Slippery Elm

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Ulmus rubra Muhl. Also known as U. fulva Michx. Family: Ulmaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Slippery elm,red elm,Indian elm, moose elm, sweet elm

Slippery elm ( Ulmus fulva ) has been used as an herbal remedy in North America for centuries. Native Americans used slippery elm in healing salves for wounds, boils, ulcers, burns, and skin inflammation.

Slippery elm is also one of four herbs included in a popular therapy called essiac that is promoted for cancer treatment. This remedy was developed by a nurse in Canada in the early 1930's. Later, the formula was expanded from its original inclusion of slippery elm, burdock root, sheep sorrel and Turkish rhubarb to also include red clover, water cress, blessed thistle, and kelp. Today, reports state that there are over 40 variations of these herbal combination remedies on the market, without scientific proof that any of them work.


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 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 had been recognized as an official product by the US Pharmacopoeia.

Botany :- The genus Ulmus contains 18 species of deciduous shrubs and trees.

The slippery elm tree is native to eastern Canada and eastern and central US, 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 ridging. The slippery elm can grow to 18 to 20 m in height.In the spring, dark brown floral buds appear and open into small, clustered flowers at the branch tips. White elm (U. americana) is a related species and is used in a similar manner.

Uses of Slippery Elm

  • Some people develop an allergic rash when slippery elm is applied to the skin; stop using (externally and internally) if this happens.
  • Aside from the risk of an allergic skin reaction, there are no side effects associated with the use of slippery elm at commonly recommended dosages.

Side Effects of Slippery Elm

Extracts from slippery elm have caused contact dermatitis, and the pollen has been reported to be allergenic. The FDA has declared slippery elm to be a safe and effective oral demulcent.


The dried inner bark in capsules or tablets, 800-1,000 mg three to four time per day, may be used. A tea can also be made by boiling 1/2-2 grams of the bark in 200 ml of water for ten to fifteen minutes, then cooled before drinking. Three to four cups a day can be used. Tincture, 5 ml three times per day, can be taken as well. Slippery elm is also an ingredient of some sore throat and cough lozenges.

The FDA has declared slippery elm to be a safe and effective oral demulcent.An oleoresin from several Ulmus species has been reported to cause contact dermatitis and the pollen is allergenic. Preparations of slippery elm had been used as abortifacients, a practice that has not remained popular. Generally, there are no known problems regarding toxicity of slippery elm or its constituents

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