Slippery Elm – Herbal Profile

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Slippery elm is an American deciduous tree found planted along streets and growing in forests. It grows to a height of 50 feet and more. Its stem is covered with dark brown, rough, furrowed outer bark; the inner bark is whitish, aromatic, and very mucilaginous (slippery). Its alternate, obovate-oblong leaves are doubly serrate, very rough on top, and downy underneath.

The small flowers grow in dense axillary clusters during March and April, giving way to papery, winged, yellowish-green, 1 seeded fruits, about 1/2 inch wide, without hairs on margins.

Family: Ulmaceae (Elm family)

Other Names: Red Elm, Indian Elm, Sweet Elm

Flowers: March – May

Parts Used: Inner bark

Habitat: Moist woods. Maine to Florida; Texas to North Dakota.

Constituents: Mucilage, polyuronides, starch, tannin.

Medicinal Properties:

Demulcent, diuretic, emollient.

Main Uses:

Slippery elm is both food and medicine. The inner bark is one of the best soothing remedies useful wherever there is inflammation. It lubricates and relieves gastro-intestinal irritation. It is good for diarrhea (for which it has also been prescribed as an enema) because it is also mildly astringent. The finely powdered bark makes a nourishing food, easily assimilated during convalescence. It can be flavored with a little cinnamon or nutmeg, and it makes a wholesome food for children.

Collection of the inner bark usually leads to destruction of the tree. Because of the worldwide demand for slippery elm, the fine powdered inner bark is in short supply and the coarser outer bark is substituted. This lacks the healing power of the inner bark.

Other Uses:

Internally it is helpful where inflammatory irritation exists, as in sore throat, diarrhea, dysentery, and many urinary problems. Externally it is applied as poultice to irritated and inflamed skin, wounds and boils. It has also been used to make rectal and vaginal suppositories, enemas, and a vaginal douche.

Preparation And Dosages:


Steep 2 oz or more of inner bark in 1 quart water for an hour or longer. Take 1 teaspoon every 30 minutes. Sweeten with honey or syrup if desired.Decoction: Add 1 heaping tablespoon inner bark to 1 pint boiling-hot water and let stand for 1 hour. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Then let stand for another hour, boil and simmer again.

NOTE: The slippery elm should be protected against widespread use of its bark. The bark cannot be used without disfiguring or killing a noble tree.

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Originally posted 2006-06-15 22:44:03.

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