Although people use slippery elm to treat various conditions, including acid reflux, there is not enough evidence to support the benefits some people claim it provides.

Slippery elm, which people also call red elm, gray elm, and Indian elm, is a tree native to the northeastern region of North America.

There is anecdotal evidence to support the use of slippery elm as a treatment for acid reflux, as it may produce a soothing coating for the esophagus and relieve acid reflux symptoms.

However, more research is necessary to determine the efficacy, safety, and correct dosages of slippery elm.

This article looks at slippery elm for acid reflux, the potential benefits and risks of slippery elm, and other treatments for acid reflux. It also answers some frequently asked questions about slippery elm.

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People use the slippery inner bark of the slippery elm, which gives the tree its name, as a natural remedy for various ailments.

The inner bark contains chemicals that can increase a person’s mucous secretion, which some believe can help soothe a sore throat and relieve acid reflux symptoms such as heartburn.

Slippery elm contains a type of fiber called mucilage that creates a gel-like substance when it comes into contact with water. People who endorse using slippery elm as a treatment for acid reflux and other conditions most often cite its mucilage content as a major benefit.

The mucilage in slippery elm may help form a protective film over the esophagus and prevent or relieve pain from acid reflux.

Mucilage may also have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and wound-healing properties, which could provide further benefits.

While there is increased interest in using slippery elm as a treatment for acid reflux and other conditions, there is a lack of credible evidence to support its use.

There are no rigorous studies that evaluate the efficacy of slippery elm to treat acid reflux.

Because slippery elm is a natural supplement, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cannot regulate it for effectiveness or safety.

It is best to be cautious when buying and using natural supplements and discuss them with a doctor before use.

There is anecdotal evidence of the potential benefits of slippery elm, but there is a lack of credible clinical evidence to support claims of its health benefits.

The mucilage in slippery elm may form a protective film that coats mucous membranes and relieves inflammation and irritation.

The mucilage could have soothing properties and may also help relieve pain in the throat and coughing.

Slippery elm may also have benefits for gastrointestinal problems. The fiber content of the inner bark may help to create a bulk-forming laxative to relieve constipation or diarrhea, while also absorbing toxins.

As well as acid reflux, some people use slippery elm as a natural remedy for:

There is a lack of credible evidence on the use of slippery elm, and scientists do not know whether slippery elm is safe to use as a treatment and in what dosages and forms.

Slippery elm is possibly safe for most people in oral form. Slippery elm may cause irritation or allergic reactions in some people when they apply it topically to the skin.

Slippery elm may interact with other medications. The mucilage in slippery elm may decrease the amount of medication a person’s body absorbs, possibly rendering other medications less effective.

Additionally, multiple plant preservation-focused organizations, such as the United Plant Savers, classify slippery elm as endangered. Thus, it is best to consider substitutes in clinical treatment.

Pregnant people

There is no credible evidence to suggest whether slippery elm is either safe or dangerous for pregnant people.

However, slippery elm has a folkloric reputation as a way to induce miscarriage if a pregnant person inserts it into the cervix or possibly ingests it orally.

No research confirms these claims, but pregnant people and those who are chest- or breastfeeding should avoid using slippery elm.

There are various treatments for acid reflux, and several lifestyle adjustments that can help prevent or improve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes to treat acid reflux include:

  • avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux, such as spicy or fatty foods
  • eating frequent smaller meals instead of three large meals a day
  • avoiding drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • avoiding eating within 3–4 hours before bed
  • discussing changing medications that may cause or worsen acid reflux with a doctor
  • wearing clothing that fits loosely around the torso
  • trying to lose weight if a person is overweight
  • trying to reduce stress
  • stopping smoking
  • raising the head of the bed so the chest and head are higher than the level of the waist

Other treatment for acid reflux includes:

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that slippery elm may be beneficial as a treatment for acid reflux.

This is primarily because it contains mucilage, a fiber that forms a gel-like protective film that may soothe the mucosal membranes of the esophagus.

However, no credible evidence supports the effectiveness or safety of slippery elm as a treatment for acid reflux or other conditions.

Research is necessary to determine whether the bark may be effective in treating acid reflux, whether it is safe to use, and what dosages may provide optimal benefits.