Slippery Elm

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What other names is Slippery Elm known by?

Indian Elm, Moose Elm, Olmo Americano, Orme, Orme Gras, Orme Rouge, Orme Roux, Red Elm, Sweet Elm, Ulmus fulva, Ulmus rubra.

What is Slippery Elm?

Slippery elm is a tree that is native to eastern Canada and the eastern and central United States. Its name refers to the slippery feeling of the inner bark when it is chewed or mixed with water. The inner bark (not the whole bark) is used as medicine.

People take slippery elm by mouth for coughs, sore throat, colic, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bladder and urinary tract infections and inflammation, syphilis, herpes, and for expelling tapeworms. It is also used for protecting against stomach and duodenal ulcers, for colitis, diverticulitis, gastrointestinal inflammation, and too much stomach acid. Slippery elm is also taken by mouth to cause an abortion and for cancer.

Slippery elm is applied to the skin for wounds, burns, gout, rheumatism, cold sores, boils, abscesses, ulcers, toothaches, sore throat, and as a lubricant to ease labor.

In manufacturing, slippery elm is used in some baby foods and adult nutritionals, and in some oral lozenges used for soothing throat pain.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Sore throat. Slippery elm seems to soothe sore throats. Commercial lozenges containing slippery elm are preferred to the native herb when used for this condition. The lozenges prolong the pain-killing effect.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of slippery elm for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Slippery Elm work?

Slippery elm contains chemicals that can help soothe sore throats. It can also cause mucous secretion which might be helpful for stomach and intestinal problems.

Are there safety concerns?

Slippery elm is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth appropriately. There is insufficient reliable information available about the safety of slippery elm when applied to the skin. In some people, slippery elm can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation when applied to the skin.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Folklore says that slippery elm bark can cause a miscarriage when it is inserted into the cervix of a pregnant woman. Over the years, slippery elm got the reputation of being capable of causing an abortion even when taken by mouth. However, there's no reliable information to confirm this claim. Nevertheless, stay on the safe side and don't take slippery elm if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Slippery elm contains a type of soft fiber called mucilage. Mucilage can decrease how much medicine the body absorbs. Taking slippery elm at the same time you take medications by mouth can decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To prevent this interaction, take slippery elm at least one hour after medications you take by mouth.

Dosing considerations for Slippery Elm.

The appropriate dose of slippery elm depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for slippery elm. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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