Health Benefits of Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm is a perennial tree native to the central and eastern United States and Ontario, Canada, and can reach a height of 60-80 feet. They can live up to 200 years. Slippery Elm is also called Red Elm or Indian Elm. Native Americans used the inner bark for its soothing effect on the digestive tract and to heal wounds. Today, Herbalists use Slippery Elm for its mucilaginous and nutritive properties, for a sore throat, and for soothing the mucous membranes lining the stomach and intestines. The inner bark is the only part used for therapeutic purposes. When it is moistened, the gummy mucilaginous substance surrounding its fibers swell, producing a soothing softening remedy.  This gooey ingredient is very similar to Flaxseed. Slippery Elm is known by Herbalists for its soothing effect on whatever part of your body it comes into contact with. Slippery Elm has also been used during times of stress. Given that our mental health is largely tied to our digestive system, it is no surprise that Slippery Elm’s gut-soothing effects can help reduce anxiety and relieve stress. If you’re one of the many people who hold stress in their stomachs, then Slippery Elm may allow you to relax and let go.

Growing Slippery Elm Tree
In early spring of 2005, I decided to plant a Slippery Elm tree in my backyard, here in the higher elevation of Utah. Although this tree is not native to Utah, I felt compelled to plant this beautiful and shade providing tree, because the population of Slippery Elm trees is dwindling due to Dutch Elm disease, as well as being over-harvested for the herbal industry. When you plant endangered species, such as the Slippery Elm tree, you help preserve these graceful trees in your herb garden. I ordered my Slippery Elm tree (Ulmus rubra) from Crimson-Sage Nursery, a small business that sells organic medicinal plants for herb gardeners. The one-foot-tall tree arrived by UPS in tip-top condition. I planted this little tree right away in a partially shady spot in my garden and watered it every day for the first year. Today, my Slippery Elm tree stands proudly next to my herb garden, about 15 feet tall, giving shade to some of the herbs.

 Top 4 Uses For Slippery Elm

Here are some of the ways I have used Slippery Elm in the past for myself and my family:

Slippery Elm Tea with Cinnamon Sticks and Slippery Elm Leaves

Slippery Elm Tea

Slippery Elm bark has demulcent properties. This means that it is capable of soothing the lining of the stomach and intestines and reducing irritation and inflammation. Demulcents are sometimes referred to as mucoprotective agents, soothing to the whole digestive system, including the mouth and throat. Slippery Elm is also very nutritious. If at times I don’t feel hungry, but still want something to tie me over to the next meal, I like to enjoy a nice warm cup of Slippery Elm tea with a little maple syrup and nutmeg.

How To Make Slippery Elm Tea
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of finely cut Slippery Elm bark. Let it steep for about 20 minutes, and strain. You may want to add some lemon juice, maple syrup or honey for taste.

Slippery Elm Powder

Slippery Elm Gruel with Vegetable Broth

The quickest and easiest way to take Slippery Elm is in powder form. Mix one tablespoon of Slippery Elm with a glass of water, broth or juice, and drink before a meal, to calm and soothe irritations in the digestive tract.  Powders can be made into capsules if someone does not like the gooey texture.

If you like oatmeal you may also like Slippery Elm made into a gruel.

How To Make Slippery Elm Gruel
Mix 2 tablespoons Slippery Elm powder in 2 cups of cold water, and let this stand for about 30 minutes. Heat mixture for 5 minutes, gently stirring to prevent clumping. Let cool, and add sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, and any spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or apple spice blend.

For external use, Slippery Elm powder can be made into a paste to apply to the skin as a drawing agent, for boils, pimples, splinters or other foreign objects. A facial mask made with this gooey herb can leave a dehydrated skin glowing and plumped up for days.

Slippery Elm Throat Lozenges

Making Slippery Elm Lozenges with Honey

My favorite Slippery Elm lozenges are made by Thayer, a company who has been providing delicious tasting lozenges to soothe a sore throat & mouth, since 1847. Lozenges are delicious tasting and have been used by Herbalists for coughs, and symptoms of other upper respiratory ailments, such as bronchitis, asthma, laryngitis, as well as problems with the voice. People have also opted for lozenges instead of tea for symptoms of inflammation in the digestive system.

Rolling Slippery Elm into Lozenges

How To Make Slippery Elm Lozenges
With just 3 ingredients you can make your own Slippery Elm Lozenges. Of course you could add additional ingredients to soothe a dry and sore throat, or to ease a dry cough. It’s easy and fun to do, especially with kids.

  • 1/2 cup water or herbal tea
  • 1/2 cup of Slippery Elm powder
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey or maple syrup

Pour the water or tea into a bowl. Add enough Slippery Elm powder to make an easy workable paste. Roll into small balls, and lay on a parchment paper. Sprinkle with a little Slippery Elm powder, and let the lozenges dry for a few days, until they are totally dry. Now you can store them in a jar, I prefer glass.

Slippery Elm Compress For A Rash

Slippery Elm Compress with towel, bandage and aloe juice

Have you ever had a rash? It is the most irritating experience, especially when accompanied with itchiness. You reach a point when it drives you crazy. I experienced such a rash a few years ago and I tried everything, aloe vera, baking soda, varied salves, homeopathic remedies, even over the counter antihistamines. Eventually, my daughter Ashley came up with this miracle compress, Slippery Elm tea, aloe vera, and ice water. She soaked a cloth in this concoction and placed it on my rash. The relief was immediate. The itching went away, so did the burning, and a calmness came over me. I fell asleep with my compress still on. When I woke up the next day, my skin was still a little red, but all the itchiness and burning sensation were totally gone. Slippery Elm did not only soothe the rash, but also had a calming influence on my nervous system.

Fun Facts

During the days when our forefathers moved to the West, they often found themselves without food. Fortunately, they were able to survive by eating a gruel made from the inner bark of Slippery Elm. The fresh inner bark is highly nutritious.

American soldiers applied compresses of Slippery Elm to heal gunshot wounds during the American Revolution.

Caution: Slippery Elm is a mucilage rich herb, which could potentially decrease the absorption of pharmaceuticals. To be safe, take Slippery Elm at least one hour after taking another medication by mouth. As with all dietary supplements, consult your healthcare practitioner before use. Always drink plenty of water when taking Slippery Elm.

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