slippery elm large Slippery elm

Slippery elm | Ulmus rubra/fulva

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include slippery elm, Ulmus fulva, Red elm, Indian elm, Moose elm.

The tree known as 'slippery elm' is a large deciduous tree in the Elm family (Ulmaceae), native to central and eastern United States. It can grow up to 65 feet tall though some have been measured at just under 100 feet tall.The common name of 'slippery elm' arises from the fact that when the inner bark was chewed by native americans to ease dehydration and hunger, they noticed it became slimy and slippery in the mouth. The inner bark is rich in mucilage and tannins and has a faint fenugreek like scent and a bland to mildly sweet taste and a slight maple syrup tinge to me.
It prefers to grow in damp or watery ground along streams or in watery meadows.
Native American uses include mixing it with fats to stop them from going rancid during storage.

Organic slippery elm powder is available to buy in our herbal shop.


harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The inner bark is the part used medicinally which should be obtained from a reputable source due to over-harvesting of wild trees. In the spring, the  tough outer bark is removed then the inner bark is peeled away. It is then dried and ground into a fine powder. The outer bark has very different properties, it's sale prohibited due to its ability to induce abortions and miscarriages.
The powdered inner bark is a very versatile medicine and can be taken as a tea, porridge like gruel, made into a poultice with the addition of a little water or oil and mixed with other healing herbs in poultices also.
Other species of Elm also have bark with medicinal properties, these include the English Elm (Ulmus procera), Common/field elm (Ulmus campestris), American elm (Ulmus americana), Ulmus wallichiana and Ulmus davidiana var. japonica Nakai.

Organic slippery elm powder is available to buy in our herbal shop.


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Slippery elm is one of the most soothing and healing herbal agents for any and every kind of mucosal or skin irritation I have ever encountered. It coats, soothes and heals membranes and has anti-inflammatory, immune stimulating and emollient or moisturising properties. The clinging  and coating mucilage protects damaged or irritated membranes and allows healing to take place uninterrupted thanks to its protective coating. It is rich in soluble fibre and has a decent nutritional content including vitamins C & E,  B vitamins, calcium, starches and sugars.


Native American uses include as an anti-bacterial and anti-viral, food preserver (fatty foods such as animal produce were wrapped in strips of inner bark to prevent spoiling), emergency food supply and freely shared their knowledge of its many uses with the European settlers.


It is good in dry, irritating coughs, whooping cough, sore throat (laryngitis, pharyngitis), tonsillitis and voice strain due to its lubricating reflex action on the mucous membranes of these structures and its anti-bacterial effects.

Lung conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and similar can also benefit from slippery elm due to its soothing anti-inflammatory actions.


Slippery elm powder is excellent for sore mouth or gums, mouth ulcers and blisters, pain from teeth grinding, teeth or gum abscess and cold sores. Dab some slippery elm powder (be generous with the amount) directly onto the sore gum, tooth or mouth part to experience rapid relief from discomfort and for the deep healing actions to take effect. It stays put really well and can be washed off after a few hours and replaced or left on overnight.


Slippery elms mucilage is rich in soluble fibres which forms a thick gel like paste when mixed with water. This jelly like paste heals and soothes everything it touches down the entire length of the alimentary canal. This makes it very appropriate for many kinds of stomach and digestive ailments such as diarrhoea, indigestion, irritable bowel, colitis, Crohns disease, gastritis and gastro-enteritis, peptic and duodenal ulcers, hiatus hernia, heartburn, acid reflux, GERD and oesophagitis (take a teaspoon in water after meals), dry constipation (where it adds gentle bulk and lubricates the bowels), diverticulitis and bowel and/or intestinal perforations. It also acts as a prebiotic which provides food for beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.

It is also good for absorbing toxins and removing them from the bowel (good for loose bowel conditions like food poisoning and other bacterial infections in the digestive tract) and has been used as to help expel worms.


All types of ulcer (gastric, peptic, mouth, venous etc) whether external or internal can be helped with slippery elm powder. Use as a paste and/or tea for internal ulcers and as a poultice for external ulcers.

I have used it on an infant born with multiple bowel perforations with amazing success, doses given both orally and as an enema. Repeated corrective surgeries had failed to repair the perforations and the bowel was in a very delicate state, slippery elm, comfrey and marshmallow root were used daily over several weeks and achieved complete healing.


Kidney, bladder and urinary tract soother and healer also, cystitis, kidney inflammation, pain from passing stones or gravel.

The reproductive organs can also benefit form slippery elm, cervical erosion, vaginitis and Bartholins gland cysts can be eased and cleared with slippery elm powder, use as an external hot poultice for cysts and as a douche in vaginitis and cervical erosion. Active herpes sores can be soothed and treated also.


Slippery elm powder makes an excellent remedy for all types of wound healing, sore or cracked nipples, fissures and fistulas, burns, abscess and cysts (has good drawing powers to gently ease poisons to the surface, allowing them to be expelled). As well as protecting and coating the wound, it will actively promote tissue healing. Useful poultice for gangrene and on wounds that are showing signs of blood poisoning. Sprinkle powder between the toes in athletes foot, other fungal infections or with corns to keep the skin dry yet moisturised and prevent cracking and bleeding.

Acne, psoriasis and other skin conditions can benefit from internal doses of slippery elm.


Midwives have given the tea or gruel to mothers in labour to help facilitate an easy passage through the birth canal.


Slippery elm powdered inner bark makes an excellent external poultice ingredient, either alone or combined with other herbs. Its mucilaginous nature makes it excellent for adding to other herbs to make them stick to the skin better. It also has drawing properties and will pull pus and impurities from wounds. Mix with water and the paste will harden when dry (good to form a scab over a wound for instance) or mix with oil and the paste will stay moist, pliable and flexible (good for wounds on joints or places that move frequently).


Slippery elm powder can also be mixed with milk or water to make a nutritious 'porridge' and used as a food for babies and children, those convalescing from illness and anyone with a 'weak' stomach. Its rich concentration of carbohydrates and other nutrients such as soluble fibre, calcium, vitamin E, bioflavanoids etc. make it an ideal food when little else is tolerated.


Due to its ability to cleanse the bowels and draw toxins, it can be a useful component in a detox regime.


Slippery elm is a component of several herbal preparations aimed at treating cancer, such as essiac.  has some great photographs and details of use.


Another excellent article on all things elm related including healing actions can be found here



dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

Slippery elm powdered inner bark is considered a very safe almost food like herb.

* May reduce the absorption of other medications.


Tincture: up to 5ml in water up to 3 times daily. I have never seen slippery elm tincture however!

Dried powdered herb as a tea: 1 teaspoon per cup, up to 3 times daily. Take just before or just after meals for digestive benefits.

The powder is versatile and can be made into lozenges with the addition of a little honey, added to other foods (oatmeal porridge, stewed apples etc) or mixed with warm water or milk to make a nutritious and healing edible gruel, add to other powdered herbs or herbal teas to make into a paste for poultices, sprinkle the powder directly onto grazes, wounds, ulcers etc or taken in capsule form (along with a large glass of water).


Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.

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