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Slippery Elm

Botanical Name:Ulmus fulva 

Common Uses:Constipation, Acid Reflux, Mucosal Irritation, Laryngitis

Slippery elm is an herbal medicine sourced from the inner bark of the slippery elm tree and is known for its slimy texture when mixed with water. 

Traditional Use: 

The slippery elm tree is native to eastern North America and its inner bark was commonly used by Native Americans as a healing remedy. When hydrated, slippery elm takes on a distinctly viscous and mucilaginous consistency. This textural property of slippery elm gives rise to its soothing and lubricating effects. Traditionally, slippery elm has been used to treat gastrointestinal inflammation, constipation, edema, upper respiratory conditions, and to soothe a sore throat.  

Research Overview: 

Scientific findings have validated the anecdotal evidence regarding the medicinal benefits of slippery elm. Mucilage, a form of soluble fiber, is the most abundant and therapeutically relevant biochemical component of slippery elm. When mucilage is combined with water it forms a gelatinous and slippery material. Pharmacological research has found that substances with this particular gel-like texture may coat mucous membranes, alleviating inflammation and irritation in the body. 

Research suggests that the mucilage in slippery elm is particularly effective at treating gastrointestinal issues. One study including 31 IBS patients has documented the tremendous potential of slippery elm to alleviate symptoms of specifically, patients experiencing constipation-associated IBS. The results of this study found a 20% increase in bowel movement frequency, as well as improvements in stool consistency, and significant reductions in straining, abdominal pain, and bloating, 

Another study conducted in vitro on colorectal biopsies from patients with active ulcerative colitis has revealed the antioxidant effects of slippery elm. This study compared six various herbs and found slippery elm to have the most powerful antioxidant properties. These results suggest the potential efficacy for slippery elm to treat a vast range of chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions. 

Interesting Fact: Native Americans used to chew slippery elm bark in order to relieve dehydration and hunger. 


Christopher R Watts, Bernard rousseau. "Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation." American Journal of Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology 1.1 (2012), 17-23. 

Hawrelak, Jason A., et al. “Effects of Two Natural Medicine Formulations on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Pilot Study.” Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers, 18 Oct. 2010. 

Langmead, L., et al. “Antioxidant Effects of Herbal Therapies Used by Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: an in Vitro Study.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 18 Jan. 2002.

Shoshana Markel

Shoshana Markel

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