Slippery elm: what is it, and what do you use it for? We take a closer look at this traditional remedy for IBS, heartburn and reflux.
Please note: while we took utmost care in producing this guide, Commonsense accepts no liability for any error or omission in the information.
What is slippery elm?
Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) is a species of elm tree native to eastern North America. The dried inner bark is used medicinally.
What do you use it for?
Traditionally, slippery elm has been known as a 'demulcent'. This means that when it's combined with water it coats the mucous membranes and reduces irritation. This function may make slippery elm helpful in treating
- inflammatory situations
- sore throats
- urinary tract infections
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
When applied externally slippery elm may help with bleeding, wound and burn healing, and can be used to draw impurities such as boils or abscesses.
How to take slippery elm
Slippery elm is available in powder, capsules, or tablets. The quantity to take depends on a variety of factors, such as age and gender, and there is no set recommended dose. Generally it is advised to take between 4-10 grams (1-2tsp) up to three times daily. If using the powder form, add enough water to make a paste and then add more water till you reach the consistency you desire. Slippery elm may also be taken with juice, hot water or herbal teas.
When using slippery elm externally, a poultice can be made by mixing slippery elm with water to form a viscous paste and then applying it to the area. The poultice should be covered with a gauze pad to protect the wearer's clothing and to keep it in place. It can be left on for a few hours and then repeated.
When NOT to take slippery elm
Taking slippery elm may decrease absorption of other medications. It is advised to take it at least two hours either side of other medications or herbs.
Traditionally slippery elm has been used as an abortifacient and some herbalists believe it may cause miscarriage. There is no reliable information to substantiate this claim; however, while pregnant or breast-feeding caution is advised.
For people with sensitive skin, external use of slippery elm may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation. Caution is advised.
Hoheria - a native alternative to slippery elm
Slippery elm has been over-harvested and is at risk of becoming endangered. Hoheria is a native plant from Aotearoa which also contains large amounts of mucilage. There are currently no known contraindications with hoheria, and it's available from Commonsense as a tincture!