Contaminated Marshmallow Root

Update: Government tests show the Jacob Hooy batch of Marshmallow Root (sold from September 2012 to now) contains ATROPINE. They ask that this message be spread to people who are likely to use the root, either loose, in bags, or in mixed blends from Jacob Hooy. Many people will have it on their shelves unopened and should be warned. It will be announced online and in newspapers today. Jacob Hooy have the batch numbers. Contact them if unsure of safety of batches you have. Contact below number about poisons, contact me or the link below to report any problems you may have had with the root over the past 4 months.

One of my apprentices purchased Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis, Heemstwortel) from a local herb outlet in Amsterdam this weekend and spent Saturday night in hospital, along with her boyfriend after they made a straightforward milk decoction of the root and suffered the following symptoms:

Irregular heart beat
Blurred vision
Dilated pupils
General malaise
Loss of memory
Some nausea
Lack of bodily coordination

They are now at home recovering further from a marshmallow hot chocolate that gave more than they anticipated.

After investigation it appears that they are not alone. Someone else, completely unrelated, purchased the same herb from a different shop and had the same symptoms this weekend. Marshmallow root is seen as a safe herb, apart from potentially interfering with blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, it has no history of toxicity. The batch of herb appears to be contaminated and the Dutch food safety agency is now on the case and looking for the original source, what the contaminant actually is and how it came to be in the shops.

Please, if you have any at home which you have purchased recently in the Netherlands and have not yet tested, wait with using it until the above questions have been answered. I love this herb and eat it and decoct it regularly as part of my diet. My toddler also enjoys it now and again. I know many of you also like to use it in your families in similar ways.

Here is a link to the form that can be used to contact the Dutch food safety agency directly if needed:

If you are worried about poisoning at any time, here is the number for the Dutch Poisons Helpline:

030 274 8888

They would like to know urgently if anyone else has experienced similar problems after using the root. I’ll put my marshmallow root recipes back on line when the issue is resolved.


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