marsh.mal.low n (bef. 12c) 1: a pink-flowered European perennial herb (Althaea officinalis) of the mallow family that is naturalized in the eastern U.S. and has a mucilaginous root sometimes used in confectionery and in medicine 2: a confection made from the root of the marshmallow or from corn syrup, sugar, albumen, and gelatin beaten to a light spongy consistency; also: a piece of partially dried marshmallow -- marsh.mal.lowy adj
That word "mucilaginous" means "jelly-like". Later the root was replaced by gelatin, and that is how modern marshmallows are made.

Marshmallow candy dates back to ancient Egypt where it was a honey-based candy flavored and thickened with the sap of the root of the Marsh-Mallow plant (althea officinalis). Marsh-Mallow grows in salt marshes and on banks near large bodies of water. It is common in the eastern United States. Until the mid 1800's, marshmallow candy was made using the sap of the Marsh-Mallow plant. Gelatin replaces the sap in the modern recipes.
Today's marshmallows are a mixture of corn syrup or sugar, gelatin, gum arabic and flavoring.

Real marsh mallow is a plant with a long root that actually does grow in a marsh. Nineteenth century doctors extracted juice from the marsh mallow plant's roots and cooked it with egg whites and sugar, then whipped the mixture into a foamy meringue that later hardened, creating a medicinal candy used to soothe children's sore throats. 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.

Healing with Marsh Mallow:

Although the herb isn't widely available in America, with a little luck, you can find marsh mallow teas or crushed marsh mallow root at health food stores. Make a tea by boiling ½ to 1 teaspoon of crushed root per cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. You may also find marsh mallow gel, which used externally on cuts and abrasions. This herb is effective at:

Quieting a cough and soothing sore throats: The flowers, leaves and roots of the marsh mallow plant all contain a thick, gooey substance called mucilage. "This substance soothes irritation in your throat and helps you stop coughing," claimed the late Heinz Rosler, Ph.D., formerly with the department of medicinal chemistry at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore. In fact, when pitted against two other remedies in an Eastern European study of cough suppressants, marsh mallow outperformed both. IN Germany, teas containing marsh mallow are commonly sold for this purpose.
Soothing a cut: Used externally, marsh mallow gel may help heal minor abrasions like cuts, scrapes and burns.
Boosting the immune system: In one experiment, marsh mallow enhanced the ability of white blood cells to devour invading germs. This suggests that the plant's traditional use in wound treatment may have a sound scientific basis.

Pick Your Own:

Marsh mallow grows in marshes, bogs, damp meadows and along stream banks. The plant is a 5 foot perennial with a long taproot. The stems, which die back each autumn, are hairy and branching. The roundish, gray-green leaves are also hairy and grow about 1 to 3 inches long. The plant produces pink or white flowers in summer.

Want to grow your own? This plant flourishes in moist soil under full sun. Propagate it from seeds, cuttings or root division in autumn. Thin to 2 feet apart. Harvest roots only from plants over 2 years old. In fall, when the top growth has died back, dig out mature roots and remove the lateral rootlets. Wash, peel and dry them whole or in slices.

Safety Considerations:

There's nothing in medical literature suggesting that marsh mallow is dangerous in any way. Still, it's always best to use medicinal herbs in consultation with your doctor. If marsh mallow causes discomforts such as stomach upset, discontinue use.

About Jet-Puffed Marshmallows History

The candy makers needed to find a new, faster way of making marshmallows. As a result, the "starch mogul" system was developed in the late 1800s. Rather than making marshmallows by hand, the new system let candy makers create marshmallows in molds made of modified cornstarch (like jelly beans, gummies and candy corn are made today). At about the same time, mallow root was replaced by gelatin, providing marshmallows with their "stable" form...
...In 1948, Alex Doumak, a marshmallow manufacturer, began experimenting with different methods of marshmallow making. Doumak was looking for ways to speed up production and discovered the "extrusion process", which revolutionized marshmallow production. Now, marshmallows can be made by piping the fluffy mixture through long tubes and cutting its tubular shape into equal pieces.

Vegan Marshmallows Recipe

2 1/2 T. vegetable gelatin (Eme's Kosher Gel)
1 1/2 C. (355 ml) sugar
1 C. (237 ml) light corn syrup
1/2 C. (118 ml) cold water
1/2 C. (118 ml) water at room temperature
1/4 t. salt
2 T. vanilla extract (or flavoring of your choice)
Cornstarch for dusting
Combine Gel and 1/2 C. (118 ml) COLD water in the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment. Let stand for 1/2 hour.
Mix the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 C. (118 ml) water in a saucepan. Stir it over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and a syrup has formed.
Cook it until firmball stage (244 degrees Fahrenheit about 120 C. on a candy thermometer.) Remove pan from heat, and slowly and carefully pour the syrup into the gelatin/water mixture in your mixer. Beat the mixture at high speed until thick, white, and tripled in size, approximately 15 minutes. (If you stop before this time, you will have marshmallow creme which you can store in a jar and use like the commercial stuff.) Add the vanilla and beat just long enough to incorporate it.
Dust an 8" x 12" (20 cm x 30 cm) glass baking pan with cornstarch. Pour mixture into pan, and dust the top with more cornstarch. Wet your hands and pat the mixture to smooth out the top. Dust again.
Let stand overnight to dry out, uncovered. Next morning turn the "marshmallow cake" out onto a board, and cut in into small pieces with a dry, HOT knife. Dust again. Makes about 45 marshmallows.