Slippery Elm

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Ulmus fulva (Michaux)


Synonyms: Ulmus rubra (Muhl.), red elm, moose elm, American elm, Indian elm, rock elm, sweet elm, winged elm.

Order: Ulmaceae

Description: Ulmus is a small deciduous tree with rough branches carrying alternate, irregularly serrated long leaves, rough above and downy below, and dense axillary clusters of small flowers. The leaf buds are covered with a dense yellow wool. It is a native of eastern and central North America.

Parts used: inner bark, powdered

Collection: The bark is stripped from the trunk and large branches in the spring. Ten-year-old bark is best.

Constituents: mucilage, tannin, starch, minerals

Actions: demulcent, emollient, nutrient, astringent, antitussive

Indications: inflammation or ulceration of stomach or duodenum, convalescence, colitis, diarrhoea; locally as a poultice for boils, abscesses and ulcers. 

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Ulmus is a suitable remedy for Inflammation and ulceration of the gastro-intestinal tract such as oesophagitis, gastritis, colitis, gastric or duodenal ulcers and diarrhoea. It's soothing demulcent and nutritive actions make it especially suitable for sensitive or inflamed mucous membrane linings in the digestive system. It is often used as a food during convalescence as it is gentle and easily assimilated. In diarrhoea,  it soothes and astringes at the same time. Externally, it makes an excellent poultice for use in cases of boils, abscesses, ulcers or burns.

Combinations: For digestive problems it may be used with Althaea, and may be combined with Linum in a poultice.

Caution: No contraindications are known. The whole bark is not now permitted to be sold in the U.K. because of its traditional use as a mechanical abortifacient.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

GSL in powder form only

Powdered bark: 1:8 as decoction, 4-16ml

Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 60% alcohol, 5ml

As an ingredient in nutritious gruel: 4g in 500ml boiling water

Additional Comments: Native Americans used slippery elm bark as a treatment for constipation and for diarrhoea. Mrs. Grieve notes that a pinch of the powder put in a hollow tooth stops a toothache and delays decay. Because of the worldwide demand for slippery elm, the fine powdered inner bark is in short supply and the coarser outer bark is often substituted. This lacks the medicinal power of the inner bark.



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Bradley, P.R. (ed.) 1992 British Herbal Compendium, Volume 1, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Last updated 27th November 2014     ŠPurple Sage Botanicals