Slippery Elm Bark: 5 Surprising Health Benefits

Medically Reviewed on 7/27/2022
Slippery Elm Bark
When it comes to elm bark, the inner bark has more medicinal properties compared with the outer bark.

Slippery elm or Ulmus rubra is a tree indigenous to central and eastern United States and Ontario, Canada. The inner bark of the tree has been used for various medicinal purposes. The bark feels slippery when chewed to relieve a sore throat.

5 health benefits of slippery elm bark

Several health benefits have been associated with slippery elm, but only a few advantages have been well studied.

Some surprising health benefits of slippery elm barks include:

  1. Sore throat: Slippery elm has demulcent properties and is thought to be beneficial in relieving a sore throat. Demulcent properties can be attributed to mucilage. Mucilage soothes a sore throat by forming a coating on the lining of the esophagus. Due to limited studies associated with this benefit, there have been doubts among experts. More studies are required to prove the effectiveness of this claim.
  2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Slippery elm has been considered an herbal remedy for treating occasional GERD. GERD refers to the backflow of acid to the esophagus, leading to irritation in its lining. The mucilage in slippery elm coats the esophageal lining, preventing irritation and inflammation caused by GERD. There have been mixed responses about taking slippery elm for digestive issues. However, some studies have reported promising results; more studies are reported. Apart from GERD, slippery elm has shown promising results in reducing symptoms of IBS.
  3. Urinary tract irritation: Slippery elm has been recommended for treating unexplained inflammation of the urinary tract commonly seen with interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome. It is known to soothe the lining of the urinary tract, thereby reducing the irritating symptoms. It has a mild diuretic property that may help increase the urine flow and eliminate waste from the body. More studies are required to study the benefit of slippery elm against urinary tract irritation.
  4. Wound healing: Balms and salves made from the bark of slippery elm may accelerate the wound healing process. It has been popular for treating injuries, burns, abrasions, and serious wounds. The healing properties of elm can be attributed to the nutrients, minerals, and antioxidant compounds.
  5. Diarrhea: Slippery elm has been used for relieving diarrhea. The fibrous tissue found in the bark helps bulk up the stool to get rid of diarrhea. Moreover, it reduces the transit time, thereby preventing diarrhea.

What is slippery elm used for?

When it comes to elm bark, the inner bark has more medicinal properties compared with the outer bark. Hence, it is commonly used for treating various ailments. Chemicals in the inner bark accelerate mucous secretion, which might be helpful for stomach and intestinal issues. 

The bark, when mixed with water, produces a sticky material known as mucilage. Mucilage forms a protective coating and provides a soothing effect.

Some of the common uses of slippery elm with little scientific evidence include:

Who should avoid taking slippery elm?

Slippery elm has been found safe in most people who take it orally. 

There is a lack of reliable information regarding the topical application of slippery elm.

However, the following people should avoid or practice caution in using slippery elm:

  • Those who have an allergic reaction to slippery elm
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Those who take it along with other medications (fear of interactions)
  • Children
  • Those who have an underlying health condition concerning the liver or kidney
  • Those who take other supplements or medications

Never take any supplements before consulting your physician.

How do I use slippery elm bark?

The inner bark is dried and powdered and is available in the following forms:

  • Coarse powder
  • For making a poultice
  • Lozenges
  • Tablets
  • Fine powder
  • For making teas and extracts

Always read labels or speak to your healthcare practitioner for the correct dose.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/27/2022
Image Source: iStock image