Specification & Spread

Althaea roots — radices althaeae
Althaea officinalis herb — herba althaeae officinalis
Althaea officinalis — Althaea officinalis L.
Armenian sweatweed — Althaea armeniaca Ten.
Mallow family— Malvaceae
Other names: marshmallow, mallow.
Althea officinalis
It is a perennial herbaceous plant 60-150 cm tall.
The rhizome is polycephalous, short, woody, with branchy, fleshy, whitish roots. The stems are pubescent, loosely branched and upright.
The leaves arecalternate, petiolate, usually 3-5 lobed, rounded or ovate, simpler to the apex.
The flowers are pentamerous, large, gathered in the upper part of the stem in a spike inflorescence – thirs. The corolla is whitish or pinkish, the petals are obovate.
The pestle with the upper polycapital ovary is enclosed in a tube of numerous purple stamens fused together by threads.
The calyx is double, there are 5 inner leaves and 8-12 outer (pinche) ones. The fruit is fractional, disintegrating into separate single-seeded bud-shaped dark-brown fruits.
The whole plant has a soft velvety pubescence.
It blooms from June to September, bears fruit in September – October.
Armenian sweatweed
It differs rounded in outline, 3-5-split or lobed leaves, longer pedicels and racemes.
Spreading. Althaea officinalis is common in the forest-steppe and steppe zones of the European part of the country, in the Caucasus, as well as in the mountainous steppe and semi-desert areas of southern Western Siberia, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Armenian sweatweed is found in the south-east of the European part of Russia, in Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the Caucasus. It grows usually in small groups or thinned thickets. It is cultivated in a number of farms in the Krasnodar Territory and in Ukraine. The roots of plants are gathered at the age of 2-3 years.
Habitat. Both species prefer sufficiently moist habitats. It grows in the valleys of rivers, along the shores of lakes, on wet meadows, among bushes, on the outskirts of swamps.


The chemical composition of Althea
The roots and herb contain polysaccharides:

  • mucus (in the roots – up to 35%, in the herb – up to 12%),
  • sugar (up to 8% in the roots),
  • starch (in roots – up to 37%).

About 1% of pectic substances (roots) also contain:

  • fatty oil,
  • organic acids,
  • tannins,
  • steroids,
  • betaine,
  • asparagine,
  • mineral salts.

The herb also contains:

  • ascorbic acid,
  • carotenoids,
  • flavonoids,
  • a small amount of essential oil (0.02%).

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The roots are harvested in the autumn, after the extinction of the aerial parts of plants (September – October), or in the spring, before the start of regrowth (April – the beginning of May). After digging, the roots are thoroughly cleaned from the ground, cut off the rhizomes and small roots, remove the woody upper part of the main root; roots are dried for 2-3 days in the air, then the plug is removed. The long roots are cut transversely into pieces up to 35 cm long, the thick ones are cut into 2-4 pieces long. To obtain the raw material after digging and shaking off the ground, the roots are placed in baskets and quickly washed in cold running water. The roots can not be soaked, because the mucus is soluble in water, and easily washed out of raw materials. Althaea herb is harvested during flowering (within a month from the beginning of flowering), mown, removed yellowed leaves and admixture of other plants.
Security measures. The thickets are easily depleted, so in the process of harvesting raw materials from wild plants to save the thickets in the wells shake off the seeds, retain the young growth, leave the developed specimens for planting.
Drying. Althea roots and herb are dried in a dryer at a temperature of 50-60 ºС or in well-ventilated areas. The roots can be dried in the sun. When drying this raw material it is necessary to consider its hygroscopicity. Lay out the raw material in a thin layer, loosely, on the nets or frames covered with fabric.
Storage. The raw material is dried in well-ventilated and dry rooms. The raw material is hygroscopic, it is easy to damp.

External signs of raw materials

Whole raw materials
The roots are cleared of cork, almost cylindrical or split along 2-4 parts, tapering slightly towards the end, 10-35 cm long and up to 2 cm thick. The root surface is longitudinally grooved with flaking long, soft bast fibers and dark dots – traces of fallen off or cut off thin roots.
The fracture in the center is greiny-rough and fibrous outside.
The colour of the roots outside and in the fracture is white, yellowish-white (Althaea medicinal) or greyish (Armenian sweatweed). The smell is weak and peculiar.
Althaea officinalis is sweetish with a flavour of mucus.
Milled raw materials
The pieces of roots of various shapes are passing through a sieve with the holes 7 mm in diameter.
The colour is yellowish white or greyish white. The smell is weak, and peculiar. The taste is sweetish with a flavour of mucus.
The white, yellowish white or greyish powder is passing through a sieve with holes of 0.31 mm. The smell is weak and peculiar. The taste is sweetish with a flavour of mucus.
Unpurified Althaea roots are roots of almost cylindrical shape, not peeled from cork or split along 2-4 parts, branched, of various lengths, up to 2 cm thick. The surface is longitudinally wrinkled and greyish-brown.
The external signs of herb The herb is a non-lignified shoots with partially showered whole or broken leaves, flowers, buds and fruits of varying degrees of maturity.
The stems are rounded, longitudinally discontinuous-grooved, pubescent, up to 120 cm long, up to 8 mm thick and greyish-green.
The smell is weak. The taste is slightly slimy.

Properties and application

Pharmacotherapeutic group. Expectorant.
The pharmacological properties of Althaea
Althaea preparations have:

  • anti-inflammatory,
  • enveloping,
  • expectorant action.

Therapeutic properties are due to the high content of polysaccharides that can swell in water infusions, increase in volume and cover the mucous membranes and skin with a thin layer. This layer protects the mucous membranes from exposure to harmful factors (cold air, the irritating effect of food components, drying).
In addition, the mucous-polysaccharide complex absorbs, adsorbs microbial, viral and toxic products secreted by the affected epithelium cells, inactivates them, prevents contact of the toxins with the mucous membrane. Under such a mucous layer, the activity of the inflammatory process decreases, dense cells and crusts soften, and erosions and ulcers heal more likely. Althaea preparations have mucolytic properties.
Application of Althea
Althea («Alcea» – Greek. – «Healing») was used, starting from the IX century BC. Instructions on the use of Althea are found in Theophrastus, Dioscoride, and Pliny.
Althaea are used as:

  • anti-inflammatory and
  • enveloping agent.

Althaea preparations inside and for rinsing apply:

  • in inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract and pharynx, accompanied by difficulty expectoration of sputum,
  • with tonsillitis, tracheitis, stomatitis, gingivitis.

Althea preparations:

  • reduce cough,
  • increase the separation of mucus and facilitate the evacuation of sputum in acute chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, acute respiratory diseases.

It is applied:

  • With gastritis, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer,
  • with enterocolitis, Althaea roots are used as an adjunct.
  • In X-ray practice, for better detection of the relief of the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract, an extract from althea roots is added to the barium powder.

Outwardly in collections Althaea roots are used as an emollient in the form of poultices.


Diabetes, childhood, people with constipation. Althaea preparations should not be used in parallel with other antitussive preparations – cough reflex blockers.
In the preparation of multi-component preparations, it should be borne in mind that Althaea is unacceptable to combine with salts of copper, sublimate, lead and acetates (salts of acetic acid).