The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls slippery elm a good demulcent, or soothing agent. Herbalists recommend its use externally to ease wounds and skin problems, and internally to soothe sore throats, coughing and diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders. Slippery elm's active ingredient is found in the white inner bark, whose mucilaginous cells expand into a spongy mass when mixed with water. Elm trees were prized in the 18th and 19th centuries by American settlers, for whom slippery elm was a valuable cure. They soaked it in water and applied it to wounds, where it dried into a natural bandage. In addition, they wrapped it around meats and other perishable foods to prevent spoilage. Mixed with water, it made a soothing gruel for children and sick people. While lozenges, powder and other elm products are still available in health food stores, the great elm forests once common throughout the East Coast of the United States have been ravaged by Dutch elm disease.
Applied externally for:
Taken internally for:
Used externally and internally for:
Over the counter:
Available as capsules, tea and powder.
Poultice: For wounds that have been thoroughly cleaned with soap and water, powdered bark moistened with enough water for a paste; applied to wound and allowed to dry for a natural bandage that delivers soothing agents to the wound.
Tea: 2 tsp. powder added to a cup of boiling water, then simmered for 15 minutes. Up to 3 cups a day consumed for throat, digestive and gynecological problems.
Food: Slippery elm powder mixed with water or milk until it has the consistency of a thin porridge.