Slippery Elm for an Irritated Stomach

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The stomach becomes irritated for a number of reasons, causing symptoms such as pain, inflammation and nausea. Slippery elm, or Ulmas fulva, is an herbal preparation derived from the inner bark of the elm tree, native to North America. Slippery elm can be used in a number of different forms and may provide relief for a variety of internal and external medical conditions, including different types of stomach irritation. Although there are many claims to the effectiveness and benefits of slippery elm, few claims have been substantiated, according to The Institute for Optimum Nutrition.


American Indians have been using slippery elm as an herbal remedy for centuries and were the first to recognize the medicinal qualities of this herb. They use slippery elm to treat external skin problems such as boils, burns and different types of inflammations. Slippery elm remains a popular remedy today for these external conditions. It can treat internal conditions such as gastritis, heartburn, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and sore throats, according to The Institute for Optimum Nutrition.


The main ingredient in slippery elm is mucilage, a compound that thickens and becomes slippery when combined with water. When taken internally, it reportedly has a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect on the digestive tract. It coats the digestive tract and may help in protecting the stomach lining from the damaging effects of excess acid or other stomach irritants.


Slippery elm soothes and helps to reduce discomfort in the stomach. It coats the stomach and mucous membranes with a thick mucilaginous substance while absorbing toxins. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, slippery elm causes an increase in mucus secretion, which may help protect the stomach from too much acid production. The inner bark of slippery elm also contains various nutrients, such as iron, manganese, calcium, zinc potassium, phosphorus, antioxidants, vitamin C and some B vitamins. The antioxidants are beneficial in helping to reduce any inflammation that may be present.


Slippery elm comes in many different forms, such as capsules, tablets, lozenges, powder and tea. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the recommended capsule dose is 400 to 500 mg three to four times a day; take it with a full glass of water, as this allows the powder inside the capsules to mix with the water to form the mucilaginous substance. A different method that can help soothe and alleviate stomach irritation is mixing 2 tsp. of the loose powder with a glass of milk or water to make a drink.


Slippery elm has no reported serious side effects. There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that it is safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Certain components within slippery elm may increase the chance of miscarriage, and for this reason herbalists usually advise pregnant women against using this while pregnant, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes. Due to the mucilaginous nature of this herb, taking slippery elm may cause malabsorption of other medication. Slippery elm has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a non-prescription product for use as a demulcent, notes the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources.