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Benefits of Slippery Elm - Teri Cochrane

Benefits of Slippery Elm

Slippery elm - a mainstay in American herbalism known for its near-universal application in health imbalances.

Slippery elm has historically been used to treat inflammatory conditions, lung diseases, and skin issues, and it is known for its soothing and healing properties. It can improve digestion, balance blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, promote the health of the gastrointestinal tract, and act as a prebiotic for beneficial gut bacteria. Slippery elm is often used in herbal detox programs and can help with a wide range of health issues such as coughs, sore throats, reflux, UTIs, diarrhea, constipation, and digestive upsets.

This tree is native to North America, and can grow to a height of over 50 feet. The outer bark is a distinctive red, brown and orange, while the inner bark has a fragrance like very mild allspice, and is used medicinally.

According to an article by Brett Elliot, 

"Historically, slippery elm bark has been appreciated for its demulcent properties, which are useful in the treatment of a wide range of inflammatory conditions including digestive, respiratory and urinary disorders.

Nineteenth century doctors and herbalists recommended slippery elm tea for the management of lung diseases such as pneumonia, consumption (tuberculosis) and pleurisy. Large doses of the herbal tea were even reputed to expel tapeworms - literally causing the parasite to slide out of the digestive tract!"

Slippery elm has also been widely used externally for skin diseases and wound healing. Over the centuries, skin ulcers, boils, abscesses, burns, and acne have been soothed with a wet, mucilaginous poultice of slippery elm bark. 

Modern day knowledge of slippery elm

Slippery elm inner bark contains bioflavonoids, calcium, mucilage, starch, tannins and vitamin E. With very high amounts of mucilage, slippery elm helps improve digestion and works with the body to draw out impurities and toxins, assisting with herbal detox. Slippery elm’s tonic, coating action soothes irritated tissues of the intestines, colon, urinary tract, respiratory tract and stomach.

Slippery elm barks mucilage is a type of soluble fibre. When combined with water it forms a thick and slippery gel. This demulcent, healing and soothing gel-like mucilage has many health benefits including:

  • Mucous membrane soother

Slippery elm mucilage works beneficially on all mucous membranes of the body via a reflex-demulcency action. Reflex demulcency is thought to exist due to messaging via the nervous system.

Here’s how reflex demulcency is thought to work:

When the developing body is an embryo there is a stage during which all the mucous membrane tracts of the body are not yet fully formed. We are talking about the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) the urinary tract (UT) and the respiratory tract (RT). They all start out as one long bendy tube and in the early weeks of gestation they continue to develop, becoming defined and separated…lungs and bronchial tubes, stomach and intestines, kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. After these membrane tracts are fully separated and defined there remains and grows an extensive network of nerves that fire messages to the brain. It is this connection between the tissues of the GIT, UT and RT that provide the effects of reflex demulcency in tandem with direct exposure via beneficial substances in blood circulation.

Simply put, this means that if a demulcent substance such as slippery elm is passed through the GIT, then the respiratory tract will also be beneficially affected, there by soothing a cough. Likewise the urinary system can experience an anti-inflammatory effect relayed via the GIT and substances passed through the bloodstream.

  • Blood sugar balancing

The mucilaginous soluble fibre in slippery elm plays a role in controlling blood sugar levels. Soluble fibre delays gastric emptying. This results in steadily slowing sugar absorption into the blood through the lining of the small intestine thus lowering the glycemic index of food, especially simple sugars. Soluble fibre also inhibits pancreatic enzymes which break down starches into simple sugars.

  • Cholesterol lowering

The soluble fibre in slippery elm also decreases blood fats and cholesterol. The mucilage forms complex compounds with bile acids in the small intestine and absorbs cholesterol.

The metabolites of soluble fibre decrease blood fats via the liver.

  • Vulnerary (healing)

The demulcent mucilage of slippery elm provides a protective, anti-inflammatory and healing coating to mucous membrane surfaces. It reduces inflammation and irritation.

  • SCFA’s, Colon cancer prevention and more

Fermentation of slippery elm’s high soluble fibre content produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) such as butyric acid or butyrate. Butyric acid is fuel for the cells of the large intestine making it an essential factor in creating healthy cells of the colon, maintaining cellular integrity and preventing colon cancer.

Other SCFA’s, propionic acid and acetic acid, are used for the liver and muscles and help to lower cholesterol.

  • Prebiotic

The soluble fibre of slippery elm acts as a prebiotic which feeds probiotics, the beneficial bacteria of the intestines. Through a natural fermentation process the soluble fibre is broken down, nourishing and encouraging proliferation of these necessary probiotic bacteria. In turn, these bacteria aid digestion and are vital to the immune system. They too play an important role in the production of SCFA’s, overwhelm pathogenic (disease-creating) microorganisms and produce chemicals necessary for the immune system to function correctly.

Medicinal uses for Slippery elm bark

Coughs and sore throats


Soothing UTI’s (urinary infections)

Both diarrhea and constipation:

Loose bowel: It swells to help make a more formed stool.

Constipation: It helps soften and bulk the stool.

Ideal for children’s digestive upsets, elderly, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

Improving the health of the gastrointestinal tract in general.

Slippery elm, psyllium, guar gum, kiwifruit and other herbs in Brett Elliott’s Ultimate Herbal Detox and Slim programs provide bountiful amounts of soluble fibre. This is one of the reasons why people report back to us that they are less hungry and have fewer cravings for the first time in years. It is also a contributing reason why immune system function is improved with better digestive function, better skin and better sense of wellbeing.

The 40 ingredients work together in your body to support, nourish and help repair or maintain digestive function and greater health.

Along with psyllium, slippery elm helps to give a sensation of fullness when ingested. It is used in herbal detox programs to help soothe the stomach and intestines as well as provide a healing calming and rejuvenating effect on the entire body.

Slippery elm makes the perfect complement to a total body cleanse or inner body detox program as it encourages membranes to heal and may help with the reduction and eventual healing of colitis, hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, chrons disease, celiac disease and stomach or peptic ulcers.

Slippery Elm bark is a gentle herb, well tolerated by almost anyone, and it provides a truly healing effect on many body tissues."

Thank you, Brett, for this excellent resource on an incredibly diverse herb! To read more about slippery elm, visit Brett Elliott at Ultimate Herbal Health. 

To The Tru Of You,

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