Slippery Elm Bark

Slippery Elm Bark

Slippery elm, or Ulmus rubra, is a tree native to the central and eastern United States and Ontario, Canada.

The tree is known for its dark brown to reddish brown bark and can reach a height of 60-80 feet. Native Americans would peel its slimy, red inner bark from twigs and branches and use it as a remedy for many common ailments, like fevers, wounds, and sore throats.

They found that when the bark is mixed with water, it generates a sticky material known as mucilage, which is therapeutic and soothing to anything it touches. The Native Americans would also wrap the inner bark of the slippery elm around their meat to keep the meat from going bad.

Slippery elm bark was later picked up by American soldiers to heal gunshot wounds during the American Revolution.

The inner bark is the only part used for therapeutic purposes.

Slippery elm can be used to soothe a number of symptoms including Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Slippery elm bark is a demulcent. This means that it is capable of soothing the lining of the stomach and intestines and reducing irritation. Demulcents are sometimes referred to as mucoprotective agents.

Recent studies have shown that slippery elm bark can help treat the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Slippery elm has been shown to have an antioxidant effect in people with Crohn’s disease.

Slippery elm is believed to be an antitussive, meaning it’s great for coughs and for symptoms of other upper respiratory ailments like bronchitis or asthma.

Peer Reviewed Research

  1. Cooley, J., & Van Sambeek, J. (n.d.). Slippery elm
  2. Grieve, M. (n.d.). Elm, Slippery
  3. Hawrelak, J. A., & Myers, S. P. (2010, October). Effects of two natural medicine formulations on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a pilot study [Abstract]. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(10), 1065-71
  4. Kemper, K. (1999, September). Slippery elm
  5. Langmead, L., Dawson, C., Hawkins, C., Banna, N., Loo, S., & Rampton, D. S. (2002, February). Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Alimentary Pharmacology Therapeutics, 16(2), 197-205
  6. Luchterhand, C. (2012, March). An Integrative Approach to GERD. (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
  7. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 31). GERD: Alternative Medicines
  8. Slippery elm. (2001, January)
  9. Slippery elm. (n.d.)
  10. Slippery elm. (2014, February 11)
  11. Slippery elm. (2015, December 4)
  12. Slippery elm. (2006, May 30)
  13. Ulmus Rubra. (n.d.)
  14. Watts, C. R., & Rousseau, B. (2012) Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation. Journal of Investigational Biochemistry, 1(1), 17-23


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