Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Slippery Elm: Uses and Risks

Slippery elm is a tree that grows in North America. For centuries, Native Americans -- and later European settlers -- used its inner bark as a treatment for many conditions.

Why do people take slippery elm?

Slippery elm has not been well-studied. There's some evidence that it may help with certain cold symptoms. One study found that sucking on slippery elm lozenges may help ease a sore throat.

Slippery elm contains mucilage. This is a sticky substance that can't be digested. Mucilage seems to help improve bowel regularity. A small amount mixed in water to make a slurry is ingested for digestive problems. Slippery elm may help people with constipation due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), one small study showed. More research is needed. Some people also use slippery elm powder in water to soothe heartburn and mild stomach discomfort.

A small amount mixed in water to make a slurry is ingested for digestive problems.

Some people use slippery elm ointments to soothe skin ulcers and cold sores. There's not enough research to know if they really help.

Slippery elm is an ingredient in an herbal cancer treatment called Essiac. There's no evidence that it has any benefit, though.

Standard doses of slippery elm have not been set for any condition. Ingredients in supplements may vary widely. This makes it very hard to set a standard dose.

Can you get slippery elm naturally from foods?

Slippery elm bark is edible. Some manufacturers add slippery elm to throat lozenges, baby foods, and nutrition drinks.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

Side effects. Slippery elm supplements seem to be safe for most adults. It can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Slippery elm ointment on the skin can sometimes cause a rash.

Risks. Slippery elm may not be safe for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Pregnant women especially should not use slippery elm. Traditionally, people thought it could cause miscarriages.

Interactions. Slippery elm may slow down how quickly your body absorbs medications, so don’t ingest slippery elm near the time when you take your medicines. If you take any medications regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using slippery elm supplements.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on February 18, 2015

Vitamins and
Lifestyle Guide

Which Nutrients
Are You Missing?

Learn More

Today on WebMD

vitamin rich groceries
Do you know your vitamin ABCs?
St Johns wart
Ease hot flashes and other symptoms.
Are you getting enough?
Take your medication
Wonder pill or overkill?
fruits and vegetables
Woman sleeping
Woman staring into space with coffee

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.