Botanical Name: Ulmus fulvus / Ulmus rubra
Plant part used: Dried inner bark
Forms: fine powdered bark, capsule or tincture
Based on traditional evidence, slippery elm has been used effectively to relieve symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions including gastritis, acid dyspepsia, gastric reflux, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (Braun & Cohen 2010). Due to its high mucilage content, which forms a gel-like substance when combined with water, slippery elm may have a soothing effect on mucous membranes of the digestive tract, and can act as a barrier against the damaging effects of stomach acid on the oesophagus (Braun & Cohen 2010).
Although the pharmacological actions of slippery elm have not been significantly investigated, the key constituents of this herb are known to soothe irritated and inflamed tissues, and may also exert mild anti-inflammatory activity locally (Braun & Cohen 2010).
At this time, clinical research is not available to determine the effectiveness of slippery elm in gastrointestinal conditions, however, anecdotally, patients have reported rapid improvement in upper gastrointestinal symptoms (Braun & Cohen 2010). Theoretically, it may be helpful in the case of diarrhoea, where the tannins and fibre may potentially slow down gastrointestinal transit time and act as a bulking agent.