This time of year, tummy aches and stomach bugs seem to run rampant through any group of people where kids are involved! This is a prime situation to make full use of the many benefits of slippery elm.
When someone in my family has a stomach ache or is experiencing any sort of digestive distress (from perhaps eating out or too many sweets at a party), slippery elm is by far my favorite astringent medicinal herb (besides bitters) to use as a soothing tonic.
Slippery elm is an herb native to North America and is derived from the inner bark of the elm tree. It has long been used by traditional cultures in the New World for a variety of ailments, but its use as a digestive aid is probably the most popular.
The benefits of slippery elm for soothing the entire digestive tract are many as it forms a soothing film over any mucous membrane it comes into contact with.
Not that this matters much (to me at least), but the FDA has even approved slippery elm as a safe, demulcent substance, which means that it relieves minor pain and inflammation in mucous membranes such as what lines the digestive system. (1)
The ability to temporarily reduce inflammation and pain makes the benefits of slippery elm especially helpful for conditions such as IBS and colitis. It can also soften and add bulk to stools, so it is useful for both diarrhea and constipation issues.
Its soothing/coating qualities protect the throat and so can be helpful for persistent reflux problems as well. Even folks with ulcers and gastritis can enjoy the benefits of slippery elm.
Benefits of Slippery Elm
I have found that the most effective way to utilize the benefits of slippery elm is as a tincture. You can make the herbal tincture yourself or purchase it locally and online. Alternatively, the herb is available in pill or powder form.
Used as a tincture, it easily coats all mucous membranes from the mouth right through to the rectum as it passes through the body.
It is slightly sweet, so taking it with a swallow or two of water tastes great!
This is a good remedy to take with you when you travel.
It keeps tummy aches at bay from the anxiety that can occur from a disrupted routine and mitigates intestinal problems when the quality of the food is lower than what you would enjoy at home.
My kids ask for it anytime they feel the need. It can safely be used up to 3 times per day. Use 28-56 drops in some water each time is what my bottle says. Always follow the directions on whatever brand you buy, of course.
Truthfully, I’ve found that you don’t need anywhere near 28-36 drops per dose. I give myself or my family maybe 10-15 drops in an ounce or so of water and that typically works fine the very first time. I occasionally need to give another dose a few hours later, but most of the time, one dose works wonders!
How to Choose a Brand
The next time you are at the health food store, pick up a bottle of Slippery Elm tincture that is vetted as sustainably grown and harvested.
Keep it in your wellness cabinet with your other herbs and whole food supplements.
Please note that the slippery elm benefits cannot be enjoyed during pregnancy. It has the potential to dilate the cervix and/or stimulate uterine contractions.
Check with your practitioner before using it during breastfeeding. In some situations, it can be used safely.
(1) Ulmus rubra
(2) The Long, Hollow Tube: A Primer on the Digestive System