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Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra, Ulmus fulva)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • American elm, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, calcium oxalate, cholesterol, citrostandienol, dolichol, flavonoids, fructose, glucose, grey elm, hexoses, Indian elm, methylpentoses, moose elm, oleic acid, palmitic acid, pentoses, phytosterols, polyuronidesgalactose, proanthocyanidins, red elm, rock elm, salicylic acid, sesquiterpenes, slippery elm, sweet elm, tannins, Ulmaceae (family), Ulmi rubrae cortex, Ulmus fulva Michaux, Ulmus fulva Michx., Ulmus rubra Muhl, winged elm.
  • Select combination products: Essiac®, Essiac®-like products such as Flor-Essence®, Robert's formula.
  • Note: The inner bark of slippery elm should not be confused with the whole bark. Californian slippery elm (Fremontia californica) has bark with similar properties, and although it is botanically unrelated, it is used in a similar way.

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • The slippery elm is native to eastern Canada and the eastern and central United States, where it is found mostly in the Appalachian Mountains. Its name refers to the slippery consistency the inner bark assumes when it is chewed or mixed with water.
  • Slippery elm inner bark has been used historically as a demulcent, emollient, nutritive, astringent, antitussive, and vulnerary. It is included as one of four primary ingredients in the herbal cancer remedy Essiac® and in a number of Essiac®-like products, such as Flor-Essence® (1;2;3;4). While anecdotal reports suggest that this combination formulation has anticancer activity, reliable clinical trials are lacking that prove or disprove this use.
  • Scientific studies evaluating the common uses of this herb are lacking, but due to its high mucilage content, slippery elm bark may be a safe herbal remedy to treat irritations of the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Although allergic reactions after contact have been reported, known toxicity with typical dosing is lacking when products made only from the inner bark are used.
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Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.