Decoction for Irritated Skin Featuring Marshmallow Root, Burdock Root, and Yellow Dock

It’s been awhile since my last blog post.  A few weeks ago, I started my first Herbal Medicine class with American College of Healthcare Sciences as part of my Masters in Holistic Health and Wellness degree. This will surely be one of my favorite classes and I wanted to share a little something with you all that I learned my very first week, a recipe for a decoction you can use to soothe irritated skin.

A decoction is a simple way to extract the water-soluble medicinal properties from plant parts such as bark, roots, and stems. For decoctions in general, use a ratio of 1 pint of water to 1 oz of plant material, simmer in a stainless-steel pot, cool, and strain. It’s that simple! Once you have made your decoction you can store it in the refrigerator and use within 72 hours. To use the irritated skin decoction below you can apply topically to the irritated area three to four times per day or take 2 tablespoons orally four times per day.

Marshmallow root is known as beneficial in the treatment of skin inflammation. There are many other uses for marshmallow root that are based on tradition ranging from abscesses to wound healing.  Marshmallow root is considered to be a safe herb; although it is suspected that it may interfere with some oral medication absorption. Marshmallow may potentially reduce blood sugar levels according to studies done on animals; therefore, it is important to take this into consideration if someone is already taking other herbs, drugs, or supplements for blood glucose.  Marshmallow root should not be taken within 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking other drugs because it can interfere with absorption. Indications of marshmallow root include a dry cough and irritation of the throat or mouth.

Burdock root is in the family Asteraceae. Indications include diuretic and diaphoretic as well as increased risk of bleeding if taken with other herbs that increase bleeding risk. Caution should be used when Burdock root has many similarities with marshmallow root as far as lowering blood sugar, a potential treatment for diabetes, and known for being helpful with skin conditions. People with allergies to pectin or other members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family could also be allergic to Burdock root.

Yellow Dock’s latin name is Rumex crispus of the Polygonaceae family. Both yellow dock and burdock root are used in herbal anti-cancer protocols.  Patients with kidney or liver issues should use caution with yellow dock. Yellow dock can be diuretic but is also reported to help with diarrhea. Yellow dock contains tannins, anthraquinones, and estrogenic properties. Like burdock and marshmallow root, burdock may help with acne and skin conditions.

Materials Used:Kitchen ScaleParchment paperGlass Measuring cupMortar and pestleSmall plates for measuring herbs/rootsSmall stainless-steel pot1/3-oz marshmallow Althea officinalis root1/3-oz yellow dock Rumex crispus root1/3-oz burdock Arctium lappa root2 cups (1 pint) cold filtered water.Unbleached Coffee filters or unbleached cheese clothGlass Mason jar with lid

setupPrepare all surface areas in the kitchen by cleaning with a non-toxic cleaner. I use doTERRA’s on On-Guard all-purpose cleaner. You should also sterilize all equipment to minimize contamination. To weigh each ingredient, I used my kitchen scale. The recipe called for 1/3 oz of each of the following: marshmallow root, yellow dock, and burdock. My goal was to weigh .33 ounces of each; however, my scale would only measure .30 or .35. I was able to measure out an amount that caused the scale to shift back and forth between the two values, and that was as close as I could get. The product received from the Apothecary Shoppe as part of my lab kit was already prepared; however, to encourage the full release of the constituents, I used a mortar and pestle to further crush the ingredients. If the material you purchase is larger than 1-inch, you will need to cut it into smaller pieces. The smaller the plant material, the easier the constituents are released. A constituent is the chemical property of the plant. I am sure you have all heard that Willow Bark is the inspiration for aspirin. The active constituent for Willow Bark used in aspirin is Salicin. Many of our modern-day pharmaceuticals started as natural remedies.

Once the herbs are prepared, add water and herbs to the pot and simmer on medium heat until approximately 1/3 of the water is evaporated. For my preparation, the water started to simmer around seven minutes, and I reduced the heat to medium low to avoid a rolling boil.  I noticed the liquid was very dark at around the 13-minute mark. It was difficult to determine when 1/3 of the water had evaporated, and at approximately 16 minutes I removed the pot from the heat so it could cool. I allowed the mixture to cool around 30 minutes before straining.

Filter the concoction using 4 layers of muslin or cheesecloth.  It is important that no plant particles remain so strain more than once if needed. Store the concoction in your refrigerator in a sterilized glass jar for up to 72 hours. I made my concoction right before leaving my house for 2 days so I was unable to use it for the entire time; however, my daughter had sunburn and she treated the irritated skin regularly for 3 days. She said it worked very well. I used it on a yellow-jacket sting I got while camping the prior two days and found it to be very soothing.

Before using any herbal remedy, it is important to consider your personal health status and prescription usage in relationship to each herb. This post is meant for educational purposes and is not intended as medical advice or to treat, diagnose, or prevent any illness or disease.  If you do try this recipe though I would love to hear your feedback!



Ulbricht, C.E. (2010). Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide: An Evidence-Based Reference (1st ed). United States: Mosby

Weiss, R.F. & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine (2nd ed). United States: Thieme


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s