Slippery elm is a type of tree native to the northeastern region of North America. Some people claim that it can help treat a number of conditions, including inflammation, sore throat, and acid reflux.

Slippery elm is also known as Indian elm, red elm, or gray elm. The tree gets its name from the slippery feeling of its inner bark.

Despite its growing popularity, however, there is limited scientific evidence to support the reported benefits of slippery elm.

This article will look at why people have used slippery elm traditionally and why many people continue to use it today. It will also explain the different forms of slippery elm and the potential risks associated with it.

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According to a 2014 study, people living in North America have used slippery elm for several centuries in traditional medicine.

Native Americans used slippery elm both topically and internally to help treat conditions such as:

Many people in various communities continue to use slippery elm for these conditions. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support its effectiveness.

There are several potential uses of slippery elm that are well documented by companies and in the media.

However, not all the potential uses are well studied.

Instead, there are only anecdotal accounts of the benefits of slippery elm as a treatment for certain health conditions.

Blood pressure

There is no evidence to say that slippery elm helps to lower blood pressure.

Instead, a person should follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA) and lower their blood pressure by:

  • keeping track of blood pressure at home and at checkups
  • taking medications as prescribed
  • maintaining a moderate weight

Learn how to lower blood pressure safely and naturally here.

IBS symptoms

There is limited evidence that slippery elm can help ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as diarrhea and constipation.

In a 2014 review, the researcher stated that slippery elm could help reduce symptoms of IBS. However, the researcher called for more studies to confirm this.

Instead, a person looking to ease symptoms of IBS can make dietary changes approved by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). These changes may include:

Learn more about how to treat IBS safely here.

Weight loss

There is limited evidence that slippery elm may help with weight control or loss.

A 2018 study examined prebiotics in vitro in participants’ stools.

Researchers found that slippery elm and similar compounds may help control blood sugar levels. This could help a person maintain a moderate weight.

However, the researchers stated that the effects might not be as powerful in humans.

Instead, a person wishing to maintain a moderate weight can make some dietary and behavioral changes, including:

  • eating more fiber
  • eating fewer refined carbs and sugars
  • tracking diet and exercise

Learn more science-backed tips on how to lose weight safely here.

Wound care

There are no current studies looking at the use of slippery elm for wound care specifically.

Instead, a person caring for an open wound should take the following steps:

  1. Stop the bleeding.
  2. Clean the wound.
  3. Apply antibiotic ointment to the wound.
  4. Dress the wound.

Learn more about how to safely care for an open wound here.


There is some evidence that slippery elm may help with inflammation in the airways.

In a 2018 study, researchers suggested that slippery elm may help with reducing inflammation.

However, researchers stressed the importance of further studies, particularly to see how effective slippery elm may be in helping with airway inflammation.

Instead, here are some ways a person looking to reduce or prevent inflammation:

Learn about other herbal remedies for inflammation here.

Upper airway inflammatory conditions

Upper airway inflammatory conditions can include conditions such as upper respiratory infections.

In research published in the Journal of Investigational Biochemistry, scientists stated that companies have advertised slippery elm supplements as treatments for upper airway inflammatory conditions.

However, most evidence of its effectiveness in treating these types of conditions has been anecdotal.

The study called for more scientific evidence to back up the claims made by these companies.

Instead, a person wishing to treat an upper respiratory infection can take medication to ease symptoms. These may include:

Learn about home remedies for upper respiratory infections here.

Acid reflux

Only anecdotal evidence exists to support using slippery elm for acid reflux or a sore throat.

According to a 2018 study, slippery elm contains mucilage, which becomes a gel-like substance when mixed with water.

It is possible that the substance may coat the esophagus and provide some relief from pain.

Instead, the NIDDK states that a person with acid reflux can take the following steps to ease symptoms:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • raising the head during sleep
  • avoiding smoking

Learn about which foods can help a person with acid reflux here.

Sore throat

When consumed as a tea or tincture, slippery elm may help with a sore throat. This is due to the potential coating effect of mucilage, a gel-like substance.

However, no studies have examined the exact effects of slippery elm on a sore throat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person can ease a sore throat by:

  • sucking on ice chips
  • gargling salt water
  • drinking plenty of liquids, including warm drinks

Learn about how to soothe a sore throat safely here.

Slippery elm can come in various forms.

Some possible forms include:

  • lozenges
  • powders
  • tablets
  • capsules
  • tea

Slippery elm comes in several forms and dose sizes. In general, the dosage is based on weight.

A person should read the packet of whichever slippery elm product they are using. They should follow the recommended dosage.

However, a person can also talk to their doctor about a safe and effective dose for them.

Slippery elm is likely safe if taken as directed.

However, the lack of studies on slippery elm means that a person should be careful when taking it for the first time.

A person should talk to their doctor before taking slippery elm supplements or products, particularly if they:

  • are pregnant
  • are breastfeeding
  • are giving the supplement to a child
  • have underlying health conditions
  • take other supplements or medication

Some people believe slippery elm can treat several conditions, including acid reflux and symptoms of IBS.

However, most of the evidence for its effectiveness is anecdotal.

Some scientific studies point to promises when it comes to treating inflammation and symptoms of IBS.

However, scientists have called for additional research to understand the correct dosage, effectiveness, and safety of slippery elm.