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What is Slippery Elm?

Slippery elm may be ingested to help deal with a sore throat.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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Slippery elm or Ulmus fulva is a plant that is used in many forms of alternative and folk medicine. The inner bark of the slippery elm is the portion extracted for use in poultices or ground into a powder that can be ingested to soothe a number of aches and pains. Found in parts of the United States and Canada, processed versions of slippery elm are sold in many herb shops and health food stores around the world.

Part of the effectiveness of slippery elm has to do with the range of vitamins and minerals found in the inner bark. Significant amounts of several of the B vitamins are contained in slippery elm, along with moderate amounts of Vitamin A and selenium. Trace amounts of Vitamin E, Vitamin K and magnesium are also present in slippery elm.

While many different claims are made for the healing powers of slippery elm, the ability of the plant to help ease inflammation in many parts of the body is the most often cited use. In powder form, the herbal concoction can be combined with liquid and taken as a way to deal with inflammation in the colon or help soothe the discomfort of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As a poultice, slippery elm can be applied to rashes on the skin and help to ease the inflammation while also minimizing the itching and pain associated with the ailment.

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Because slippery elm is said to possess antioxidant qualities, the herb is sometimes employed as a way to draw toxins from the body. Along with rashes, slippery elm may be applied to boils, burns, or sores that appear on the skin. There are anecdotal accounts of slippery elm effectively treating cases of poison ivy, as well as alleviating discomfort for babies suffering with diaper rash.

Internally, slippery elm may be ingested to help deal with a sore throat or ease the frequency and severity of coughing due to congestion in the lungs. There are instances where slippery elm was effective in alleviating constipation by acting as a soothing laxative. The herb can also be used to help with acid reflux or indigestion due to overeating.

While few controlled tests have been done to confirm the efficacy of slippery elm, people looking for natural alternatives to nuclear medications may find folk doctors and herbalists recommending this herb for treatment of a variety of aches and pains. As with all herbs, it is a good idea to consult a health professional about possible negative interactions if prescription medication is being taken at the same time.

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