Slippery Elm

by A Y Marian.

Slippery Elm – (Ulmus rubra, or Red Elm)


Slippery Elm – (Ulmus rubra, or Red Elm)

Slippery Elm – (Ulmus rubra, or Red Elm)

Slippery elm is a native tree to North America. It is a medium-sized tree that can grow to about 50 feet in height. The branches grow downward. The bark is gummy, with deep fissures and a slight odor. It has long been used as a survival food during times of famine. For instance, during the American Revolution, George Washington and his army survived for several days eating nothing but elm gruel at Valley Forge. It is regrettable that many of these trees have succumbed to Dutch elm disease, and are not found as readily as before.

Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Slippery elm is used for sore throat, cough, respiratory problems, diarrhea, gastritis, ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. It is a common ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in Ayurvedic treatments. Both use this herb for bloody diarrhea and other problems of the digestive tract.

Studies are showing that the herb may be useful for inflammatory bowel disease. It is beneficial to internal mucosal tissues, like the stomach and vaginal lining and the esophagus. It can ease the soreness resulting from prolonged flu, digestive upset and chronic indigestion.

Externally – Slippery elm is used topically for wounds, boils, burns and other conditions of the skin. It can also be used to soften skin.

Parts Used

Bark – The inner bark of the tree is used medicinally.


If taken according to directions, there are no known dangers for slippery elm. If you take prescription medications, the herb may decrease their effectiveness. Because of this effect, take several hours before or after your dose of prescription medications. It is considered to be safe for pregnant women, babies and the elderly.

Preparation and Dosage

Slippery elm can be found in commercial preparations of tablets, capsules, lozenges, powdered bark that is used to make infusions, decoctions and extracts, and coarse powder for poultices.

For a poultice, mix the coarse powder with boiling water to make a paste.

Lozenges should be taken according to directions on the label.

Two (250 to 500 mg) capsules can be taken three times a day.

For an infusion, pour 2 cups of boiling water over 4 grams of powdered bark. Allow it to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Drink this infusion three times a day.

For a decoction, simmer one part powdered bark to eight parts water for an hour or longer. The drink will be mucilaginous in texture and can be taken as needed. It can also be added to oatmeal or juice.

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