Arrowroot is a root starch made from a West Indian plant in the Marantaceae family. This starch has become a go-to for gluten-free cooking and it’s also naturally GMO-free.
Arrowroot powder is harvested from the tubers of its plant without the use of harsh chemicals or high heat. In fact, the modern extraction process, which includes washing, peeling, soaking, and drying the fleshy roots in the sun, is not much different from the process used throughout recorded history.
One cup of sliced arrowroot (weighing about 120 grams) contains:
- 78 calories
- 0.2 grams fat (0.1 grams polyunsaturated fat)
- 31 milligrams sodium
- 16 grams carbohydrates
- 5 grams protein
- 545 milligrams potassium (16 percent DV)
- 2.7 milligrams iron (15 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams vitamin B-6 (15 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams thiamin (14 percent DV)
- 2 grams niacin (10 percent DV)
- 30 milligrams magnesium (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams riboflavin, or Vitamin B2 (6 percent DV)
- 2.3 milligrams vitamin C (3 percent DV)
6 Arrowroot Benefits
1. Aids Digestive System
Arrowroot powder has been used as an aid for digestion for over a century, documented as early as 1900. According to research about Antarctic expeditions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was one of the four main medicinal foods and drinks for the explorers whose bodies were largely devoid of vitamins.
In recent years, research has shown arrowroot to be an effective natural treatment for diarrhea. A 2000 study determined the efficacy of the powder to reduce diarrhea and constipation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and discovered it to be extremely successful. Not only does it greatly reduce occurrences of diarrhea, but it also minimizes abdominal pain.
2. Safe for Infants
Because of its starchy content, mild flavor and gentleness on the digestive system, arrowroot is a safe ingredient to use in food for infants. You can use this starch in many different types of recipes for your infant or older children, without having to worry about it causing tummy aches or other digestion issues.
Not only is this a safe food ingredient for your little ones, arrowroot is also a common ingredient in teething cookies for babies. As a virtually allergen-free product, it’s an ideal gum-soothing ingredient that poses little-to-no risk of allergic reaction.
3. Treats Urinary Tract Infection
Women susceptible to urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are often prescribed hygiene and foods to help stave off future infection and soothe inflammation. One such food is arrowroot, and it can be one of the effective home remedies for bladder infections or UTIs.
Arrowroot is a demulcent, which is simply a soothing substance used to relieve pain in inflamed or irritated mucous membranes. As it earned its name by serving as a treatment for poisonous arrow wounds, it’s no surprise that this useful plant relieves inflammation.
The antiseptic properties of arrowroot help treat UTIs and also prevent some future flare-ups, which is why doctors often recommend common ingestion of it for women with frequent infections.
4. Boosts Immune Function
The extracts of arrowroot powder also exhibit cytotoxic activities that help in building immunity. This means the Maranta arundinacea extract boosts the production of cells within the immune system.
5. Fights Foodborne Pathogens
One fascinating feature of arrowroot is its ability to fight foodborne pathogens that cause illness. Research has proven a reduction in pathogens in various foods, especially liquid foods such as soup. Here, arrowroot tea massively reduced the amount of salmonella virus in the soups that were tested.
This is yet another reason why arrowroot is a recommended medicinal food ingredient to keep the digestive system safe. It also speaks to some far-reaching effects it might have to help protect people in third-world countries from some of the more common infections due to poor water quality.
6. Soothes Gum and Mouth Pain
Babies aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the soothing properties of arrowroot. It can be applied directly to painful gums and sore mouth to relieve pain, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
The History of Arrowroot
This little plant is much more than a starch thickener! Its history includes a variety of medicinal and other uses, starting with the theory on where it got its popular name. Folklore says this tropical perennial was used by inhabitants of Central America to draw out poison and reduce inflammation from poisonous arrow wounds.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of arrowroot cultivation as far back as 7,000 years ago. In the last century or so, production of traditional arrowroot has been mainly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a Central American island. Rhizomes are harvested from October to May each year.
How to Use Arrowroot
To use arrowroot powder, you can mix it into juice or other beverages and drink it straight, although it’s important to follow recommended guidelines for consumption. For relief of mouth and gum pain (as noted above), you may apply the powder directly to the gums.
When cooking with arrowroot, it’s useful to note that it will break down more easily in longer, high-heat cooking than cornstarch, for which it’s often used as an alternative. Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to use it at the end of cooking.
If you’re using it to thicken sauces, soups, stews, or gravies, you’ll begin by creating a “slurry.” Slurry is a fun word that refers to what you get after mixing the powder into a cold liquid (like water or milk). Then, simply pour the slurry into the hot sauce and allow it to thicken. Arrowroot will create a glossy look in final sauces and stews.
In addition to thickening sauces, this powder is great for baking and desserts to give more structure and body to the finished product. It may also be utilized as a binder in omelets or other items in which you may want to substitute eggs. This makes it a handy product for people on a vegan diet; plus, it’s gluten-free, and pairs well with all gluten-free flour!