What You Should Know
Slippery Elm is a tree native to North America that has been used medicinally for centuries by native Americans for everything from stomach upsets to coughs to infected wounds. Slippery elm bark contains sticky secretions or mucilage that is used medicinally. When the mucilage is mixed with water, it creates a soothing substance that can be taken as a tea or applied as a poultice, depending on the ailment.
Today, the FDA has approved slippery elm for treatment of coughs and sore throats. However, it is also commonly used as a treatment for other digestive problems like inflammation, diarrhea, Crohn’s Disease, and gastritis.
Not really applicable.
Slippery elm is also one of the ingredients in a naturopathic blend called essiac, developed in Canada in the 1930’s. Essiac was believed to cure and prevent certain types of cancer although, to this day, no peer-reviewed research supports this claim.
Slippery elm is increasingly touted as a weight loss aid, with claims that the bark helps to detoxify the body and help it to “flush” fat while improving digestion. Many diet aids contain slippery elm for this reason. We were unable to locate any scientific support for this claim. Slippery elm is becoming more difficult to find as Dutch Elm Disease has wiped out a significant amount of the trees in the northern United States and southern Canada. Indiscriminate harvesting of the bark, allowing the tree to die, has also caused population loss. Although there are efforts underway to require sustainable harvesting of slippery elm bark, its rarity and value will continue to mean that some of the bark is nefariously and illegally harvested and that some products that claim to contain slippery elm do not contain the ingredient at all.
- FDA approves slippery elm for certain conditions
- May have an anti-inflammatory effect on the digestive system
- No scientific support to suggest that slippery elm helps with weight loss
- Weight loss products that are marketed as containing slippery elm may not contain any or may contain a sub-therapeutic dose
- No standardized dose of slippery elm used for weight loss purposes
While slippery elm has been used for hundreds of years as a cure-all and still shows promise today for many conditions, there simply is no support for it being useful as a weight loss aid. Because there are no standardized doses for slippery elm, it is wise to check with your doctor before trying any particular slippery elm product. We recommend that consumers never purchase weight loss products that do not list all of their ingredients along with their concentrations. That will give you some idea of what the product contains and how much. Fortunately, there are many weight loss aids on the market today that contain clinically-proven ingredients like green tea that can boost metabolism and burn fat.