Elm is a tree native to some parts of Canada and the United States.  This tree is also known as Ulmus rubra. 

Elm tree grows to a height of about 60-80 feet. Its bark is dark brown or reddish-brown. It has long been used for various medicinal purposes. Its inner slimy bark from its twigs and branches is used to treat common illnesses such as fever and wounds.

The slippery bark is mixed with water to form a sticky substance called mucilage. Mucilage was used by American natives to preserve meat. They also believed it had a therapeutic and soothing touch that calmed many. Later, during the war, the American soldiers discovered their ability to heal wounds. Today, the slippery elm is used to treat various conditions such as:

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections are very common among women. This disease is characterized by a burning sensation during urination and traces of blood in the urine. It is commonly treated using antibiotics. However, the slippery elm tree has been used over a long period to treat this illness. It is also used to treat painful bladder syndrome. Herbalists used slippery elm powder which is believed to soothe the lining of the urinary tract hence elevating pain and burning. The powder is a diuretic leading to increased urination that might wash the bacteria out of the urinary system. However, there is a need for more research to support this finding.

Inflammatory bowel syndrome

Inflammatory bowel disease or syndrome is a disorder that causes serious inflammation in the intestines. This condition is characterized by diarrhea, stomach pains, and gas retention in the stomach. The condition is commonly treated by surgery. Luckily, slippery elm tree bark is capable of soothing the stomach’s lining hence reducing irritation. 

A study showed that taking a mixture of elm powder with water facilitated bowel movements in patients suffering from chronic constipation. This ability is linked to the antioxidants found in the elm tree.

Sore throat and mild coughs

Coughs and sore throats are very common during the cold weather season. Slippery elm bark can be used to treat these conditions. Slippery bark is mixed with water to form a substance known as mucilage. The sticky mucilage coats the throat soothing the soreness. It is also believed that slippery elm is antitussive easily treating conditions such as asthma and coughs.

A study showed that patients with mild-moderate coughs improved within three days of treatment with elm mucilage. However, there is a need for more research to support this claim.


Heartburns also known as acid reflux are very common. However, sometimes they may interfere with one’s daily activities. If not treated, the condition may develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease which occurs when stomach acid flows back into the gullet irritating its lining.

The slippery mucilage has soothing effects on such irritation. It coats the stomach lining preventing further inflammation and irritation. However, those suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease should seek advice from a doctor before taking the slippery elm.

Stress and anxiety

Slippery elm contains plants compounds called phenolic. These compounds are known to relieve mental and physical health. Boosting mental health aids in reducing stress and anxiety.

Breast cancer

Slippery elm is combined with other herbs such as burdock root, Indian rhubarb, and sheep sorrel to treat breast cancer. This combination of herbs provides the body with antioxidants that fight cancer cells. A study showed that women who were administered with these herbs benefited in various ways such as reduced pain. However, there is a need for more research on how elm assists in the treatment of breast cancer.

How safe is slippery elm bark?

Slippery elm bark products are sold over the counter to treat less serious conditions such as colds, coughs, and sore throats. It is generally safe for use by people with no underlying conditions. However, it has been found that taking slippery elm bark products together with other medicines might reduce the effectiveness of those medicines. Therefore, one should take slippery elm products two hours after taking any other medicine to ensure there are no interactions.

Excessive intake of elm bark products may also cause severe nausea. There is also some possibility of developing liver damage with prolonged use of slippery elm bark.

Slippery elm might cause an allergic reaction while applied to the skin. However, this might not affect everyone.

Slippery elm is not safe when used in pregnancy especially when inserted through the cervix. It might cause miscarriage.

There is no reliable information on its safety during breastfeeding. To be on the safe side, breastfeeding mothers should avoid it.

Directions on use

Slippery elm bark is found in different forms. You can find it locally in tablets, fine powder, coarse powder, or lozenges.

You can use it to make elm powder tea by adding two tablespoons to two cups of boiling water. In case you want to use this product on the skin, prepare the poultice by adding two spoons of course powder in hot water. Apply the solution to the affected area. You can also find this product on supplements. However, ensure you read the instructions carefully on how to use the product.


Slippery elm bark has been used over a long period to treat different conditions such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, stress, breast cancer, heartburns, coughs, and sore throat. Its products can be found in the market in the form of tablets, lozenges, fine powder, and coarse powder. Its powder can be taken in warm water to treat coughs and sore throat.

Slippery elm products may interfere with other drugs’ efficiency, therefore, one should take the product two hours before or two hours after taking any medicine. Irresponsible use of slippery elm ark can cause miscarriage hence should not be used in pregnancy. Lactating mothers should also avoid elm bark as there is no reliable information on the effects it would have on their unborn babies. 

Ksenia Sobchak

Ksenia Sobchak, BA (Hons) Fashion Communication: Fashion Journalism, Central Saint Martins Ksenia Sobchak enjoys blogging on fashion, style, lifestyle, love and CBD areas. Prior to becoming a blogger, Ksenia worked for a renowned fashion brand. Ksenia is a contributing author to leading fashion, lifestyle and CBD magazines and blogs. You can bump into Ksenia at her favourite cafe in South Kensington where she has written most blogs. Ksenia is a staunch advocate of CBD and its benefits to people. Ksenia is also on the panel of CBD reviewers at CBD Life Mag and Chill Hempire. Her favourite form of CBD are CBD gummies and CBD tinctures. Ksenia is a regular contributor at leading fashion, lifestyle as well as CBD magazines and blogs.