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Complementary and Alternative Medicine - Cam

Search Health Information    Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm

Uses

Botanical names:
Ulmus fulva, Ulmus rubra

Parts Used & Where Grown

The slippery elm tree is native to North America, where it still grows primarily. The inner bark of the tree is the main part used for medicinal preparations.

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Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Common Cold and Sore Throat
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Herbs high in mucilage, such as slippery elm , mallow (Malvia sylvestris), and marshmallow , are often helpful for symptomatic relief of coughs and irritated throats. Mullein has expectorant and demulcent properties, which accounts for this herb’s historical use as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion. Coltsfoot is another herb with high mucilage content that has been used historically to soothe sore throats. However, it is high in pyrrolizidine alkaloids—constituents that may damage the liver over time. It is best to either avoid coltsfoot or look for products that are free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

1 Star
Cough
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The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot , catnip , comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound , elecampane , mullein , lobelia , hyssop , licorice , mallow , (Malvia sylvestris), red clover , ivy leaf , pennyroyal  (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion , (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.

1 Star
Crohn’s Disease
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Doctors sometimes use a combination of herbs to soothe inflammation throughout the digestive tract. One formula contains marshmallow , slippery elm , cranesbill , and several other herbs.2 Marshmallow and slippery elm are mucilaginous plants that help soothe inflamed tissues. Cranesbill is an astringent. Clinical trials using this combination have not been conducted.

1 Star
Diarrhea
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Herbs high in mucilage, such as marshmallow or slippery elm , may help reduce the irritation to the walls of the intestinal tract that can occur with diarrhea. A usual amount taken is 1,000 mg of marshmallow extract, capsules, or tablets three times per day. Marshmallow may also be taken as a tincture in the amount of 5–15 ml three times daily.
1 Star
Gastritis
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Demulcent herbs, such as marshmallow , slippery elm , and bladderwrack , are high in mucilage. Mucilage might be advantageous for people with gastritis because its slippery nature soothes irritated mucus membranes of the digestive tract. Marshmallow is used for mild inflammation of the gastric mucosa.3

1 Star
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
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Other herbs traditionally used to treat reflux and heartburn include digestive demulcents (soothing agents) such as aloe vera , slippery elm , bladderwrack , and marshmallow .4 None of these have been scientifically evaluated for effectiveness in GERD. However, a drug known as Gaviscon, containing magnesium carbonate (as an antacid) and alginic acid derived from bladderwrack, has been shown helpful for heartburn in a double-blind trial.5 It is not clear whether whole bladderwrack would be as useful as its alginic acid component.

1 Star
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
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Demulcents herbs may be used to treat indigestion and heartburn. These herbs seem to work by decreasing inflammation and forming a physical barrier against stomach acid or other abdominal irritants. Examples of demulcent herbs include ginger , licorice , and slippery elm .

The mucilage content in slippery elm appears to act as a barrier against the damaging effects of acid on the esophagus in people with heartburn. It may also have an anti-inflammatory effect locally in the stomach and intestines. Two or more tablets or capsules (typically 400–500 mg each) may be taken three to four times per day. Alternatively, a tea is made by boiling 1/2–2 grams of the bark in 200 ml of water for 10 to 15 minutes, which is then cooled before drinking; three to four cups a day can be used. Tincture (5 ml three times per day) may also be taken but is believed to be less helpful. Marshmallow and bladderwrack may be used the same way as slippery elm.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Native Americans found innumerable medicinal and other uses for this tree. Canoes, baskets, and other household goods were made from the tree and its bark. Slippery elm was also used internally for conditions such as sore throats and diarrhea .1 As a poultice, it was considered a remedy for many inflammatory skin conditions.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Ulmus fulva, Ulmus rubra

How It Works

The mucilage of slippery elm, found in the inner bark, gives it the soothing effect for which it is known.6 In people with heartburn , the mucilage appears to act as a barrier against the damaging effects of acid on the esophagus. It may also have an anti-inflammatory effect locally in the stomach and intestines. This soothing effect may also extend to the throat. Clinical research, verifying these effects in humans has not been conducted.

How to Use It

The dried inner bark in capsules or tablets, 800–1,000 mg three to four time per day, may be used. A tea can also be made by boiling 1/2–2 grams of the bark in 200 ml of water for ten to fifteen minutes, then cooled before drinking. Three to four cups a day can be used.7 Tincture, 5 ml three times per day, can be taken as well. Slippery elm is also an ingredient of some sore throat and cough lozenges.

Interactions

Botanical names:
Ulmus fulva, Ulmus rubra

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Ulmus fulva, Ulmus rubra

Side Effects

At the time of writing, there were no well-known side effects caused by this supplement.

References

1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 495–6.

2. Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. London: Churchill Livingstone, 1999, 1335–49.

3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 167.

4. Golan R. Optimal Wellness. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, 373–4.

5. Chevrel B. A comparative crossover study on the treatment of heartburn and epigastric pain: Liquid Gaviscon and a magnesium-aluminum antacid gel. J Int Med Res 1980;8:300–3.

6. Wren RC, Williamson EM, Evans FJ. Potter’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex, UK: CW Daniel Company, 1988, 252.

7. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 88–9.

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