What is Slippery Elm?

Heartburn? Sore Throat? Tummy Troubles? Ever heard of Slippery Elm?

Why this inexpensive herb is a useful addition to your medicine cabinet.

This spring my husband came down with a cold that came with a cough and an intensely sore throat. He tried several lozenges and teas with minimal improvement. In an effort to assist I uncovered the powdered Slippery Elm in the back of my medicine cabinet. Voila – so much relief! He was so happy with it I knew I needed to write a Slippery Elm article as it is a herb that I find useful for many common problems.

Slippery Elm, also known as Ulmus rubra or Ulmus fulva in Latin, is a member of the Elm family. Its inner bark is used for medicinal purposes and when combined with water it takes on a thick slippery consistency. In herbal medicine it is known as a demulcent, which means its properties can soothe and protect damaged or inflamed tissue.

The soothing effect is nice on the throat as well as further down digestive tract. It's a remedy I often suggest for symptoms of heartburn/reflux (while we work on the deeper underlying cause). I might also suggest it to help soothe an ulcer or quiet inflammation from the throat to the stomach and to the intestines.

Traditionally, it has been used to help both diarrhea and constipation and it was used as a nourishing food to be eaten during convalescence as it is mild and easily assimilated. There is also some research that supports its use to encourage the growth of good bacteria in our large intestine.

As mentioned previously, it can quiet a cough and soothe a sore throat. It may also be used to soothe a urinary tract infection but it would not be an appropriate treatment for that condition on its own.

How to Use Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm comes in powder form, or as capsules or lozenges. I like most to use the powder (available in bulk at Lifestyle Markets) and create a kind of a thick tea or “gruel” that can be sipped. It has a very mild, slightly sweet flavour. Here is the recipe that I use for adults, which came to me from a lecture by Dr. Mona Morstein, ND, an American naturopathic doctor.

Mix 1.5 tsp of slippery elm powder with 1/4 cup cold water. Once it turns to a paste, add 1 cup of hot water and mix. Drink this as it cools.

Safety consideration:

Slippery Elm could slow the absorption of drugs taken orally so taking it with other medications is not advisable.

*This article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the advice of your naturopathic doctor.

Dr. Alexis Blanks is a naturopathic doctor. She is co-owner of Flourish Naturopathic at Moss Healthcare. She would be happy to see you in her office to help you better understand your health and take it to the next level. Learn more at FlourishND.com

Dr. Alexis Blanks, ND