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Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra): Benefits, Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

The slippery elm, scientifically named Ulmus rubra, is a tree that comes from North America. It is known for its unique bark, whose tones vary from dark brown to reddish brown. In addition, it is estimated that it reaches between 60 and 80 feet in height.

In traditional medicine, Native Americans used the inner part of its bark for medicinal purposes. In particular, it was a widely used remedy to soothe sore throats, inflammation, and superficial wounds.

The reason? When combined with water, it generates a viscous material known as “mucilage”, which acts as a soothing, demulcent and anti-inflammatory. Below we will tell you in detail what it is used for and what its contraindications are. Keep reading!

Benefits and Uses of Slippery elm

In herbal medicine, the inner bark of slippery elm is a well-known remedy for skin disorders, ulcers, intestinal diseases, and respiratory symptoms. Even so, to date there is not enough evidence to support its effectiveness. What benefits are attributed to it?

1. Inflammatory bowel disease

Due to its mucilage content, slippery elm bark has demulcent properties. That is, it acts as a protector of the lining of the stomach and intestines. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that calms irritation.

On this, an investigation published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine determined that a mixture containing slippery elm helped stimulate bowel movements in patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.

On the other hand, a study in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics reported that this plant exerts an antioxidant effect that benefits people with Crohn’s disease. Specifically, it acts on inflamed intestines and helps control symptoms. However, more studies are required to corroborate its effectiveness.

2. Sore throat and cough

Slippery elm is an adjunct against the symptoms of some respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and asthma. In this case, its mucilages exert an antitussive effect, that is, capable of reducing dry coughs and irritation. In fact, this ingredient can be present in throat lozenges. It also takes advantage of laryngitis and vocal cord problems.

However, an article published in the Journal of Investigational Biochemistry states the following:

“There is no scientific evidence available to support the validity of the use of slippery elm in the treatment of inflammatory conditions of the upper respiratory tract”.

3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

The use of slippery elm against the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux comes largely from the popular literature. There is no scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness against this condition. Even so, there are those who claim that its mucilages line the esophagus and prevent irritation when the acid content rises through the digestive tract.

Other possible uses

By tradition, the slippery elm has also had the following uses:

  • Skin disorders.
  • Stomach and oral ulcers.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cystitis.

In any case, there is no evidence to show that it can help against these diseases. Therefore, it should not be a first-line treatment or a replacement for conventional therapeutic options.

Contraindications and possible side effects

Oral consumption of slippery elm is considered safe for most healthy adults. Its use is even approved as a demulcent without a prescription.

In any case, its simultaneous intake with medications is not recommended, since its mucilage content can limit absorption and reduce the effectiveness of the drugs. Ideally, wait at least an hour between taking the supplement and the medicine.

Now, as detailed in MedlinePlus, from the United States National Library of Medicine, there is concern about its possible side effects on the skin. In particular, it can cause irritation and allergic reactions.

Slippery elm bark is claimed in popular literature to induce abortion. And while there is no evidence to support such claims, its intake is not recommended in pregnant or lactating women.

Slippery elm dosage and presentations

There are no hard data on the proper dosage of slippery elm. In general, it is suggested to take the amount indicated on the supplement packaging. For safety, this dose should not be exceeded. In addition, its prolonged consumption is not recommended.

The presentations on the market are as follows:

  • Lozenges.
  • Powder.
  • Capsules.
  • Extract.

To prepare it in the form of tea, simply add a couple of tablespoons of slippery elm powder in half a liter of boiling water. After 10 minutes, it can be consumed.

What is there to remember about slippery elm?

Like many herbal supplements, slippery elm has a wide variety of uses in natural medicine. The most popular are the relief of digestive symptoms and discomforts such as a sore throat.

Still, studies corroborating these properties are limited. Therefore, it should not be a first-choice remedy. The ideal thing to do before any health problem is to consult a doctor.

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