marshmallow such a wonderful herb to grow and use? This soft and gentle healer, Althaea officinalis, has much to offer us as plant medicine. The soothing properties of Marshmallow root heal hot, inflamed and irritated conditions of the body, whether this is in the form of a sore throat, chronic cough, stomach ulcer, reflux, burning urination or eczema on the skin. Research has shown the anti-inflammatory action of Marshmallow to be superior to medication (1), and the protective qualities have been shown to also enhance the immune response to heal infections in the gut and skin (2).
To use Marshmallow root as medicine, infuse 1-2 tsp of dried root in a half cup of cold water for 2 hours. Top up with boiling water and drink as a tea. Marshmallow root also extracts well as a glycetract.
Sweetener note: honey can be used for this recipe, however I chose not to as the recipe requires boiling the honey which is seen to be toxic in Ayurveda. On a practical note, the heaviness of honey can mean it falls to the bottom of the marshmallows, and the flavour can be a bit overpowering.
1 - (Beaune, A. and Balea, T. [Anti-inflammatory experimental properties of marshmallow: its potentiating action on the local effects of corticoids]. Therapie 1966;21(2):341-347)
2 - (Recio MC and et al. Antimicrobial activity of selected plants employed in the Spanish Mediterranean area, Part II. Phytother Res 1989;3:77-80)
Geranium is a beautiful and under appreciated medicinal herb that is a delight to have in the garden. Commonly known as Rose geranium, Pelargonium graveolens has a delicious sweet and spicy scent when the heat from the sun releases the essential oils into the air. These precious oils are responsible for much of Geranium’s healing effects, and one of the easiest ways to harness these oils is to infuse the fresh plant in water - such as in this refreshing Geranium Summer Infusion recipe! Geranium is easy to grow, requires little care and can be grown from a cutting. The flowers are edible and can be added to salads and deserts.
Healing with Geranium
Geranium is a safe and restoring herb, replenishing us when we have burnt out our resources due to overwork, illness or stress. Having a special affinity with our hormonal system, geranium gently restores our energy, relaxes and uplifts the mind, relieves depression and irritability. For women, geranium is a wonderful ally to balance the reproductive system, helping PMS, menstrual difficulties, infertility and menopausal symptoms.
Geranium tightens tissues in the body, reducing water retention, inflammation and swelling. Topically, geranium can be used to soothe and heal wounds, sprained muscles, bleeding, inflammation and rashes such as eczema and herpes. For these conditions, apply a compress by soaking a cloth in a geranium infusion and placing over the area several times a day.
To Prepare Geranium Summer Infusion
The amounts used can be adjusted to taste. The floral, spicy tones of geranium combine well with the zesty tang of lemon, making for an attractive and tasty summer time drink that is both refreshing and restoring.
These patties are light in texture and tasty to eat while being incredibly good for you. Just four patties provides a third of your daily fibre requirements to feed your gut bacteria and support digestion, detoxification and blood sugar balance.
One of my favourite herbal drinks at this time of year - rich, earthy roasted Chicory root coffee. The bitter and sweet flavours are brought out by the slow roasting process, making a great full bodied drink to kick start your digestion in the mornings. Autumn is the perfect time to harvest our root herbs, and this common edible weed offers us an abundance of support to help us maintain our well being at this changing time of the year. Like other bitter herbs, Chicory stimulates the cleansing action of our liver, improving our ability to process toxins effectively. High in antioxidants, Chicory has also been shown to reduce inflammation and protect our liver from chemical and free radical damage. These important qualities offer us valuable support in preventing and treating the many chronic health conditions that inflammation and toxicity can underlie. Chicory root is also the highest source of inulin of any food or herb. Sweet tasting inulin is a prebiotic that feeds our good gut bacteria, again boosting our first line of immune defense, and is a type of soluble fibre that supports gut health, lowers high cholesterol levels and improves diabetes. Finally, Chicory has also been shown to have anti bacterial, anti fungal and anti viral effects - all helping our immune system to deal with pathogens. All of this from a common garden weed!
We will be harvesting and preparing roasted root coffee with another wonderful healing weed at our upcoming Autumn Herbal Medicine Making Workshop - the wonderful Dandelion! We have been growing a garden bed full of Dandelions in nice loose soil for easy harvesting for two years. I look forward to sharing this delicious herbal beverage and all it's wonderful healing properties with you at the workshop.
Imagine food being a joy and a pleasure in your day, free of any anxiety, guilt or 'shoulds'. Imagine you were also able to work with food to be a primary source of healthcare in your day, both for yourself and your family. This is how our relationship with food can be in our lives, yet we have many blocks that get in the way.