The claim: Marshmallows can treat sore throats
A viral meme encourages social media users to repurpose their leftover Peeps as a home sore throat remedy. For centuries, some have used marsh mallow plant root as an alternative way to treat a sore throat, however, marshmallows sold in stores do not have any medicinal qualities.
“Marshmallows exist because of sore throats. For centuries, juice from the marsh mallow plant has been used for pain relief,” it reads. “In the 1800s, it was mixed with egg whites and sugar for children with sore throats. The recipe was so tasty that people made it as a treat called ‘marshmallow.’”
“Keep Marshmallows on hand. Let it slowly melt in your mouth and it coats your throat,” a Facebook user captioned the meme in an April 4 post. “Believe it or not it really works!”
The post refers to marsh mallow plants, however, it includes a photo of rainbow marshmallow candies.
USA TODAY contacted several accounts that posted the meme for comment. None responded.
A freshly made s'more from Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company in Beacon on August 6, 2020. (Photo: Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal)
Marsh mallow plant extracts have been used to treat for throat ailments
In a 2019 article, ThoughtCo. reported that ancient Egyptians first ate marsh mallow plant sap as honey candies. The plant, which is also called althaea officinalis, grew along salt marshes and on the banks of bodies of water.
By the 19th century, doctors began using extracts from the plant’s root to create a medicinal candy that children would eat to ease sore throats. Those candies were made with sap, egg whites and sugar.
A marsh-mallow plant grows in a garden next to cattails. (Photo: Courtesy of Moira Sheridan)
Scientific support of marsh mallow treatments is lacking
Despite its historical use, scientific support of marsh mallow plant treatments is scarce. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate it since it is regarded as a form of alternative medicine.
A 2019 study in the National Library of Medicine concluded that marsh mallow plants “could be a good choice for cough, sore throat, and other respiratory ailments,” when used “in combination with other plant extracts.”
A 2020 study published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology journal found that marsh mallow plants effectively lined sore throats with a “protective film” and soothed irritation, which ultimately helped the respiratory system heal faster.
These limited-edition cauliflower flavored marshmallow bunnies are actually an April Fools' Day prank from Green Giant and PEEPS. (Photo: Handout, Green Giant)
Providence Saint John’s Health Center otolaryngologist and laryngologist, Dr. Omid Mehdizadeh told Bustle in October that marsh mallow root may efficiently ease sore throats.
“Marshmallow root can soothe a sore throat by creating a protective coat on the surface of the mouth and throat,” said Mehdizadeh.
Since the remedy is not regulated by the FDA, Healthline encourages individuals to exercise care and consult their doctors before trying marsh-mallow treatments.
Potentially beneficial plant extract is not in store-bought marshmallows
Regardless of its efficacy, the marsh mallow plant is no longer used in marshmallow recipes.
After the mid-1800s, marshmallow manufactures replaced the sap ingredient with corn syrup or sugar, gelatin, gum arabic and other flavorings.
“Eventually, advanced manufacturing processes and improved texturing agents eliminated the need for the gooey root juice altogether. Unfortunately, that eliminated the confection’s healing properties as a cough suppressant, immune system booster and wound healer,” ThoughtCo. reported, quoting the book “Viable Herbal Solutions.”
Over time, manufacturers have developed new processes for creating and shaping the widely produced treats.
In rows of 15 at a time on the conveyor belt, this machine produces more than a third of a million marshmallow sandwich cookies a day at the National Biscuit (Nabisco) Company's bakery plant in Fair Lawn, N.J., on January 13, 1969. (Photo: File Photo/NorthJersey.com)
Mehdizadeh said that modern marshmallow confectioneries will not medicate sore throats.
“Unfortunately, store-bought marshmallows do not soothe a sore throat,” he said.
Our rating: Missing context
Marsh mallow plant extract once used to make marshmallow confectioneries has served as an alternative medicine for sore throats for centuries. However, marsh mallow extract is no longer used in store-bought marshmallow recipes. We rate the claim that marshmallows can treat a sore throat MISSING CONTEXT because it is misleading.
Our fact-check rating:
- ThoughtCo., Feb. 13, 2019, “The History of Marshmallows”
- Food and Drug Administration, accessed April 4, “ALTHAEA OFFICINALIS ROOT”
- National Library of Medicine, Mohaddese Mahboubi, Nov. 26, 2019, “Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis L.) and Its Potency in the Treatment of Cough”
- Frontiers in Pharmacology, Ethnopharmacology, March 17. 2020, “Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidative Effects of Phytohustil® and Root Extract of Althaea officinalis L. on Macrophages in vitro”
- Bustle, Oct. 2, 2020, “Wait — Can Marshmallows Actually Help A Sore Throat?”
- Healthline, accessed April 5, “Can Marshmallows Soothe a Sore Throat? The Facts”
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