Slippery Elm Benefits: Natural Healing Power

| Modified on Nov 26, 2023
Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm has been a revered natural remedy in North America, cherished by herbalists and those seeking natural healing for centuries. This versatile herb, derived from a spreading tree native to the continent, has become a staple in the world of natural remedies, known for its effectiveness in treating a variety of ailments.

What Is Slippery Elm?

Slippery Elm is a notable herb, distinguished by its unique, gummy-textured bark that carries a faint, natural odor. The inner bark of this tree is the key component used for medicinal purposes. It is carefully harvested, then dried and ground into a fine powder. This powdered form is the foundation for various Slippery Elm products.

The versatility of Slippery Elm is evident in the range of forms it takes for therapeutic use. It is available as capsules and tablets for those seeking a convenient, measured dose. Lozenges are a popular choice for direct throat relief, while teas made from powdered bark offer a soothing, ingestible form. For topical applications, the powder creates poultices that can be applied directly to the skin.

Historical Uses of Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm, known scientifically as Ulmus rubra, has a rich history rooted in traditional medicine, particularly among Native American tribes. Its legacy as a healing agent spans several centuries, reflecting its enduring significance in herbal medicine.

Native American Heritage: Slippery Elm's use as a medicinal herb was first documented among various Native American tribes. They recognized its healing properties and utilized it extensively for both internal and external ailments. The inner bark was their primary focus, valued for its soothing and healing capabilities.

  • Wound and Burn Treatment: Native Americans used Slippery Elm as a poultice for treating wounds, burns, and skin inflammations. The mucilaginous substance in the bark provided relief and expedited the healing process.
  • Digestive Aid: They also consumed Slippery Elm internally to soothe digestive issues. It was particularly used for relieving stomach aches, indigestion, and other gastrointestinal problems.
  • Sore Throat Remedy: The bark was used in teas and decoctions to treat sore throats, coughs, and respiratory ailments, capitalizing on its soothing mucilage.

Early American Settlers: As European settlers arrived and began to integrate with Native American cultures, they adopted the use of Slippery Elm. It quickly became a staple in their herbal medicine cabinets.

  • Survival Food: During periods of food scarcity, such as the winter months or times of war, Slippery Elm bark was used as a survival food. Its nutritional value and ease of digestion made it a practical choice.
  • Civil War Medicine: Notably, during the American Civil War, Slippery Elm was used as a medicinal agent by soldiers. It served as a soothing agent for injuries and a nutrient-rich food source.

19th Century Medicine: In the 19th century, Slippery Elm was officially recognized in the United States pharmacopeia. It was prescribed for various conditions, including respiratory and urinary issues, reflecting its broadening acceptance in Western medicine.

Health Benefits of Slippery Elm

  1. Soothing Coughs and Sore Throats: The mucilage in Slippery Elm bark coats and calms the throat, making it an effective remedy for coughs and sore throats.
  2. Alleviating Stomach Ailments: Its antioxidant properties make it beneficial for various stomach issues, including diarrhea, by reducing inflammation. It helps in preventing ulcers, reducing stomach acid, and is beneficial for GERD, Crohn's disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  3. Improving Digestive Health: Slippery Elm is known to soothe the digestive tract, making it useful in treating conditions like gastritis and heartburn. Its mucilaginous content offers a protective layer to the digestive lining, aiding in smoother digestion.
  4. Detoxifying the Body: The herb assists in detoxifying the internal system, potentially helping in the removal of waste and toxins, thereby promoting overall health.
  5. Supporting Respiratory Health: It can also be beneficial in treating respiratory conditions, providing relief from symptoms associated with bronchitis and asthma.
  6. Boosting Heart Health: Some studies suggest that Slippery Elm may have properties that can help lower cholesterol levels, thereby contributing to heart health.
  7. Boosts Immune System: Slippery elm contains antioxidants which may help bolster the immune system. This can be particularly beneficial in warding off common colds and other infections.
  8. Improves Hydration: The mucilage in slippery elm can aid in hydration, which is crucial for maintaining healthy bodily functions, especially for those who might struggle with adequate fluid intake.
  9. Soothes Urinary Tract Infections: Its soothing properties may extend to the urinary tract, helping to ease the discomfort associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  10. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels: Some evidence suggests that slippery elm might help in stabilizing blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those prone to blood sugar spikes.
  11. Aids in Recovery from Gastrointestinal Surgery: Due to its soothing effect on the digestive tract, slippery elm can be a useful supplement for those recovering from gastrointestinal surgeries, easing discomfort and promoting healing.
  12. Reduces Acid Reflux Symptoms: The mucilage can also form a barrier in the esophagus, helping to reduce irritation caused by acid reflux.
  13. Promotes Healthy Hair and Scalp: When used topically, slippery elm can be beneficial for the health of the scalp and hair, potentially aiding in the reduction of dandruff and promoting hair growth.
  14. Assists in Detoxification Processes: Slippery elm may support the body's natural detoxification pathways, aiding in the removal of toxins and contributing to overall health and wellness.
  15. Supports Healthy Sleep Patterns: Due to its calming effects on the body, slippery elm might play a role in promoting better sleep, particularly for those with sleep disturbances.
  16. Enhances Respiratory Health in Cold Weather: Its soothing properties can be particularly beneficial in colder climates, where respiratory issues are more prevalent, providing relief from the dryness and irritation caused by cold air.

Addressing Dryness with Slippery Elm

Soothing Dry Skin

Slippery elm is known for its moisturizing properties, which can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from dry skin. The mucilage, a gel-like substance it produces, can act as a natural emollient, helping to hydrate and soothe dry, irritated skin.

Alleviating Dry Throat and Cough

One of the traditional uses of slippery elm is in treating dry coughs and sore throats. When consumed as a tea or lozenge, the mucilage coats and soothes the throat, providing relief from dryness and irritation that often accompanies coughs and colds.

Relieving Dryness in Digestive Tract

For individuals experiencing dryness in the digestive system, often manifesting as constipation or a sense of overall discomfort, slippery elm can be a natural remedy. Its lubricating properties help to moisten the digestive tract, easing bowel movements and reducing gastrointestinal dryness.

Hydrating Dry Scalp

Applied topically, slippery elm can also address issues of dryness in the scalp. Its hydrating properties may help reduce scalp dryness and flakiness, often seen in conditions like dandruff.

Benefits for Dry Eyes

While not a primary use, some anecdotal evidence suggests that slippery elm's anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties might offer some relief for dry eyes, although direct application is not advised.

Helping with Vaginal Dryness

Slippery elm may also be beneficial in addressing vaginal dryness, a common issue among women, especially during menopause. Its mucilaginous properties can provide natural lubrication, enhancing comfort.


Slippery Elm should be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Spotting Fake Slippery Elm

Ensuring the authenticity of your herbs is crucial for both safety and efficacy. Slippery Elm, a highly sought-after herb for its numerous health benefits, is no exception. Unfortunately, due to its popularity, there have been reported instances where counterfeit or adulterated products are sold as genuine Slippery Elm. Knowing how to identify authentic Slippery Elm is key to obtaining the full range of its healing properties.

  1. Examine the Appearance and Texture: Authentic Slippery Elm bark powder has a very fine consistency and is typically a light brown or beige color. It should feel slightly gritty but fine to the touch. If the powder seems overly coarse or has an inconsistent coloration, it could be a sign of adulteration.
  2. Assess the Smell and Taste: Genuine Slippery Elm has a mild, slightly sweet smell and taste. If the product has a strong, unpleasant odor or tastes bitter or very different from what is expected, it may not be authentic.
  3. Check the Packaging and Branding: Purchase your Slippery Elm from reputable sources and brands. Check the packaging for any signs of tampering or mislabeling. Authentic products often have seals of certification or quality assurance marks.
  4. Look for Certifications: Authentic Slippery Elm products may come with certifications from organizations that verify the quality and purity of herbal products. Look for marks from groups like the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Non-GMO Project, or similar organizations.
  5. Understand the Source: Research the brand or manufacturer to ensure they are sourcing their Slippery Elm responsibly and ethically. Many reputable companies will provide information about where and how their herbs are sourced.
  6. Beware of Unrealistic Claims: Be wary of products that make extravagant health claims. Genuine Slippery Elm is a powerful herb, but it is not a miracle cure-all. Over-the-top promises might be a sign of a less-than-reputable product.
  7. Consult with Healthcare Professionals: If in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional or a knowledgeable herbalist. They can often provide guidance on where to source authentic Slippery Elm and how to identify genuine products.


In summary, Slippery Elm is a multi-purpose natural remedy with a rich history in traditional medicine. Its broad range of benefits for both internal and external ailments makes it a valuable addition to natural health practices. If you've used Slippery Elm or are considering its use, we encourage you to share your experiences and explore further the healing properties of this exceptional herb.

Continue reading below to learn how Earth Clinic readers have used Slippery Elm.

Related Links:

Slippery Elm for Dogs: Natural Digestive and Skin Relief
Slippery Elm Poultice: Natural Skin & Pain Relief

Acid Reflux

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Gena (Westport, Ct) on 12/09/2014

I have acid reflux and find that taking 4 capsules of slippery elm settles my stomach and makes the acid reflux disappear. I highly recommend it for anyone who suffers from Gerd or Acid Reflux! It's a wonderful old timer's remedy!

Bowel and Intestine Issues, Thins Mucus

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Joanne (UK) on 08/05/2019

Slippery elm for leaking intestines. Because Slippery Elm coats the stomach and intestines, it improves absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. It also removes mucus. I take it whenever I have congestion from a cold. Highly recommend.

Constipation and Bowel Problems

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Michael (New Zealand) on 01/28/2022

Hello there!

A good friend of mine has had bowel problems and constipation for years and has tried "everything" with limited success - 'tis an on-going malady to be sure and causes a Tonne of grief and tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth.

One thing she never seems to take on board though, is the crucial need to drink more water than she does (especially in the summer) no matter how many times I suggest it to her. Stubborn? You could say that! Some people are just plain difficult to help.

However, after having played around with Slippery Elm for ages and ages (with moderate improvement) she made the simple switch to taking it last thing at night and it has made a profound difference to her "movements" the following morning. Follow the packet directions. Ensure you only use quality products.,

As you surely know by now, I am always searching for simple and sustainable solutions to the health problems life throws at us. Often times, folks prefer the complicated and expensive ones, thinking they must be more effective. I am a fully paid up member of the KISS Society.

Cheers from Down Under.

Replied by Bobbie

Hi Michael,

How does she take the slippery elm? And how much? Thank you.

Sore Throat, Coughs, Trouble Breathing

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Colleen (Brooklyn Park, Mn) on 12/27/2014

I have been using Slippery Elm for sore throats, coughing and trouble breathing. When I get a cold and the coughing starts I take it 2 or three pills a day and within 10 minutes the coughing subsides. Slippery Elm is wonderful. I am now going to try it for an upset tummy. I hope it helps!

Stomach Ache

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Garry (Mo.) on 07/17/2015

When my belly is not right I heat a cup water, add 1 tsp. slippery elm, 1 tsp. burdock powder. sweeten with honey. My belly loves me for it.

Ulcers or Pre-Ulcers

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Mysti (Usa) on 11/09/2015 2 posts

Slippery Elm Bark powder was recommended for my husband's pre-ulcer condition by an MD & pioneer in holistic health many years ago. My husband was prescribed tagamet but it did not relieve his distress. After 2 weeks of taking it, he was still curled up in pain, unable to sleep, to walk or work.

This holistic MD said to warm some milk (or alternative like rice or almond milk) and then put it in a blender with some honey and sprinkle a tablespoon or so of slippery elm in through the top while pulsing the blender. It makes a very mild tasting (rather like maple) warm 'milk shake.' We were told to give him the slippery elm shake after every meal. In 2 days, my husband was up walking around, without any symptoms! It was truly a miracle.

Even though he went back to smoking and drinking coffee with sugar, whenever his stomach would kick up, we would make this slippery elm shake for him and his pre-ulcer symptoms never returned. This was 30 years ago. I use slippery elm now for my own intestinal distress and highly recommend this way of fixing it - it is very tasty, soothing and even the kids will like it.

Slippery elm not only stops the symptoms, it cleanses and heals the mucous membranes of the body according to research I've done. Thus, it is also very good for bronchial colds and those with asthma or other breathing problems.

Hope this helps others who want to avoid serious consequences of gut and lung problems.
Have a blessed day. :)