Slippery Elm's Many Benefits

14 October 2014

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.

Health benefits of Slippery Elm

Traditionally, slippery elm has been known as a demulcent – when combined with water it coats the mucous membranes and reduces irritation.  This action may make slippery elm helpful in treating

  • inflammatory situations
  • sore throats
  • urinary tract infections
  • diarrhoea/constipation
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • ulcers
  • colitis
  • reflux

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 do I use it?

Slippery elm is available in powder, capsules, or tablets.  How much you 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 3 times daily.  If using the powder, add enough water to it 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 externally, a poultice is made by mixing slippery elm with water.  Mix this into a viscous paste and apply it to the area.  Cover this with a gauze pad to protect clothing and to keep it in place.  This can be left on for a few hours and then repeated.

Cautions or contraindications

Due to the mucilage, slippery elm may decrease absorption of 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.

When applied to the skin slippery elm may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation for those that are sensitive.  Caution is advised.

New Zealand Alternative - Hoheria

Slippery elm is currently being over-harvested and is becoming endangered.  Hoheria is a New Zealand native which also contains large amounts of mucilage.  There are currently no known contraindications with hoheria. 

This is available from Commonsense Organics as a tincture.

If you have any further questions about hoeria or slippery elm please ask one of our naturopaths.

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Braun, L. & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs & Natural Supplements. An evidence-based guide (3rd ed.).

Please note that while we take care in producing this guide, Commonsense Organics accepts no liability for any error or omission in the information