So many of us today are changing diets to promote a more healthy digestive system, and are cutting out gluten, grains, dairy, coffee or other potential allergens that are, sadly, a pleasure to the taste buds. While a healthy gut is definitely worth the sacrifice, I thought I’d share a recipe that is tastes like a forbidden treat but is inherently gut-healing. Extra bonus – it’s a fun and easy way to get kids and finicky adults to take herbs.
Did you know that the original marshmallows were used as a tasty vehicle for delivering herbal medicine? Ancient Egyptians are said to have boiled the roots of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) with sugar and used them to treat coughs and wounds among the royal class. The marshmallow plant is inherently mucilaginous, and provides healing to hot, inflamed tissues with its cool, soothing, and moisture giving properties. Marshmallow is often included in herbal remedies for sore throats, wounds, and ulcers, and according to the well-respected British herbalist David Hoffman, “All inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract will benefit from the application of marshmallow root.”
My husband Matt, true to his weedy roots, used marshmallow plant’s abundant and weedy cousin, Malva negletca, to whip up some plant-based marshmallows for our Wild Food & Medicine CSA. It took a lot of time and effort, and while his concoction got very puffy and light, and tasted great, it was definitely not the “stay puffed” variety we are accustomed to, and quickly lost its shape. I wasn’t that inspired to try it again.
But later, my foodie friend Mielle shared a “marshmallow” recipe that had no marshmallow root, but was made with another kind of healing agent for the gut – gelatin. If you follow the Weston A .Price and the Nourishing Traditions movement, you likely have a stash of dried gelatin powder in your kitchen cupboard already. They suggest adding more gelatin to the diet to raise glycine levels, which enhance gasteric acid secretions for better digestion, and also promote wound healing in the digestive track.
So here is a recipe for those of you out there who want to feel like you are indulging in a tasty treat while you are working to heal you gut. Or you can just make it because they a delicious way to get some protein in your morning tea or coffee while they melt and create a yummy froth on the top of your cup. Or use them as a medicinal treat for kids or the herb-fearing family members. So many reasons to give them a try!
Gastro Healing Marshmallows
Ingredient 1: 8 oz of gut-healing tea
You can mix and match ingredients here – this is what I use to steep in 10 oz of water
1 tablespoon dried calendula flowers
1 tablespoon dried marshmallow root
1 teaspoon dried plantain leaves
Ingredient 2: 4 tablespoons of gelatin powder
Go for a grass-fed source rather than something like Knox – Great Lakes Gelatin is a great choice and easy to find on Amazon and other on-line stores.
Ingredient 3: 6 – 8 oz (in volume) maple syrup (or honey*) – depending on your taste for sweetness.
Ingredient 4: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add for flavor if you’d like.
1) Steep your gut-healing tea for at least an hour, then strain.
2) Grease a rectangular baking pan or glass container about 9 x 6, and set aside.
3) Combine 4 oz of your tea with 4 tablespoons of gelatin powder, and whisk to blend
4) Combine your maple syrup or honey with the remaining 4 oz of gut-healing tea in a saucepan, and slowly bring it to a boil, stirring regularly, until it hits 235 F, then take off the heat.
5) Use a an electric mixer to blend both mixtures together. Watch for it to lighten in color, and then it will get begin to get frothy and fall into ribbons when you lift up the beaters – and then stop. If you let it go too long, it won’t pour into your pan (but it will still taste good!).
6) Pour it immediately into a greased pan. If you wait too long to pour, your mixture may get too stiff and not settle flat into the pan.
7) Let it sit for at least 2 hours, then cut into cubes. Store them in an airtight jar at room temperature or freeze them for later use.
Plop the marshmallows into hot tea, or just snack on them for a daily dose of support to a healing gastrointestinal tract. Enjoy!
*More about Using Honey
If you use honey in this recipe, be aware that you will loose most of the health benefits inherent in raw honey (enzymes, bioavailability of vitamins, etc). Scientific research shows that heating honey increases the amount of Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). While there is no clear scientific evidence that HMF is toxic to humans, I think there is enough known about HMF to apply the cautionary principle here, and limit our intake of HMF overall. If you are interested in an overview of some of the research, I like this review by Healthy With Honey.
Also, it should be noted that in Ayurvedic tradition (built on thousands of years of experience) honey heated above 104 F is thought to have a negative health impact on the digestive system and is not recommended.
“Heating Honey Kills Enzymes But Boiled is Boiled Honey Toxic?” Healthy With Honey. Web.
Hoffman, David (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.