Slippery Elm – Materia Medica


The name of this tree tells us exactly its main property: slippery. The Slippery Elm’s ability to coat what it touches is extremely helpful in relieving throats sore from coughing. Early nineteenth century doctor also used Slippery Elm as a food alternative for sick babies and adults who could not tolerate other foods. All that was required was the powdered bark and water, which would be cooked in a sauce pan until it reached a porridge-like consistency. You might be familiar with a company called Thayers Natural Remedies, founded in 1847. Over a century later, the company’s product line still includes lozenges made with Slippery Elm to ease the pain of coughs.

  • Common Name: Slippery Elm

  • Latin Name: Ulmus rubra and Ulmus fulva

  • Family: Ulmaceae

  • Areas of Origin: Eastern North American up to southern Quebec

  • Botanical Description: A deciduous tree which grows to 60-70’ in height; the bark is coarse in texture. It blooms small reddish-green flowers in spring that leave a wafer like seed in its wake.

  • Parts Used: Inner bark

  • Uses: Good for soothing the digestive system, diarrhea, sore throat, gastritis, burns, coughs

  • Actions: Astringent, demulcent, depurative, diuretic, emollient, expectorant

  • Preparations: Decoction, extract, poultice

  • Taste: Tasteless; almost like a thin porridge

  • Safety: May not be suitable for use while pregnant or nursing

  • Contraindications (Plant-Medication Combinations): None known.

Until next time, discover the power of welcoming nature’s healing plants into your life.


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