Herb Library: Natural Herbs and Herbal Supplements Directory: Slippery Elm


Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm


This fact sheet provides basic information about Slippery Elm. The slippery elm tree is native to eastern Canada and eastern and central United States, where it is found most commonly in the Appalachian mountains. The trunk is reddish brown with gray-white bark on the branches. The bark is rough, with vertical ridges. The slippery elm can grow to 18 to 20 meters in height.

North American Indians and early settlers used the inner bark of the slippery elm not only to build canoes, shelter, and baskets, but as a poultice or as a soothing drink. Upon contact with water, the inner bark, collected in spring, yields a thick mucilage or demulcent that was used as an ointment or salve to treat urinary tract inflammation and was applied topically for cold sores and boils. A decoction of the leaves was used as a poultice to remove discoloration around blackened or bruised eyes. Surgeons during the American Revolution treated gun-shot wounds in this manner. Early settlers boiled bear fat with the bark to prevent rancidity. Late in the 19th century, a preparation of elm mucilage was officially recognized in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Common Names

Slippery Elm, Red Elm, Indian Elm, Moose Elm, Sweet Elm

Latin Names

Ulmus rubra

What It Is Used For

  • Slippery elm has been used as an emollient and in lozenges. It protects irritated skin and intestinal membranes in such conditions as gout, rheumatism, cold sores, wounds, abscesses, ulcers, and toothaches.

How It Is Used

Slippery elm inner bark has been used for treatment of ulcers at doses of 1.5 to 3 g/day. It is commonly decocted with ethyl alcohol. No formal clinical studies support this dosage.

What the Science Says

  • The FDA has declared slippery elm to be a safe and effective oral demulcent.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • Documented abortifacient effects. Avoid use.


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