Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl or Ulmus fulva Michx)


The slippery elm is native to eastern Canada and the eastern and central United States where it is found mostly in the Appalachian Mountains. Its name refers to the slippery consistency of the inner bark when chewed or mixed with water. Slippery elm inner bark has been used historically for cough, wound-healing, nutrition, or as an agent that soothes mucus membranes or softens and tones the skin. It is included as one of four primary ingredients in the herbal cancer remedy, Essiac®, and in Essiac®-like products such as Flor-Essence®.
There is a lack of research for the common uses of this herb, but due to its high gummy content, slippery elm bark may be a safe herbal remedy to treat irritations of the skin and mucus membranes.
Allergic reactions have been reported with slippery elm, but reports of toxic effect are lacking. Inner bark of slippery elm is different than the whole bark, which may cause side effects. Californian slippery elm bark has similar uses, but is in a different plant family than slippery elm.

Related Terms

American elm, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, calcium oxalate, cholesterol, citrostandienol, dolichol, flavonoids, fructose, glucose, grey elm, hexoses, Indian elm, methylpentoses, moose elm, oleic acid, palmitic acid, pentoses, phytosterols, polyuronidesgalactose, proanthocyanidins, red elm, rock elm, salicylic acid, sesquiterpenes, slippery elm, sweet elm, tannins, Ulmaceae (family), Ulmi rubrae cortex, Ulmus fulva Michaux, winged elm.
Select combination products: Essiac®, Essiac®-like products such as Flor-Essence®, Robert's formula.
Note: The inner bark of slippery elm should not be confused with the whole bark. Californian slippery elm (Fremontia californica) has similar bark, and although it is unrelated, it is used in a similar way.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Cancer (Grade: C)
Slippery elm is an ingredient in Essiac® and Essiac®-like products which are used for cancer. These products also contain other herbs such as rhubarb, sorrel, and burdock root. Currently, sufficient evidence is lacking to recommend for or against the use of these products for cancer. Further research is warranted.
Stomach disorders (Grade: C)
Slippery elm is traditionally used to treat ulcers and inflammation of the stomach and intestine. Early evidence showed effectiveness of slippery elm with other herbs for inflammatory bowel syndrome. Additional study is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.