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Properties of Slippery Elm


Slippery elm (ulmus fulva) is a tree that originated in North America where its inner bark has been used by Native Americans for centuries as treatment for a wide range of illnesses. The inner bark of the slippery elm is currently used as an ingredient in lung medications and is widely recommended as a topical treatment of skin diseases.

Slippery elm’s principal ingredient, mucilage---is a long chain of sugars that becomes ‘slippery’ when it is mixed with water and is the reason behind its common name. This slippery texture is said to be the reason behind slippery elm's successful use as a digestive aid.

Nutritional information

Slippery elm contains mucilage, complex carbohydrates, tannins, calcium, Vitamin-E, oxalate, flavonoids, salicylic acid, caprylic acid and other compounds that contribute to its therapeutic value.

Its mineral and vitamin content makes it an ideal for soothing, healing and strengthening mucous membranes, as well as strengthening organs and tissue.

Properties and Uses

When taken orally, mucilage in slippery elm coats the mouth, oesophagus and gastrointestinal tract with a slick residue that can soothe sore throats, stomach ulcers, diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions and other gastrointestinal problems. The antioxidants found in slippery elm are also helpful in relieving inflammatory bowel conditions. As a topical application, slippery elm can be used to relieve minor skin injuries such as burns, cold sores, razor burns, scrapes and sunburn.



Slippery elm acts as an expectorant to ease cough, chest congestion and provide relief from bronchitis and asthma.


Slippery elm also contains tannins which have astringent effects to help tighten and constrict tissue. As such, it is used to treat weeping lesions, bleeding, open wounds, and abscesses.


Demulcent properties refer to the soothing, softening, buffering and poison-drawing qualities of slippery elm. As such, it can be used to help neutralize stomach acids, boost the adrenal glands, draw out impurities and heal all parts of the body. It is also being used as a natural ingredient in herbal colon cleansing programs.

Other uses

Slippery elm can be used to treat a wide range of disease including:

  • colitis
  • constipation
  • diaper rash
  • gastroesophogeal reflux diseases (GERD)
  • Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis


In low dosages, slippery elm is non toxic. While slippery elm has not been associated with any serious side effects and is considered to be generally safe even for children for as long as it is administered in recommended doses. However, due to lack of scientific studies on its possible toxic effects, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to avoid slippery elm. Furthermore, the mucilage found in slippery elm that coats your stomach and intestine may slow down the absorption of other drugs or substances that you may be taking.

It is still best to consult your health professional for the proper dosage and method of taking slippery elm.

Slippery elm may be taken orally or used as a salve. Its inner bark is the main ingredient of teabags, loose bark, tablets, capsules, lozenges, fine and coarse powdered bark. The coarse powdered bark may be dissolved in a small amount of water and applied as a poultice over open wounds, lesions and other skin infections.



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