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Slippery Elm Herb - Uses And Side Effects

Other Names : American elm, Indian elm, moose elm, red elm, and sweet elm.

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Slippery elm is the inner bark of a tree in the elm family, formerly known as U. fulva, native from Maine through the St. Lawrence valley, west to the Dakotas, south to Texas, and east to Florida. The bark is harvested from wild trees; the rough outer bark is removed and the inner bark retained.

Description of the herb Slippery Elm

The usual height of the slippery elm is from 40 to 50 feet, with a trunk about 2 1/2 feet in diameter. In open woods and fields it is spreading and irregular in growth, but in dense woods it grows tall and straight, branching some distance from the ground. The bark is very rough, even the small branches are rough, and the twigs are furnished with rough hairs. The rather large leaves, which are from 4 to 8 inches long, are supported by short, downy stalks. The small, bell-shaped flowers appear in dense clusters in early spring, before the leaves, and are followed by flattened and circular winged fruits. Each fruit consists of a single seed surrounded by a thin, winged margin, which aids its dispersion by the wind.

Common doses of Slippery Elm

Slippery elm comes as:

  • powdered bark
  • liquid extract (1: 1 in 60% alcohol).
Some experts recommend the following doses for digestive discomfort:
  • As powdered bark, 4 to 16 milliliters of a 1: 8 decoction taken orally three times daily, or 4 grams of herb in 500 milliliters of boiling water taken orally three times daily.
  • As liquid extract, 5 milliliters taken orally three times daily.
For topical use, some experts recommend the following dose:
  • As a skin emollient, make a poultice of coarse powdered bark in boiling water.

Uses of Slippery Elm herb

The popularity of slippery elm bark has endured, no doubt, because it works so well for coating and soothing irritated or inflamed mucous membranes. This is the work of an ingredient in the inner bark called mucilage, a gummy, gel-like substance that when ingested forms a protective layer along the throat, digestive tract, and other areas. Astringent compounds in the herb called tannins help tighten and constrict the tissue.

For the same reasons, salves and ointments containing slippery elm have long been popular for coating well-cleaned minor wounds and burns to protect them from further injury. Specifically, slippery elm may help to:

  • Cough
  • Bronchitis
  • Digestive ailments
  • Sore throat
  • Skin irritation

Side effects of Slippery Elm

Call your health care practitioner if you experience unusual symptoms when using slippery elm. Whole bark preparations of slippery elm may increase the risk of miscarnage.

Are there any interactions?

Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Tell your health care practitioner about any prescription or nonprescription drugs you're taking.

Important points to remember

  • Don't use slippery elm if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Avoid this herb if you've ever had an allergic reaction to it or its components.
  • Don't use whole-bark slippery elm preparations because no evidence shows that they're effective.

What the research shows

No clinical data support the use of slippery elm. Until convincing evidence is available, medical experts say you're better off using proven therapies instead of this herb.


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