Health – Slippery Elm

Superior Demulcent

Dr. John R. Christopher, founder of The School of Natural Healing, classed Slippery Elm among the demulcent and emollient herbs, soothing substances with much mucilage that soothe tissues and help remove inflammation and mucous wherever they are used. Slippery Elm is particularly useful because its abundant mucilage soothes, disperses inflammation, draws out impurities, heals rapidly and greatly strengthens as it heals. It is especially good for irritated or inflamed surfaces. One of the foremost uses of the herb is for internal irritation, especially of the digestive tract.

Slippery Elm is usually retained and digested when no other food or liquid is tolerated. It normalizes bowel functions very quickly, either stopping diarrhea or helping bring about a bowel movement. It is one of the mildest of laxatives and can be taken by anyone, children or pregnant women alike, as it is absolutely harmless. If the mucous membrane of the stomach or intestines is irritated, Slippery Elm will speedily restore it to its proper function.

Many preparations of Slippery Elm are sold on the market as bland and nutritious foods. In some cases, the powdered bark is added to a base of barley malt and pre-cooked wheat flour. The malted barley helps convert cereal starches into digestible carbohydrates.

Because coughs are often associated with digestive disruption, particularly of the eliminative tract, Slippery Elm is wonderful in the correcting of coughs. It soothes the mucous membranes directly. Many people make lozenges of the herb, mixing it with maple syrup or honey until a stiff paste forms, and then chilling it until quite firm and then cutting it into pieces. It is a harmless confection to give children and will help roll down the mucous out of the system as it soothes the cough. It also reduces the inflammation of the surfaces.

Slippery Elm has often been used for external problems. Mixed with an herb tea appropriate to an external problem, it provides an excellent herbal poultice bandage for external use, put onto a clean linen or cotton bandage and bound upon the place. Dr. Christopher said it is excellent when applied to sores, wounds, gangrene, burns, tumors and infected areas.

He also says that for abscesses and boils and gangrenous wounds, nothing can surpass it used either with a mixture of Wormwood or very fine charcoal. Slippery Elm bark will also preserve fatty substances from becoming rancid. If a hollow tooth aches and it is not possible to see a dentist, a pinch of slippery elm powder will ease the pain and arrest decay temporarily, although it is in no sense a drug.

The powdered bark is often recommended for so many problems that it is hard to enumerate them all. In addition to what has been mentioned, it has been used for croup, pneumonia, internal ulcers, skin eruptions of many kinds, poison ivy, and tumors.

The doctrine of signatures (a doctrine that states that, by observation, one can determine from the color of the flowers or roots, the shape of the leaves, the place of growing, or other signatures, what the plant’s purpose was in God’s plan) states that the mucilaginous nature of the bark makes it good to treat all catarrhal (inflammation of the mucous membranes, especially the respiratory tract) disturbances and irritations of the bronchial and alimentary systems. It is especially indicated in cough remedies to facilitate the removal of phlegm. It is good to facilitate any kind of removal from the system, as some doctors say that an expectant mother should drink about a half pint of the tea in the last couple of months to facilitate the easy removal of the baby from her body.

Historical Uses

This herb has been used for bedsores, dehydration and malnutrition, vaginal problems, rectal problems, wounds, burns, gangrene, fevers, diarrhea, inflamed eyes, ulcers, swelling, consumption, rheumatism, dysentery, toothache, boils and carbuncles, sore throat, bleeding of lungs, chapped hands and face, nourishment for the sickly, poison ivy, broken bones, appendicitis, whooping cough, leprosy, suppressed urine, dropsy, hard tumors, bladder inflammation, to procure easy labor, to accelerate healing, as a laxative, to neutralize stomach acid, to absorb foul gases, for coughs, chest troubles, tuberculosis, the great white plague, dyspnea, urinary tract problems, hemorrhoids, baldness, sciatica, as a lubricant in labor, to provoke abortion, purulent opthalmia, chilblains, croup, pneumonia, calculi, burning urine, all catarrhal disturbances, bronchitis, and to remove phlegm.


Slippery Elm Delight can be made by mixing a handful of agar-agar in about 3 cups of water, heating until melted. Add 2 tablespoons of Slippery Elm powder, 4 tablespoons of Chia seeds, 4 tablespoons of flax seeds, 1 mashed ripe banana, a handful of raisins, cinnamon (or substitute) and carob powder (to taste). Mix together well and let gel into a pudding in the refrigerator. This should tone up sluggish intestines.

In Ten Talents, (Rosalie Hurd, B.S., Frank J. Hurd, D.C., M.D., College Press, Collegedale, Tennessee, 2008), a superior vegan cookbook, it is suggested that Slippery Elm be added to ice cream recipes for smoothness and creaminess. Here is one of the excellent recipes:

In a blender, blend till smooth:

1 cup cashews

3 cups water

1 tsp. Slippery Elm powder

½ cup raw honey

1–2 Tbsp. soy milk powder

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

When smooth, add slowly 1/3 cup coconut or soy oil. Blend well and freeze. Whip again and return to freezer. Serve before it gets too hard. Carob powder or fresh fruit may be added.

You can make a healthy confection that is also good for the bowels by grinding dried fruits and nuts together, sweetening with honey and adding Slippery Elm to help bind it. Roll into balls and coat with equal amounts of carob powder and Slippery Elm mixture. Refrigerate if desired. This is delicious and a great substitute for other candies.

The inner bark, which has had the outer bark carefully scraped off, is the part commonly used. Most people do not grow Slippery Elm for their home use, as the ten-year-old trees are considered minimally mature for use. Elm trees do not flourish everywhere and grow only in certain parts of the United States of America. Large quantities of the bark are collected in spring from the bole and larger branches of trees, especially in the lower part of the state of Michigan, and are then dried. As the wood has no commercial value, the tree is fully stripped, consequently killing the whole tree. This is considered a shame, and it is wondered whether wild collectors might take less of each tree (usually the large roots can be collected) and preserve the tree above, as a small amount taken from each tree might not kill the entire specimen. The bark is allowed to air dry before packaging. Slippery Elm is very inexpensive and retains its quality well in storage.

Chemical Compositions

The principal constituent of the bark is the mucilage which is very similar to that found in flaxseed. Starch, calcium oxalate and acid sodium phosphate are also present.

Excerpts of this article are from, October 2010.