URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/978.html

Slippery Elm

What is it?

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.

Slippery elm is used for sore throat, constipation, stomach ulcers, skin disorders, and many other conditions. But there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

How effective is it?

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:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS).
  • Cancer.
  • Constipation.
  • Cough.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Colic.
  • Long-term swelling (inflammation) in the digestive tract (inflammatory bowel disease or IBD).
  • Sore throat.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of slippery elm for these uses.

How does it 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?

When taken by mouth: Slippery elm is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth appropriately.

When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if slippery elm is safe 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 interactions with medications?

Moderate
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.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

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.

Other names

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

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Zalapa JE, Brunet J, Guries RP. Isolation and characterization of microsatellite markers for red elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl.) and cross-species amplification with Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila L.). Mol Ecol Resour. 2008 Jan;8:109-12. View abstract.
  2. Monji AB, Zolfonoun E, Ahmadi SJ. Application of water extract of slippery elm tree leaves as a natural reagent for selective spectrophotometric determination of trace amounts of molybdenum(VI) in environmental water samples. Tox Environ Chem. 2009;91:1229-1235.
  3. Czarnecki D, Nixon R, Bekhor P, and et al. Delayed prolonged contact urticaria from the elm tree. Contact Dermatitis 1993;28:196-197.
  4. Zick, S. M., Sen, A., Feng, Y., Green, J., Olatunde, S., and Boon, H. Trial of Essiac to ascertain its effect in women with breast cancer (TEA-BC). J Altern Complement Med 2006;12:971-980. View abstract.
  5. Hawrelak, J. A. and Myers, S. P. Effects of two natural medicine formulations on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med 2010;16:1065-1071. View abstract.
  6. Pierce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: The Stonesong Press, 1999:19.
  7. Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press, 1999.
  8. Covington TR, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 11th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.
  9. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.
  10. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 1st ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, Inc., 1998.
  11. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
  12. The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999.
  13. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
  14. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994.
Last reviewed - 01/29/2021