Botanical names: Ulmus rubra, Ulmus
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
The slippery elm tree is native to North America, where it still grows primarily. The inner
bark of the tree is the main part used for medicinal preparations.
Slippery elm has been used
in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Native Americans found innumerable medicinal and other uses for this tree. Canoes, baskets,
and other household goods were made from the tree and its bark. Slippery elm was also used
internally for conditions such as sore throats
and diarrhea.1 As a poultice, it
was considered a remedy for many inflammatory skin conditions.
The mucilage of slippery elm, found in the inner bark, gives it the soothing effect for
which it is known.2 In people with
heartburn, the mucilage appears to act as a barrier against the damaging effects of acid
on the esophagus. It may also have an anti-inflammatory effect locally in the stomach and
intestines. This soothing effect may also extend to the throat. Clinical research, verifying
these effects in humans has not been conducted.
How much is usually taken?
The dried inner bark in capsules or tablets, 800–1,000 mg three to four time per day,
may be used. A tea can also be made by boiling 1/2–2 grams of the bark in 200 ml of
water for ten to fifteen minutes, then cooled before drinking. Three to four cups a day can be
used.3 Tincture, 5 ml three times per day, can be taken as well. Slippery elm is
also an ingredient of some sore throat and cough lozenges.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Slippery elm is quite safe. There are no known reasons to avoid its use during pregnancy or breast feeding. However, because it is so
mucilaginous, it may interfere with the absorption of medicine taken at the same time.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
with slippery elm.
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC
Press, 1985, 495–6.
2. Wren RC, Williamson EM, Evans FJ. Potter’s New Cyclopedia of
Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex, UK: CW Daniel Company, 1988, 252.
3. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave
Press, 1996, 88–9.