When fighting digestion problems and other issues, we are eager to find the right remedy to relieve symptoms to get on with our lives. However, researching what you put in your body beforehand is important.
“Slippery Elm Bark,” an ingredient used by Native Americans and considered medicine until the 1960s has re-emerged as a medicine. This revival partly mirrors a new enthusiasm for natural medicine. Understanding the benefits of Slippery Elm Bark is important to avoid further complicating an issue.
Slippery Elm Bark Benefits?
Slippery Elm — also known as a demulcent for its tissue soothing properties — has been researched for decades. Recent studies have found some promising benefits in its ability to help relieve bowel disorders, sore throats, and wounds.
Cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation characterizes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the more severe Crohn’s Disease, a form of irritable bowel disorder (IBD).[i] Bowl disorders are long-term issues and finding consistent ways to treat it instead of using medications is important for maintaining overall health.
In a 2002 study, they found that in in-vitro tests (tests done in a lab, not in humans) that the antioxidants in Slippery Elm bark reduced inflammation. [ii] This is because antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from destroying cells in your body. The destruction of cells makes healing difficult, and in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, free radicals will escalate the inflammation. Slippery Elm bark might reduce the tenderness and physical damage to the large intestine by relieving pressure around the inflamed areas.
In a 2000 review article, they found that other benefits of Slippery Elm include the ability to absorb toxins, loosen stools, and help move fecal matter through the intestine due to its fibrous nature.[iii] All of this helps move bacteria and debris away from the inflamed or damaged area, allowing it to heal and provide some relief to the pain.
This also suggests that fibers and the gelatinous texture of Slippery Elm bark will reduce constipation — a common symptom of bowel diseases.
If you can ignore the idea of eating something called slippery elm, you might be able to quell the feelings of your sore throat. A 2012 study in the Journal of Investigational Biochemistry found that slippery elm has a significant influence on soothing the throat immediately after consuming it.[iv] While statically insignificant, they found that participants found slippery elm more soothing than your name-brand tea.
The soothing nature of the bark may reside in its antioxidant properties known for reducing inflammation and its gelatinous texture, which actually coats the throat, trapping in moisture and providing its soothing benefits at a consistent rate.
Some say that Slippery Elm can be turned into a salve to help burns, abrasions or wounds.[v] More anecdotally, natives used the bark found in northeastern North America regularly, while soldiers during the American Revolution used the paste for healing injuries. There isn’t plenty of evidence to suggest that it heals or numbs wounds.
However, some components of Slippery Elm like its antioxidant qualities and the fatty acids that make it up might promote good skin health and recovery.
Slippery Elm Dosage and How I Should Take It?
A precaution of Slippery Elm is that it forms lining on your organs, making absorbing different medications and remedies difficult.[vi] So, use Slippery Elm 2 hours before or after medications to not interfere with them and always inform your doctor that you are using supplements. Additionally, while it can numb the effects of other medicines, it doesn’t alter or enhance the effects of medicine.
There’s not a lot of research about its effect on pregnant women but asking your doctor about taking it is highly recommended.[vii]
Slippery Elm Tea
When using Slippery Elm, you should also be wary of dosages. The amount children should take depends on their weight, while adults should have about 4 grams of it in their tea on three separate occasions, or use 400 to 500 mg capsules 3 to 4 times a day.[viii]
However, these are general recommendations, to find the right dosage for you ask your doctor and find out more here.
One way to use Slippery Elm is to mix it with hot water like tea. This will give it a gelatinous, soothing texture. You can use the Slippery Elm powder to do this.
Slippery Elm: Cold Infusion
To make a refreshing “cold tea” with slippery elm you can use the following directions:
To make 2 cups, put 3 tbsp of dried herb to a strainer/infuser
Add water to a pint jar, then suspend the herb in the pouch or infuser in the water.
Let sit overnight, or min 5hrs
Strain, drink and enjoy!
The gelatinous and magical Slippery Elm is reemerging as a natural medicine. As we push for more natural remedies, studies will start to prove more benefits of Slippery Elm, and while there isn’t enough evidence yet, it could help with illnesses like bowel issues, sore throat, and wounds.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
[i] Watts Crousseau B. Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation. Scope Med. Available at: http://www.scopemed.org/?jid=61. Accessed March 15, 2017.
[ii] Irritable bowel syndrome – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578. Accessed March 15, 2017.
[iii] Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton D. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2002;16(2):197-205. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.2002.01157.x.
[iv] Tamayo C, Richardson M, Diamond S, Skoda I. The chemistry and biological activity of herbs used in Flor‐Essence™ herbal tonic and Essiac. Phytotherapy Research. 2000;14(1):1-14. doi:10.1002/(sici)1099-1573(200002)14:1<1::aid-ptr580>3.3.co;2-f.
[v] 11 Amazing Benefits of Slippery Elm | Organic Facts. Organic Facts. Available at: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/slippery-elm.html. Accessed March 15, 2017.
[vi] SLIPPERY ELM: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings – WebMD. Webmdcom. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-978-slippery%20elm.aspx?activeingredientid=978&activeingredientname=slippery%20elm. Accessed March 15, 2017.
[vii] Slippery Elm. University of Maryland Medical Center. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsHerbs/SlipperyElmch.html. Accessed March 15, 2017.
[viii] Slippery Elm. University of Maryland Medical Center. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsHerbs/SlipperyElmch.html. Accessed March 15, 2017.