The Benefits of Slippery Elm

What Should I Know About It?

slippery elm bark
Slippery elm bark. Steve Gorton/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Long used as an herbal remedy by Native Americans, slippery elm is sourced from the inner bark of a tree that grows primarily in the eastern region of North America. Slippery elm contains mucilage, a gel-like substance thought to soothe irritated or inflamed skin or tissue.


Although slippery elm has an extensive history of use in folk-medicine treatments and healing salves, few studies have explored the extract's effects. Here are three ways that slippery elm might enhance your health.

1) Heartburn

In people who suffer from heartburn, the acidic contents of the stomach tend to flow back into the esophagus and damage the delicate esophageal lining. By coating the esophagus with mucilage, slippery elm (taken in tea or lozenge form) may help lessen heartburn pain.

Find out about other heartburn remedies.

2) Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Slippery elm may be helpful in healing inflammatory bowel diseases (such as ulcerative colitis), suggests a study published in 2002. The herb is thought to help ease inflammation.

3) Sore Throat

Up until 1960, slippery elm was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia (a compendium of drug standards) and considered a standard treatment for sore-throat pain. For a natural sore-throat solution, try sucking on slippery elm lozenges. As with heartburn, the mucilage found in slippery elm may help alleviate your ache.

Slippery Elm Tea

You can find slippery elm in teas formulated to relieve sore throat or create your own tea by steeping about two tablespoons of powdered slippery elm bark in two cups of hot water for three to five minutes. The powdered bark along with slippery elm lozenges, supplements, and tinctures can be found in many health-food stores.

Side Effects

While slippery elm seems to cause no considerable adverse effects, it may interfere with the absorption of some medications.

It should also be noted that despite common health claims, slippery elm is not advised for the treatment for serious chronic conditions like cancer and bronchitis.

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Article Sources
  • Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton DS. "Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study." Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2002 16(2):197-205.