Slippery Elm

Scientific Name/Common Name: Ulmus rubra / Slippery Elm

Part(s) Used: Powdered bark

Constituents/Active Ingredients: The bark contains a complex mixture of polysaccharides including pentoses, methyl-pentoses, and hexoses that form a soothing gelatinous fiber or mucilage. The bark also contains high concentrations of antioxidants including beta-sitosterol, traces of beta-carotene, and flavonoids including proanthocyanidins.

Overview: Slippery elm inner bark is very rich in mucilage, a complex mixture of polysaccharides that form a soothing gelatinous fiber when water is added. The pleasant tasting high fiber ‘gruel’ or porridge made by adding water to the bark was traditionally used as both a food and a medicine by First Nations peoples, and later by European colonists. The mucilage was traditionally used internally for soothing sore throats and tonsillitis, coughs, dryness of the lungs, and digestive upsets, and externally for healing wounds and other skin inflammations. Slippery elm tree and root bark were also used as folk remedies for treating many serious degenerative diseases. The bark is particularly recommended for soothing gastric diseases. The viscous fiber has several beneficial effects on digestion: 1) it reduces bowel transit time; 2) it absorbs toxins from the bowel; 3) it increases fecal bulk and dilutes stool materials thereby reducing stool contact with the intestinal mucosa; and 4) it enhances beneficial bacteria in the gut and provides an excellent substrate for bacterial fermentation. The bark has noted anti-inflammatory activity and because the mucilage resists hydrolysis and digestion by stomachs acids and enzymes, it therefore maintains its soothing action throughout the entire digestive system.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: As a nutritious gruel during illness when other foods aren’t kept down; to soothe inflamed or irritated mucous membranes; to promote bowel regularity; for cough and sore throat.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Beveridge RJ, Stoddart JF, Szarek WA, and Jones JKN. 1969. Some Structural features of the mucilage from the bark of Ulmus fulva (Slippery elm mucilage). Carbohydr Res 9: 429-439.

Duke JA. 1985d. Ulmus rubra Muhl. (Ulmaceae). In Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 495-496.

 

Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.