Why and how does Galen’s Way produce marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) extract without the use of alcohol when tea is as effective? And why is the ratio of herb to menstruum so high? We have had these questions asked on a number of occasions.We produce marshmallow extract because in many instances it is not practical to make a tea. Our practitioners us it according the needs of their clients, and while it may be more rare than with other extracts, having this extract ready at hand is like reaching into the first aid kit when you need something fast.
Why is the ratio so high? We produce our dry root marshmallow extract at a 1:6 ratio to optimize a number of factors. (The standard ratios used in our extracts for dry plants are 1:2 or 1:3).
The active compounds (mucilage polysaccharides) are water-soluble (they are not alcohol soluble) and are extremely viscous in solution. Ideally water would be the only menstruum to use, however, this would not create a shelf stable product. Our approach is to use enough alcohol to preserve the product, while keeping the water content high to maximize the active compounds in solution.
Making a marshmallow extract at our standard ratio(s), 1:2 or 1:3, is not a workable process unless we were to use high levels of alcohol. This is a problem because alcohol would NOT extract the active polysaccharides. Water extracts the compounds we want, BUT creates a very, very viscous solution (like trying to pour barely liquid jelly). It is neither practical in the production stage on our end, nor in the compounding stage at the practitioner’s end.
This matters greatly to you and your clients, as a marshmallow extract with that rheology (flow/viscous characteristics) will not easily pour into bottles with small neck diameters nor mix well with other extracts in compounded formulas.
The answer to these problems is to increase the ratio from our usual standards to some level that creates a product we can actually use. At 1:6 we think we have found the best balance of extract strength and usability. This concentration still exceeds what most tea users would make.
We have seen lower ratios used but they are produced with fresh plant material. If fresh plant material is used and prepared at 1:2, and given that this fresh material is upward of 70% or more, that would give us an equivalent dry plant extract of 1:9. By producing our extract at 1:6 we have produced a significantly more concentrated extract that remains usable in practical applications.