Slippery Elm – What is it & How to use

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.


Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for SLIPPERY ELM are as follows:

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…

  • Cancer. Early research suggests that a specific product containing burdock root, Indian rhubarb, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm bark (Essiac, Resperin Canada Limited) does not improve quality of life in breast cancer patients.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing slippery elm bark, lactulose, oat bran, and licorice root can increase bowel movements and reduce stomach pain and bloating in people with IBS that is characterized by constipation. A different combination product containing slippery elm bark, bilberry, cinnamon, and agrimony can reduce stomach pain, bloating, and gas in people with IBS that is characterized by diarrhea. The effects of taking slippery elm bark alone are not clear.
  • Bladder infection.
  • Burns and wounds.
  • Coughs.
  • Colic.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Gout.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Herpes.
  • Rheumatism.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Syphilis.
  • Tapeworm.
  • Toothache.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Other conditions.

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


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.

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.

Interaction with medication

Be cautious with this combination.
Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs)
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.

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