Marshmallow Root and Breastfeeding

Marshmallow, also known as Althea officinalis

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It is recommended that an infant is exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, with breast milk being the only source of nutrition for the infant. After this point, breast milk should continue to be the primary source of nourishment while introducing solids during the next 12-24 months, if possible.

For a variety of reasons – you may not be able to supply the breast milk your infant needs.

Women find a sense of confidence and self-empowerment when they breastfeed successfully. When their breastfeeding experience becomes unexpectedly interrupted. It’s at times like these that alternative medicines (homeopathic) enter the conversation. There is one such herb that I’d like to discuss today. The Marshmallow root. 

History of the Marshmallow Root

Like the Alfalfa herb and many other herbal medicines, Marshmallow root can be traced back to various civilizations, such as the earlier Romans, Chinese, and native Americans. These people used herbs to treat an assortment of illnesses and diseases from mild conditions like pains, aches, and sores to more severe issues such as digestive disorders, skin conditions, and wound treatment.

The word “marsh” in Marshmallow root refers to its location and tendency to grow in marshes and other damp areas, where it would thrive.

It is believed to be first discovered in parts of Europe close to 2000B.C by the Egyptians. Only royalty were said to partake in the ritual of ingesting this root.

When the marshmallow root first hit the UK market, it was made into a variety of candies, which over the years has transformed the sweet market.

Today, however, the application and ingestion of Marshmallow root and similar herbs are more well-known thanks to research, giving it a more broad-based demand. It is often used by women, especially in assisting with breastmilk production, supply, and maintenance.

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Properties and Description

What is the Marshmallow Root?

The marshmallow plant or (Althaea Officinalis) is a five pedaled, whitish pink flower with a soft fleshy bright green stem and leaves.

This root is discovered to have antitussive properties and mucilage abilities, which makes it great for treating coughs and other cold symptoms, and this is only the start of its health benefits.

One of the most common applications in earlier civilizations was as an anti-inflammatory salve for inflamed skin. When the leaves and root mix with water, a gel substance forms that can be used as a medication to coat the throat and the stomach or to ease inflammation and to prevent and treat chapped lips.

Health Benefits & how Breastfeeding Mothers can use Marshmallow Root.

  • Treatment of cold and flu symptoms without medication

Used in combination with other inflammatory herbs or antibacterial herbs such as Slipper Elm or Echinacea, Marshmallow root is said to assist in healing the airway passages and lungs. And yes, ladies Slippery elm and Echinacea are also safe while breastfeeding!

  • Fighting off a UTI

In treating symptoms such as swelling, pain, and discomfort associated with conditions of the urinary tract, marshmallow root may alleviate your situation.

  • Digestive system protection

Marshmallow root may help treat a few disorders of the digestive system, such as leaky gut syndrome and it helps to protect the gut lining, preventing heartburn, ulcers, and constipation.

  • Skin allergies and hypersensitivity

Marshmallow root can help with skin irritations because of its anti-irritant properties and can be used to treat sunburn when used in a salve or balm form. Marshmallow root is an emollient herb. Therefore, it has a cooling and soothing effect; it is perfect when used in a nipple cream!

More health benefits of Marshmallow root mentioned here. (external link)

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Marshmallow Root and Breastfeeding

In modern times, marshmallow is a galactagogue, which means that it might increase milk supply. It doesn't work on its own, however. Marshmallow root is usually combined with additional herbs such as fenugreek, red clover, alfalfa or blessed thistle to encourage milk production.

Marshmallow root is said to belong to lactation category C, which in turn means it's considered safe to use for the duration of nursing. There have been no adverse reactions reported, so it's likely safe (read precautions below) to try if you want to increase your milk supply.

The quantity of marshmallow root you should be consuming depends on which part of the plant you are using. Always read dosing instructions with care.

Increase Milk Supply

Marshmallow root’s popularity has skyrocketed with research findings documenting the benefits of using this herb to increase the nursing mother’s breastmilk supply.

How is this possible?

Marshmallow root works by increasing estrogen within the body, and tissue fat or the breast tissue, which in turn causes an increase in breastmilk supply.

Suggested Dosage of Marshmallow Root

You can find Marshmallow root in the form of tea or capsules.

A breastfeeding mother can consume up to four Marshmallow capsules a day, three times a day.

Dr. Frank J. Nice, a pharmacist at the National Institute of Health, recommends that a breastfeeding mother take no more than 3g of marshmallow root daily.

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Safety and Precautions

Always consult with a "breastfeeding friendly" healthcare provider before turning to alternative medications such as these to rule out contraindications and adverse reactions.

While no direct negative safety concerns have been reported that warrant serious consideration in the use of marshmallow root, you may need the professional assistance of a herbal pharmacist in choosing a natural remedy that will work for you.

We are all unique, and our bodies react differently to whatever we put into it, for this reason, Marshmallow root may not work for you, and you may need to turn to an alternative like Alfalfa or Fenugreek to increase breastmilk supply.

Allergic reactions to marshmallow root are rare. If you experience any issues, such as difficulty breathing, discontinue use immediately, and contact an anti-inflammatory health care provider.
Marshmallow root may act as a diuretic and affect the amount of absorption of some meds. Those who have diabetes should be aware of the sugar concentration in marshmallow syrup.

Low Milk Supply Tips

If your child is gaining weight and has adequate wet diapers, then he/she is most likely getting enough milk. Two articles to read:

To avoid a dip in your milk supply, it is best to breastfeed on demand. Worrying can hurt the breastfeeding relationship, so relax and rest often. Take a nursing vacation, if possible.

Always stay hydrated, drink eight or more glasses of water a day, and remain well-nourished while breastfeeding.

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Finding you may have insufficient breastmilk supply may come as a great shock, especially if you’ve previously had no such issues. While it may be cause for concern, it is more common than you think.

Please read this article - Is my baby drinking enough milk while breastfeeding (tell-tale signs)

Many other factors may contribute to breastfeeding problems and associated breastmilk supply fears, for this reason, we are becoming more conscious of ourselves, our bodies and our capabilities as mothers. We want to feel more involved, and more empowered by our experiences and turning to natural medicine seems to be the best way of doing so.

Nature provides for us. Using natural forms of medication means we ingest less harmful chemicals, and also get the added health benefits, which are naturally present in herbs and roots such as the Marshmallow root. These health benefits can then be carried over from mom to baby.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Workgroup on breastfeeding: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 1997;100:1035–1039. [PubMed]
Hauck Y., Fenwick J., Dhaliwal S., Butt J. A Western Australian survey of breastfeeding initiation, prevalence, and early cessation patterns. Matern. Child Health J.
Tenfelde S., Zielinski R., Heidarisafa R.L. Why WIC women stop breastfeeding? Analysis of maternal characteristics and time to cessation.
Anderson P.O., Valdés V. A critical review of pharmaceutical galactagogues. Breastfeed.

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