Slippery elm is a deciduous tree native to North America. It is primarily found in eastern Canada and throughout the middle and eastern United States.
Its bark was used by Native Americans for thousands of years, both for its medicinal properties and to line the inside of canoes and baskets.
The leaves were also used for poultices, and the wood of the slippery elm was used by both Native Americans and the white settlers for a variety of purposes such as bows, fence posts, and wagon wheel hubs (1).
Slippery elm is known by many different names. Scientifically it is known both as Ulmus fulva, and Ulmus rubra. Other names commonly used include red elm, gray elm, soft Elm, Moose Elm and the Indian Elm (2).
- 1 What is Slippery Elm?
- 2 Most Common Uses
- 3 Side Effects and Warnings for Slippery Elm
- 4 Final Thoughts
What is Slippery Elm?
Although the leaves have healing properties, it is primarily the inner bark of the slippery elm that is used today. It can be used both internally or externally and is available in a number of forms.
To be used internally it can be purchased as a tea, pill, lozenge, tincture, or powder.
The powder can also be mixed with water and used as a poultice.
The active ingredient in slippery elm is called mucilage, which comes from the inner bark of the tree.
Mucilage is a complex carbohydrate which turns into a gel when water is added to it.
The gel gives the tree its most common name of slippery elm because it becomes somewhat slimy and slippery in its gel-like state. It is this gel-like state that is thought to be the reason why it is so helpful for digestive problems.
The thick, slippery properties of the mucilage allow it to become a protective coating, which soothes the lining of the stomach and intestines.
Slippery elm has been used to treat a variety of health problems such as:
- Coughs and sore throats
- Colic, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, and Gastritis
- Bladder and urinary tract infections, Candida, syphilis, and herpes
- Externally for wounds, burns, gout, rheumatism, cold sores, and toothaches
Slippery elm has trace amounts of minerals and some nutrients but is not a significant source of vitamins listed on the RDA charts.
One teaspoon of slippery elm powder contains:
- Calories: 5
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 grams
- Sodium: 0 grams
Most Common Uses
There are a number of uses for slippery elm that have been employed for ages. The following uses will focus primarily on the intestinal tract and digestion of food.
Slippery Elm for Leaky Gut Syndrome
One of the most popular uses for slippery elm is to help with intestinal issues. The mucilage absorbs water and provides a gel-like substance that coats the insides of the digestive system. This makes slippery elm soothing for just about any type of digestive issue including leaky gut syndrome.
Healthy intestinal walls allow for the passage of certain nutrients and substances in and out of the digestive system. This is how the nutrients from your food are absorbed for instance.
Part of the healthy functioning of the intestines is knowing what substances should be allowed to pass through that barrier and when.
Sometimes conditions doctors call intestinal permeability, or intestinal hyper-permeability allow substances to leak into the bloodstream that should not be there (3). These substances can range from bacteria, wastes, and toxins, to undigested proteins and fats.
These uninvited guests to the blood stream can trigger an autoimmune reaction. This leads to abdominal distress such as gas, cramps, bloating, as well as joint paint and other symptoms.
How Slippery Elm Helps
Slippery elm has multiple roles in helping with leaky gut syndrome.
Because inflammation is thought to be a potential cause of the leaky gut syndrome, the anti-inflammatory properties of slippery elm can help to reduce the inflammation and promote healing.
The mucilage itself help’s create a barrier to prevent substances from passing through to the blood stream.
It stimulates the nerve endings in the intestines; causing an increase in mucus production to further protect the lining of the stomach and intestines.
Slippery elm is not used alone when treating leaky gut syndrome so it would not likely reverse the condition on its own.
Instead, it is used as a support treatment along with some other different natural supplements and dietary changes.
It’s primary role is to sooth the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome while dietary and lifestyle changes have an opportunity to work their magic in repairing your digestive system.
Healing Candida Naturally with Slippery Elm
Put simply, Candida is an overgrowth of candida yeast located primarily in the gut. Thrush in the mouth and Athletes Foot are manifestations of Candida within the body.
There are a number of causes of Candida, the most common of which is antibiotic use, contraception, and a poor diet.
Candida is a fungus which occurs naturally in the body and is normally kept in check by good gut bacteria such as Acidophilus.
If the balance of good gut bacteria is disrupted by diet, stress, or medication, this can allow candida to get a foothold and overrun the body.
In addition to the obvious symptoms candida can also cause:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Joint pain
- Fungal infections
Healing from Candida
Healing Candida is not simple or easy. One must first get control of the reasons why candida was allowed to grow.
First steps include, avoiding carbs which produce the sugars that candida feed on and making healthier choices with food.
Reintroducing good gut bacteria in the form of probiotics can also be helpful in gaining control of fungal overgrowth.
Slippery elm can help with the repair process of overgrowth in a stomach in several ways.
Not only does slippery elm sooth the lining of the stomach and intestinal walls, but it also works as an anti- inflammatory to help in calming the inflammation.
It is also believed that Candida leads to leaky gut syndrome, in which case the slippery elm can help to provide a protective barrier against the leakage of substances into the blood stream that occurs in leaky gut syndrome.
The Role of Slippery Elm in Treating Gastritis
Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and is thought to be caused by damage to the mucous lining that protects the stomach from acid.
Various ranges in severity and location in the stomach are considered a precursor to ulcers. Gastritis can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, reflux, and is implicated in some stomach cancers.
Symptoms of Gastritis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Before treating gastritis, it is important to determine the cause of the condition first.
It is difficult to treat gastritis if the cause of the damage to the mucous layer is not eliminated first.
Many causes can be remedied at home, by simply eliminating things from your diet such as alcohol, excessive fats, or over the counter pain relievers.
Other causes may take a doctor to diagnose and treat such as the H. Pylori infection.
Remedies for Gastritis aim at soothing the various symptoms and restoring the mucous layer of the stomach. Slippery elm is highly effective at symptom relief because the mucilage has anti-inflammatory properties which can sooth the inflammation of the stomach lining.
The mucilage also has a gel viscosity that coats the stomach in a protective layer, giving it protection from further damage.
This protection allows healing to take place by aiding the stomach in rebuilding the stomach lining.
Slippery elm is often taken with the amino acid glutamine, Acidophilus, Aloe Vera juice, and zinc for gastritis.
The combination of these ingredients provides all the support the stomach needs to heal completely.
Side Effects and Warnings for Slippery Elm
Most people can take slippery elm without any side effects. The FDA says that slippery elm is safe and effective when used as an oral demulcent.
There is a lore that points to slippery elm having abortive effects. This statement has not been proven thus far, and the point is disputed depending on which source you read (4).
That being said, you may choose to refrain from taking slippery elm until further evidence of the effects on pregnancy.
Contact allergies resulting in dermatitis have been reported by some individuals when using slippery elm topically.
The pollen of the slippery elm is also allergenic, so care should be used to test external applications carefully before widespread use (5).
Because the mucilage slows down the absorption of substances, it can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications if taken at the same time.
If you take medications, it is suggested that you take slippery elm at least one hour after you take any other medications.
Leaky gut, candida, and gastritis have not gotten the attention they deserve from the medical community.
While medical professionals now admit that these problems do exist, there is no real established way to diagnose, let alone do more than treat the symptoms of these conditions.
Most treatments are no more that temporary solutions and rarely are the causes of digestive issues explored.
This leaves many suffers to do their own investigations and work towards a treatment that actually works.
Slippery elm makes an ideal supportive supplement for many people working towards healing the gut.
Its anti-inflammatory properties do more than make a person feel better.
It reduces inflammation, and along with the protection provided from the mucilage, it gives the digestive system a stronger ability to heal itself.