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 medicinal herb (aka 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 although you can purchase it in pill or powder form as well. 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 easy to take in a swallow or two of water as it tastes great!
My kids ask for it anytime they feel the need. It can safely be used up to 3X 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!
So next time you are at the healthfood store, pick up a bottle of Slippery Elm tincture as shown in the photo above. Keep it in your wellness cabinet with your other herbs and whole food supplements. Please make sure that whatever brand you choose is sustainably harvested!
And don’t ever forget to make use of the benefits of slippery elm when you travel. This herb is a must to keep tummy aches at bay when eating out on a frequent basis. It also helps mitigate problems when the quality of the food is lower than homecooked meals.
Slippery Elm Contraindications
*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.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
The Long, Hollow Tube: A Primer on Digestive System
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.