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3 Roots used in Appalachia

Roots have been used in Appalachia and throughout North America for centuries. Newcomers blended well with native. Why not try three of them used as tea, medicines, candies…and much more.

We now present three of them as Licorice, Marshmallow, and Angelica

Marshmallow Root: The Ultimate Tea

What does marshmallow root tea taste like?  

A sweet, woody flavor, the marshmallow root tea makes an interesting blend and is great on its own. I like to add a little sweetener, but that’s personal choice. The texture is smooth, as marshmallow has a high mucilage content, and thickens when cool.

What does the marshmallow plant look like?

The marshmallow plant, or Althaea officinalis, is a relative of the hollyhock, with pastel-colored, papery flowers. The plant, especially its roots, have a sticky substance that once gave the marshmallow its taste and texture. Today, the root is widely available as tea: the mucilage is like a syrup in hot water but thickens into a sweet gel when cool.



What does marshmallow for the body?

Marshmallows are no mere fun food but one of humanities’ earliest confections. They originated from the root of the marsh-mallow plant, an herb of the mallow family which, no surprise, grows in marshes. Ancient Egyptians boiled and mixed the root with honey to create a dense, cake-like confection reserved for the gods and royalty. But the true value of the marshmallow was its medicinal qualities. The root contains a gel-like mucilage that was said to soothe sore throats, gastrointestinal inflammation, stomach ulcers and, even, work as a laxative, among other qualities.


What don’t we use the marshmallow plant today?

As delicious as the marshmallow was as a confection, it was replaced by instant gelatin in the mid-1800s. The mucilage just made it too sticky and temperamental for people to make at home.


Marshmallow Tea Recipes

As a tea, the marshmallow lives on, enjoyed for its flavor, health benefits, and history. As a sweet – not so much, but we DO have vintage marshmallow recipes from Eleanor Parkinson’s book “The Complete Confectioner” published in in 1864 if you want to give it a try. PLEASE – let us know if you do!

For marshmallow tea, here’s the easy route:

  • Place one or two teaspoons of marshmallow root in a cup of hot water. Let steep about 10-minutes. Add sweetener and drink while warm. The tea will grow thicker when cooled.

Here’s Another Option – A Bit Harder:

Place the mixture in a covered jar and let sit overnight. Enjoy the drink with honey or other sweetener or as is.

Truly Old Time Marshmallow Recipes from Eleanor Parkinson in 1864

If you want to give this recipe a try, you may need to cut the quantities to size. Remember early cookbooks were written for domestics in the homes of the well-to-do or for the homemaker herself (aka “Woman of the House”) so she could manage the staff. The quantities might need to be adjusted for today’s smaller size of friends and family.


  • Marshmallow Lozenges. “Marshmallow roots in powder one pound, or slice the root and make a strong decoction, in which you dissolve the gum, fine sugar four pounds. Mix into a paste. If six drops of laudanum be added, with two ounces of liquorice, the pectoral quality of these lozenges will be improved. Good for obstinate coughs.”


  • Syrup of Marshmallows — Sirop de Guimauve “Fresh mallow roots eight ounces, water one quart, sugar three pounds. Cleanse the roots, and slice them; make a decoction (See Decoctions), boiling it a quarter of an hour, so as to obtain the mucilage of the root; strain, and finish as wormwood. One ounce of liquorice-root and one ounce of white maidenhair, with a few stoned raisins, may be added.”

NEXT: Seeing how licorice is clearly a friend of marshmallow, let’s explore the licorice root next. IF you don’t like licorice, don’t worry!! It blends well with other flavors.


Licorice Root: Tea, Treats and So Much More

I don’t licorice, so I’ll skip this part of the blog.

Wait! Don’t skip this! Licorice may not be your favorite flavor, but it’s an excellent background flavor to enhance others.  It’s 50-times sweeter than sugar, but not with the subtle, overly sweet taste of many sweeteners today. You may be eating licorice and not even know that’s what it was.


Is Licorice Good For me?

The licorice plant arrived in North America in the 16th century with John Josselyn who carried it from England to Boston. He listed licorice as one of the “precious herbs” among his cargo. Previous to that licorice has a long history as a remedy used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Among its many benefits: relieve stress, improve the respiratory system, relieve stomach distress and more.

In North America, the root was used as a tea, a medicine, and a toothbrush of sorts – people chewed it as they went about their day, moving a piece around their mouths to clean their teeth. Best of all – licorice is 50-times sweeter than sugar and was used as a flavoring. No more now, though. Maybe it’s time we got back!


Licorice Root Recipe:

For a strong tea add one-fourth cup of licorice root to a medium pot of boiling water. Simmer for at least 10 minutes then drain out the root.  OR: Add a teaspoon or two of licorice tea to a cup of hot water. Let it sit for around 5 minutes or later.

– Have aches and pains? Why not a rag in your licorice tea and make a compress for the painful area.


Pate de Reglisse noir

Liquorice Paste [aka Jujubes]. The best-refined liquorice one pound, gum Arabic four pounds, loaf sugar two pounds, Florence orris-root [root of the Iris] one ounce. Dissolve the gum and liquorice in seven pints of water, keeping it stirred over a slow fire; add the sugar in syrup [mixture] with the orris-root, evaporate to a paste, and finish as jujubes.

Other licorice Ideas

  • Put licorice root in hot water or add to other teas and serve it with honey.
  • Use shredded licorice or a piece of root in compote or other desserts, or stews.
  • A weird one! OK, not exactly licorice root, but licorice candy. Kids used it in the late 1800s, early 1900s. There’s no formal recipe that I could determine but lots of mention in stories and articles.

SO – put a piece of licorice candy, black, of course (red wasn’t invented yet), add honey or lemon or anything else you like. Carry it around when you hang out with your friends. Give the cup or canteen a shake before drinking. Sharing with friends is at your discretion.


Angelica Root: Blessed and Bold

What does Angelica plant taste like?

We at True Treats had no idea. So, we did a taste test. Frankly, I was skeptical, but it tasted good. Earthy with a slight spiciness, a warm flavor. So good, we kept drinking it even after the verdict of how good it was was in!


Why is the plant called Angelica?

Some say the name “Angelica” refers to Michael the Archangel who, though a dream, informed a monk of the plants ability to cure the plague. Others say angelica blooms on Michael the Archangel’s feast day, May 8th on the old Julian Calendar. Angelica was also called the “Root of the Holy Ghost,” for its powerful healing properties.  Regardless, Angelica is a unique, aromatic plant that even grows in colder climates of Iceland, Northern Russia and Norway


Is Angelica a medicine?

Throughout history, Angelica was believed to have intense healing properties, able to take on just about anything, including evil spirits, witches, spells, and the plague.  These many still consider Angelica a healing herb, rich in nutrients, such as antioxidants, vitamins, valeric acid, volatile oils and more. heal stomach ailments, insomnia, reproductive issues, and a host of others.


Can I make tea with Angelica?

Angelica makes a wonderful, healthful, and oh-so-unusual (in a good way!) tea.  It also makes an excellent spirited drink (more in a moment). Here are a few options:

Option 1: Simmer dried root to taste in water for 15 or 20 minutes.

Option 2: Make as with other teas, put in boiling water and steep then drink.

Option 3: Add to hot water in a tea ball, wait until it cools or whenever you like, and drink.

How to Turn Angelica Tea into Angelica Spirts

Here’s the long version from Eleanor Parkinson from 1864:

“Distilled Spirituous Waters for Liqueurs. — Orange, rose, pink, jes samine, and all other flowers, are made by adding eight pounds of the leaves or petals of the flowers to a gallon of pure proof spirit. Put them in a cold cellar or ice-house to infuse for a week. Distil in the bain-marie to dryness. If they are distilled on an open gentle fire, water should be added to the articles when they are put on the fire, so as to prevent their being burnt.

Lavender, mint, rosemary, angelica, the yellow rind of lemon and orange peels, and bergamot, lemon, vanilla, ginger, and orris-root for violet, and other herbs, are made by adding two pounds of the plant, &.C., partly dried, to a gallon of pure proof spirit. Let it steep in a jar close covered for twelve or fourteen days in a cool place, and distil in the bain-marie. Myrtle and balm-me, one pound to the gallon. If any of the waters appear rather turbid when they are first drawn, they will become clear and bright by standing a few days. Filter them through blotting paper-placed in a glass or earthenware furmel over a bottle to receive them.”


Now, here’s today’s version:

Today’s VERSION: Mix 2 tablespoons to 2 ounces of vodka or other clear alcohol (pure proof alcohol as above) and put in a sealed jar. Mason jars work well. Put in a cool, dark shelf for a month or so, strain liquid, and enjoy. A few drops give a tangy twist to cocktails.


Follow the new recipe when mixing angelica and add any of the botanicals from the old one. Orange peels appear a lot in the old-time recipes.

Visit our Appalachian Favorites page to find more botanicals and other sweets used throughout Appalachia