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What is slippery elm?
Slippery elm is a small-to medium-sized tree native to North
America. It can reach a height of more than 65 feet, with
reddish-brown branches that grow downward and long, green
leaves that darken in color.
The tree's outer bark has a gummy feel and a slight (but
distinctive) odor. The inner bark contains a form of mucilage
composed of various minerals and compounds, which gives the
tree its healing properties.
Why do we need slippery elm? What is it used for?
Mucilage contained in the inner bark of slippery elm contains
hexoses, pentoses, methylpentoses, polyuronides and hexosans.
It also contains tannins, starch, minerals, phytoesterols,
sesquiterpenes, calcium oxalate and cholesterol.
Traditionally, slippery elm has been used as a skin softener
and cough medicine. It is used externally to treat wounds,
burns and other skin conditions, as well as vaginitis and
hemorrhoids. Powdered forms can be taken internally for gastritis,
duodenal ulcers, colitis, diarrhea, and oral inflammations.
Scientific studies have found slippery elm to be effective
in treating sore throats and coughs so much so, in
fact, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proclaimed
slippery elm a safe and effective remedy for soothing throat
and respiratory infections.
How much slippery elm should I take?
Two to four capsules (500 milligrams) of powdered slippery
elm bark are recommended, depending on the condition. For
external conditions, health practitioners recommend coarse
powdered bark be mixed with boiling water to use as a poultice.
Make sure adequate mucilage is obtained for consistency and
What forms of slippery elm are available?
Some stores sell whole pieces of inner bark, usually two
to three feet long and 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch in thickness,
for commercial preparations. Slippery elm is also available
in a finely powdered form for drinks and a coarsely powdered
form for poultices.
What can happen if I take too much
slippery elm? Are there any interactions I should be aware
of? What precautions should I take?
There are no known side-effects or health hazards for slippery
elm when it is properly administered in the recommended doses.
No adverse interactions with other substances have been reported.
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
Beveridge RJ, Stoddart JP, Szarek
WA, Jones JK. Some structural features of the mucilage from
the bark of ulmus fulva. Carbohydr Res 1969;9:429-439.
Blakeley T. Slippery elm: comparative
study of the effects of plant spacing on plant development
and yield. Research Farm Proposal No. 6088. Collaborating
Team. The National Center for the Preservation of Medicinal
Herbs. Project period 1998-2008. Available at www.ncmph.org/6088.html.
Grieve M. A Modern Herbal,
vol. II. New York: Dover, 1971.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke
C. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical
Morton JF. Mucilaginous plants
and their uses in medicine. Biol Pharm Bull 1993;16:735-739.