Can marshmallows help a sore throat?

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.

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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.

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Cough Syrup

You might not think to reach for the cough syrup when you’ve only got a sore throat, but this can be an effective treatment for the nagging and often painful condition. Many over-the-counter products can offer temporary pain relief by coating the throat.

That said, not every cough syrup will fit every situation. If you’ve got a busy workday ahead and need to deal with that scratchy sore throat, use a cough syrup that won’t put you to sleep by avoiding products that contain diphenhydramine (Benadryl). An article on sore throat treatments from the Huffington Post recommends making sure to pick a cough syrup that clearly says it uses a non-drowsy formula to help relieve throat pain and swelling.

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.

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“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.

Mehdizadeh said that modern marshmallow confectioneries will not medicate sore throats.

“Unfortunately, store-bought marshmallows do not soothe a sore throat," he said.

Risks and Side Effects

What are the side effects of marshmallow root? Because it’s been used for so long safely and is considered a “time-honored approach to strengthening the body,” products made from Althaea officinalis typically lead to few side effects.

It’s generally recognized as safe, and few if any reported side effects have occurred — although to be fair it hasn’t actually be studied in many clinical human trials (more using animals).

While it’s normally well-tolerated and easy to digest, it’s possible to experience certain side effects from taking marshmallow root, especially if you take other medications. Talk with your doctor about any possible interactions before taking marshmallow if you are pregnant, nursing, or have been diagnosed with an existing condition like inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes or high cholesterol.

Possible interactions of marshmallow root include affecting the way other medications are absorbed or excreted from the body. Marshmallow coats the lining of the stomach and can interfere with the absorption of other drugs.

It’s also possible that it can interfere with normal blood sugar control, so if you’re diabetic, prediabetic or taking insulin, you want to see a professional first to make sure you closely monitor blood sugar and avoid dangerous dips. Because of its effects on fluid retention, blood platelet formation and blood sugar levels, you should also stop taking marshmallow at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Rinsing with Salt Water

Chances are someone over the years has recommended gargling with salt water as a possible treatment for a nagging sore throat. Surprisingly, it’s not a crazy idea. In fact, research has shown that a saline solution (consisting of salt and water) can drain inflamed throat tissue of excess fluid, reducing pain and swelling.

Gargling with a saline solution has also been shown to loosen mucus in the throat, eliminating irritants like bacteria and fungi. So, give gargling with salt water a try 3 times a day—perhaps after each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

What drink helps a sore throat?

To relieve the pain of a sore throat: Gargle with a mixture of warm water and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt. Drink warm liquids that feel soothing to the throat, such as hot tea with honey, soup broth, or warm water with lemon.

Remedies for Children

Some over-the-counter medications are not recommended for children under certain ages. Always check the label.

Never give aspirin to a child. Only acetaminophen should be given to children under 6 months. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are fine for children 6 months or older.

Do not give any cough or cold medicine to a child under 4 years of age. For children over 4 check with the child’s doctor if the medication is safe and what dosage is appropriate for the child’s size and age.

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