May 13, 2021
Marshmallow root (the plant, not the fluffy, white confection) may be novel to you, but it’s actually been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and reconstructive properties. In this article, we want to walk you through some of the benefits of marshmallow root for hair, and more importantly, how you can use marshmallow root to address some of your healthy hair challenges.
First, a little background info. Marshmallow root (aka Althaea Officinalis) is a water-loving perennial herb native to Northern Africa that can also be found in parts of Europe and Western Asia. It typically grows on the banks of rivers and in salt marshes (hence the name marshmallow). The candied root of the marshmallow plant actually is the inspiration for the packaged marshmallows we pick up in stores today.
For centuries, healers have been using marshmallow root in teas, poultices, or ground up as a salve. What those early healers found was that different parts of the marshmallow plant could be used to treat a pretty wide range of conditions. So, let’s get into those benefits.
If you do a quick search, you’ll find a good number of articles that focus on the medicinal benefits of marshmallow root. Dr. Weil talks about how marshmallow root is used to treat and heal wounds and bites. Healthline has a lengthy section on using the herb to treat colds and cough. Byrdie talks about the benefits for skin care. Dr. Axe provides insights on how it helps to fix leaky gut and heal the gut lining. You can even find marshmallow root tea recipes that will help settle your tummy.
So, it will come as no surprise to you when we say that traditionally, marshmallow root was a sort of cure-all for just about any ailment.
Early records will show that they were able to use Marshmallow root to treat things like dry mouth and low saliva production (not kidding), bladder infections, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, and constipation. It can even help with bloating and PMS symptoms.
As usual, modern science was trailing behind but has finally caught up and is recognizing the impressive healing qualities of the root. Several studies have been conducted which support that the root can help with a range of ailments like throat problems (Source: PDF from the European Medicines Agency), or that the flower gum is packed with antioxidants (Source: Science Direct), or even that marshmallow can be used as a treatment against bacterial infection in aquamarine life (Source: National Institutes of Health).
What Does Marshmallow Root Extract Do for Hair?
So naturally, your next question is: All of that is cool, but what does marshmallow root extract do for hair?
Probably the most outstanding quality that marshmallow root has is its ability to keep hair well-conditioned. A problem that many of us face when growing natural hair is the fact that it can become dry very quickly. So, not only does marshmallow root keep your hair well-conditioned but it can also help detangle naturally curly hair by providing large quantities of ‘slip’.
(Slip is the actual slipperiness of a product. The more of it in a product, the more slip helps with those painful tangles by helping your hair to stop coiling around itself. For those of us with dreadlocks, like this writer, it can help soften your locks, too.)
Marshmallow root is also a great moisturizer (remember the marsh?) If you are having hair issues like eczema, psoriasis, and dry scalp, marshmallow root will provide you with mucilage (a gooey plant substance that provides a protective film) which is also a great source of proteins and vitamins for your hair.
What you’ll notice is that your hair has more luster, bounce and is much healthier than before. So does marshmallow root grow hair? Absolutely!
So have I, but the science I’ve looked at to write this article isn’t backing up those claims. Now, I won’t deny that different people have different reactions to different substances. One person’s peanut allergy is another person’s favorite lunch to make the kids (that was a peanut butter reference, in case I didn’t land that analogy).
The data I’ve seen actually sets marshmallow root up to be an effective treatment for reducing hair breakage and prolonging the growth cycle of hair.
So, for those of you who are transitioning to natural hair or trying to grow your hair out, marshmallow root works really well because of its protective, conditioning properties that support scalp health.
So, I guess the direct answer to the question “Does marshmallow root cause hair loss?” is a confident, emphatic Nah.
At the end of the day…
I think you have to use your judgment. Back in the 90s when dreadlocks and sister locks started taking hold of the American Midwest, most salons were locking hair with beeswax. And while beeswax worked fine for some people, others found it heavy, hard to maintain (especially when you were on strict instructions not to touch your hair for those first four weeks - know what hair looks like when it’s loaded up with products and you can’t do anything to it for a month?), and a magnet for dirt and lint. Not a good look.
Marshmallow root extract, when used correctly, is no different.
If you’re a “homemade product” type of person, the best way to use marshmallow root is by making a Marshmallow root rinse or a moisturizing hair cream. You can swing by your favorite health food or herb store to check out their supply. You can even order shaved marshmallow root or the supplements online.
If you’re not the DIY person 🙌, check out the BIYO Curl Enhancer Maximum Hydration Hair Cream, which is specially-formulated for twist-outs, rod sets, and wash-n-go styles.
This cream can be a real time-saver (and sanity-keeper) if you have curly hair because it helps your curls maintain their moisture without becoming too loose. And if you have kinkier hair or you’re transitioning to natural hair (which is an adventure all by itself), the Curl Enhancer will help your curls retain their shape without disappearing into a mound of frizz.
Plus, marshmallow root has a film-forming humectant and its super moisturizing qualities help to form a barrier around your hair. This means less moisture is lost which in turn means it’s much more difficult for your hair to become dehydrated.
We know there are tons of products on the market that have pretty compelling ad campaigns running, and cute jingles that can endear products to you and help them stay top-of-mind. But don’t be fooled. The hair needs what it needs, and marshmallow root extract can help protect your hair *and your scalp* from problems like dry scalp and help you remedy issues like low porosity hair.
Marshmallow root is a well-kept secret, yes. But our aim here is to help you figure out what’s what kinds of solutions are available so you can find what you need to keep your hair and skin healthy.
AUTHOR: Shirvan Williams
Shirvan is a writer with over 18 years of experience in the field. He started off as a freelance journalist. He enjoys writing and contributing to various publications and passionate about his locks!
June 29, 2023
Thank you for this article! It was very helpful. I’m a DIYer and made a gel with marshmallow root and flax seeds and I’m loving it already. It’s a game changer.
Loved reading your article
Lots of info and humor!
November 05, 2021
I am curious about how marshmallow root will work on a white person’s hair? I have major itchiness on my scalp, and don’t know if it’s psoriasis, eczema or an allergy to the shampoo I use. Any thoughts on this?
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