11 Slippery Elm Health Benefits + A Tea Recipe

What Is Slippery Elm?

Slippery elm, scientifically known as Ulmus rubra and commonly referred to as Red Elm or Indian Elm, is a native North American tree. It can live for up to 200 years and is mainly found growing in northern Florida, westward to eastern Texas, southeast North Dakota, and even parts of Canada.

The slippery elm tree thrives in moist soil and can reach up to 50 feet in height. Its most distinctive feature is its “slippery,” gummy-textured inner bark, which has a sweet, almost maple-like smell.

This inner bark has medicinal properties and is commonly dried and powdered for use in teas and natural supplements. (1) Native Americans began using the bark of the Red Elm tree as a remedy in the 19th century, likely to help with digestion.

What makes slippery elm a standout in this arena is the substance it contains known as mucilage. When mixed with water, the mucilage forms a thick gel that coats the throat and the intestinal lining, making it a perfect remedy for symptoms of chronic gastrointestinal problems such as leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Slippery elm can also be helpful for colds that cause a sore throat because it eases throat pain. It is also full of bioflavonoids, starch, tannins, calcium, and vitamin E, each with its own useful properties.

The use of slippery elm as a complementary herbal remedy extends to various digestive health issues and is a key ingredient in Gut Feelings, an herbal supplement duo I personally designed to support the brain-gut connection effectively.

13 Impressive Benefits

Slippery elm is known for its versatility in treating so many health issues. Here are 13 benefits of incorporating this powerful herb into your wellness routine:

1. Respiratory Problems

Thanks to its mucilage content that soothes and coats the throat, slippery elm is a widely used ingredient in cough drops and lozenges meant to relieve throat pain. It can also be used as an antitussive to suppress coughing and ease symptoms of laryngitis, asthma, and other upper respiratory problems.

2. Digestive Issues

Slippery elm is a known demulcent (meaning it forms a protective film that reduces irritation) due to its mucilage content and ability to reduce inflammation in the gut.

It can ease symptoms of digestive problems like IBS and stimulate nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract to increase mucous secretion. This increase may also help protect against stomach ulcers.

Plus, since it’s high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, slippery elm is considered a prebiotic and producer of beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). In other words, it can help support a healthy microbiome by giving beneficial microbes their favorite food — and we all know how important that is.

Its high fiber content also makes slippery elm a great natural laxative. So, if you’re going to add this to your wellness routine and aren’t dealing with constipation, keep it in moderation!

Read Next: Causes Of Leaky Gut

3. Psoriasis

A preliminary study has shown that supplementing with slippery elm benefits the rashes and scaly dry patches caused by psoriasis. (2)

In one small-scale investigation, researchers followed 5 people with psoriasis who improved their diets and drank slippery elm bark water daily. Every patient showed significant improvement in their symptoms afterward.

4. De-Stressor

The phenolic compounds in slippery elm can protect against the effects of stress. (3) Research has shown that adding slippery elm and other high-phenolic herbs to the diet is a great way to relieve both stress and anxiety.

LISTEN: The Rising Anxiety Epidemic + How To Calm Your Mind With Food | Dr. Uma Naidoo

5. Heartburn, Acid Reflux, And GERD

Heartburn, acid reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can occur when stomach acid creeps back up into the esophagus. Slippery elm mucilage coats the esophagus and eases symptoms by protecting it from stomach acid.

When using slippery elm for GERD, acid reflux, or heartburn, it is best to take it right after meals. Mixing 1-2 tablespoons of slippery elm powder in a glass of water or tea after meals and before bed (up to a total of three times throughout the day) can help manage these conditions.

Make sure not to use too much powder in proportion to liquid – if there is too much powder, you may have trouble ingesting it. You can also add some honey or sweetener to make it taste a little better.

6. Wound And Burn Healing

Due to its high mineral and antioxidant content, slippery elm is perfect for salves and other topical remedies for treating burns and other wounds. Its dried mucilage can act like a bandage, providing added protection for wounds so they can heal. (4) Slippery elm poultices have been used historically for their soothing properties on the skin.

7. Detoxifier

Slippery elm promotes detoxification via its natural laxative effect and acts as a mild diuretic, helping flush out toxins. It’s a common ingredient in many natural liver detox products.

8. Blood Sugar Regulation

High-fiber diets are key for regulating blood sugar and managing your risk for developing diabetes. Slippery elm, high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, can be a helpful addition to the diet of anyone looking to stabilize their blood sugar.

Scientific evidence suggests that mucilage similar to what’s found in slippery elm can be beneficial for maintaining blood sugar levels. (5) However, approach this topic with caution — slippery elm, specifically, has not been studied for its direct impact on blood sugar management.

9. Anti-Aging

The antioxidants in slippery elm fight free radical damage, which is a major contributor to the aging process. (4) These antioxidants help reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging by protecting the skin cells from oxidative stress.

10. Immune Support

The bioflavonoids and other nutrients in slippery elm support the immune system, making it a good supplement during cold and flu season. Vitamin C and other antioxidants in slippery elm may help boost the body’s defense mechanisms.

11. Inflammation Reduction

Slippery elm’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce inflammation throughout the body, whether in the digestive tract, skin, or other tissues. This benefits conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (6)

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