Health Benefits and Uses of Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

Slippery elm bark is an herb that has a somewhat slimy consistency (probably where it gets the slippery in its name from) when harvested from the bark of the slippery elm tree. The herb is easy to digest and is used as a natural remedy for many complaints. For most commercial purposes, slippery elm is typically sold in a powder form (either coarse or fine).

Slippery Elm Benefits

Below are some of the ways in which this handy herb can be used.

1. Soothing Properties

Because it can successfully coat and soothe inflamed mucous membranes, slippery elm is used to treat inflammation and pain in the throat and digestive tract primarily. It has been utilized to treat irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, ulcers, heartburn, and hemorrhoids, and is especially soothing to those suffering from coughs, a sore throat, or even bronchitis. Make a tea out of slippery elm powder for quick relief.

2. Wound Treatment

The inner bark of the slippery elm can be turned into an effective treatment or many cuts, wounds, and bites. Prepare a healing salve with the inner membranes of the bark to treat burns, boils, lacerations, inflamed skin, and more. You can also apply some to dry, itchy skin for a quick remedy, and some have found an application of slippery elm to be effective in treating psoriasis.

3. Digestive Health

Related to its soothing properties mentioned above, slippery elm can also treat urinary tract infections, cystitis, and diseases of the bowels. Consuming slippery elm may also help eradicate toxins and even bugs (like tapeworms) from the body.

4. Tooth Pain

Slippery elm has been used for years to treat and cure toothaches. Apply a pinch of the powder to the affected tooth, and the herb can treat and prevent decay, thus reducing or eliminating the pain.

5. May Help Treat Cancer

Slippery elm is a key ingredient in a natural cancer remedy called Essiac. It is believed to contribute to this combination of herbs in a unique way that allows your body to fight cell mutations and growth in the body.

6. Overall Body Cleanse

Ingesting slippery elm will help remove toxins from the body and clear out the adrenal glands, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal system.

7. Healthy Hair

Because of the “slimy” nature of slippery elm, it works well as a natural conditioner to coat, soothe, and protect hair follicles from damage. Look for a shampoo or conditioner in your natural food store that incorporates slippery elm, or add a dollop to your regular conditioner for shinier, healthier locks.

Clearly, slippery elm has more uses and benefits than you may have thought originally. Slippery elm is most often drank as a tea, or combined into other food sources, such as oatmeal.

How to Use Slippery Elm

Available in the form of lozenges, capsules, and tincture, slipperyeElm is an inner bark that is finely ground into a powder that is made into soothing teas, as well as a bark that is more coarsely ground that is used to make poultices. Slippery elm may be combined with wild cherry bark, sweetgum leaves, and mullein to make a cough syrup that is quite effective.

When slippery elm is mixed with water and consumed, it acts to relieve heartburn and indigestion. When mixed with glycerin, it can be applied to skin problems such as cuts and burns, or can be used to simply make hands feel supple and soft. It is supposed to be very beneficial to those with bronchitis because it provides comfort to the upper body.

To make slippery elm tea, fill a teapot with about 12 ounces of water, and bring to a boil. Next, add 2 tablespoons of slippery elm bark powder or 5 tablespoons of slippery elm bark to a mug and pour the boiling water over it. Allow to steep for 3-4 minutes. Stir with a spoon and then allow it to steep for another 1-2 minutes. Let it cool to a comfortable point, and drink.

Make sure you work with a trained herbalist to find the right dosage and application method for your desired uses.


There are not any known interactions between slippery elm and other medicines, but patients should not consume any other medicine 2 hours before or after taking slippery elm, as it has the potential to slow down the rate of absorption of medications, decreasing their effectiveness.

Image credit: Flickr


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