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Slippery Elm: The Key to Digestive Relief?

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People in general really take trees for granted. Aside from providing life-supporting oxygen, they also provide a home for the birds and squirrels. Not all trees are created equal, though.

Some contain resin or other extracts that are extremely beneficial for human health. The slippery elm is one such tree that is undervalued and under-appreciated.

This is a head-scratcher because it contains a compound known to correct digestive issues and cleanse the body of nasty toxins.

Slippery Elm 101

Known more formally as ulmus rubra, the tree is a species native to northeastern United States and parts of Quebec. The tree also thrives in select parts of Texas and Florida. The tree also goes by several other names. If you hear the term sweet elm, red elm, soft elm, Indian elm, moose elm or ulmus fulva michaux, those all refer to the same slippery elm.

The name “slippery elm” is no happenstance. Deep within the bark lies a slippery and sappy liquid long known to indigenous tribes and later to the early settlers. Hunters and explorers relied on this sap as a water source during lengthy excursions away from the tribe or colony.

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Native American tribes also cultivated the slippery elm bark extract for its medicinal properties. When mixed with water, the substance takes on a gel-like substance. When ingested, it coats the mouth and tongue, making it a great remedy for treating coughs and sore throats. More importantly, it was the Pepto-Bismol of the day with its ability to alleviate diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive disorders.

When applied topically, it facilitated the healing of external wounds. Soldiers in the American Revolution were believed to use the bark’s extract to treat gunshot wounds.

READ MORE: Aloe Ferox: A Natural Gut and Digestive Reliever

Slippery Elm Promotes Smooth Digestion

If you’ve been keeping up with our posts, then you know we don’t discuss a natural remedy unless the science backs it up. Slippery elm has been extensively studied, and the science behind it is strong.

Slippery elm bark extract is loaded with antioxidants that treat inflammation and other causes of digestive disorders. In one study, subjects that consumed a drink mixture containing powdered elm bark saw a significant improvement in stool frequency. They also strained less during bowel movement. Subjects also reported less bloating and reduction of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Furthermore, a 2014 Korean study listed slippery elm among a list of other natural compounds as a viable medicine for treating diarrhea.

One way the elm helps the digestive tract is by creating a protective film over the mucous membrane it comes into contact with. Even the FDA has recognized slippery elm as a safe demulcent compound. This means it brings down inflammation and swelling in the mucous membranes that line the inner digestive system. This very property makes the elm useful for treating other ailments, such as colitis and acid reflux problems.

READ MORE: Bromelain Benefits: An Enzyme for Enhanced Digestion

Parents also swear by slippery elm as a soothing tonic when their children complain of upset stomach, usually from eating too many sweets. The same goes for pet owners who notice vomiting or irregular stools in their four-legged friends. Slip some in your pet’s water bowl or dog chow. Fido won’t notice the difference.

Non-Digestive Benefits

Beyond digestion, slippery elm also helps in a number of other ways. It also helps your brain just as much as your gut. The bark extract of elm contains a compound known as phenolic. Studies of this substance show that it’s an effective remedy for treating stress and alleviating anxiety.

Other research also suggests that slippery elm may have anti-cancer properties. Not a whole lot of research is available yet in this area. However, one study suggests that elm combined with other natural herbs (such as rhubarb and burdock root) may combat breast cancer cells.

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That’s not all. Slippery elm may also be useful for patients diagnosed with psoriasis. The elm does not cure the skin condition, as there is no known cure. In a study, however, patients that consumed elm-fortified water and removed processed foods from their diet saw an improvement in their condition.

How to Use Slippery Elm

No, you don’t need to locate slippery elm trees in the wild and pull out the bark. It is readily available in your local vitamin shop. They’re available in capsule form and even in those miniature tincture bottles. You can also find them in powder form. Mix them in with your favorite beverage or sprinkle some over your midday meal for an extra nutritional kick.

Due to its ability to treat the common cough and sore throat, slippery elm as a lozenge tablet is also commonplace. Lozenges are pills that dissolve in the mouth when mixed with saliva. This creates a gel-like substance that coats the infected and inflamed tissue.

READ MORE: Apple Cider Vinegar for Stomach Relief: A Natural Solution for Digestive Support

You’ll also find slippery elm as a rub-on cream. We mentioned earlier that soldiers once used elm for treating external wounds. The substance is still in use today for that exact purpose. Topicals include slippery elm ointments for healing bruises, cuts, burns and boils. It may also treat abnormal skin conditions, such as dermatitis and eczema.

An image of Digestive Refresh and Florocil 50

Slippery Elm Is Nature’s Digestive Remedy

Do you constantly feel bloated after a meal? You will probably need to clean up your diet. On top of that, though, you should also seek out natural remedies for digestive relief. Slippery elm is a proven solution for rough bowel movements. You shouldn’t feel like you’re exerting extreme willpower just to perform a daily natural act.

This is precisely why we included slippery elm as an ingredient in our all-new Digestive Refresh supplement. We believe healthy digestion can be achieved through wholesome ingredients intended by nature.


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Ryan Tronier

Ryan Tronier is a writer and editor who has worked with NBC, ABC, and USA Today.
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