The bark from slippery elm has many well-studied benefits, such as treating IBS and GI disorders, acid reflux, sore throat, mucus and cough. But simply taking slippery elm won’t get you benefits if you don’t take it the right way.
Here is what you need to know about slippery elm, including the different types, dosage and the best slippery elm suppplements.
Best Slippery Elm Supplements
Most slippery elm supplements are surprisingly bad quality. The slippery elm supplements below actually use the inner bark of the plant. Some are also certified organic and use sustainable practices. Keep reading to learn how to choose a good slippery elm supplement.
1. Hawaii Farm Slippery Elm Bark Extract
This brand makes a lot of great glycerin-based extracts. Their slippery elm bark has a menstruum ratio fo 1:3, which means it is quite potent. It’s also affordable for the amount of medicine you get per bottle. They imply that it is made from just the inner bark of the tree.
2. Micro Nutrients Organic Slippery Elm Bark Powder
Made from just inner bark, this 1lb (454g) bag of slippery elm powder ends up being very affordable. It is also sustainably-sourced so you know that forets weren’t destroyed to get the bark.
3. Source Nutrition Organic Slippery Elm Powder
This is a really nice, fresh slippery elm powder made from the inner bark of the tree. The bark is certified organic and comes in 1lb bulk bags. It currently is cheaper than the slippery elm powder by Micro Nutrients (above) and seems to be just as good. However, the Micro Nutrients brand has more reviews so I listed it above this one.
4. Now Slippery Elm Bark Powder
If you don’t want to commit to a large package of slippery elm powder, this is a good option. On a per-ounce basis, it is almost as affordable as bulk slippery elm. Even though they don’t list it on the label, this powder is made from just the inner bark of slippery elm. The brand NOW is also great about testing their products to ensure there is no heavy metal contamination.
5. Oregon Harvest Organic Slippery Elm Capsules
These capsules contain 400mg of inner bark powder each. The daily dosage is 3 capsules, which means one bottle is a 30-day supply. The slippery elm is certified organic and the company uses good testing practices. The capsules are made of gelatin so not vegan. Just note that (as is often the case with slippery elm capsules) it ends up being very expensive. The entire bottle only contains 1.27oz of slippery elm — which makes it 3-4x more expensive than buying loose powder.
Choose Supplements Made with the Inner Bark of Slippery Elm
Only the inner bark of slippery elm contains significant amounts of mucilage, which is what primarily gives the plant its health benefits. Unfortunately, because they are cheaper to produce, many slippery elm supplements are made from the entire bark. These will not provide the same health benefits as supplements made from just inner bark.
Good brands of slippery elm supplements will list whether they are made from inner bark. Slippery elm powder from inner bark is very light or reddish in color whereas supplements which use the entire bark are darker. Inner bark powder will also gel much better than powders made from the entire bark.
Types of Slippery Elm Supplements
Slippery elm powder is made dried bark which is ground into a fine powder. You can mix slippery elm powder with hot water to make tea. Because the powder turns into a very thick gel when mixed with water, it isn’t exactly pleasant to drink. A lot of people prefer to mix slippery elm powder into smoothies or food instead.
How to make slippery elm tea from powder:
- Put 1 tsp (approximately 1.5 grams) of bark powder in 1 cup of hot water.
- Stir very well.
- Add lemon or honey, if desired.
- Drink immediately.
- Don’t allow the tea to sit for a long time or it will become very thick.
Loose Chopped Bark
Loose slippery elm bark is exactly what it sounds like: chopped up pieces of bark. It is boiled with water to make a decoction. Because loose bark contains both the inner and outer parts of the bark, it isn’t as potent as supplements made from just the inner bark. However, it is the easiest to harvest and make and thus the cheapest type of slippery elm supplement.
How to make slippery elm decoction:
- Mix 1 part chopped slippery elm bark with 8 parts water.
- Let the mixture sit 8-12 hours.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the to a simmer.
- Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Strain and reserve the liquid.
- Take 4-16 ml of the liquid, 3x per day.
Slippery elm extracts are made by soaking the bark in glycerin, alcohol or (less frequently) oil. The medicinal parts of the bark dissolve into the liquid. As a result, slippery elm extracts are very potent and you don’t need to take as much of them to get benefits.
Note: A lot of supplements call their products “extracts” when they are really just dried powders. A true extract is always a liquid and you will see oil, glycerin or alcohol in the ingredients.
*Slippery Elm Glycirin Extracts Are Better than Alcohol Extracts
For most medicinal herbs, alcohol extracts are better than glycerin extracts: the alcohol does a better job extracting nutrients and has a much longer shelf life. However, this is not the case with slippery elm bark. Always choose glycerin-based slippery elm bark extract.
The reason is because alcohol does not extract mucilage well. Glycerin does a much better job. Since mucilage is primarily what gives slippery elm bark its health benefits, glycerin extracts will produce better results. Note this is the case with other mucilage plants too, such as mullein.
Slippery elm lozenges are typically made with powder that that has been mixed with a fructose and a binder. A typical lozenge will contain 150mg of slippery elm powder. At this dosage, slippery elm lozenges can be helpful for sore throat but are not potent enough for treating GERD, acid reflux or stomach issues.
Most slippery elm capsules contain powder. A single capsule usually only contains about 400mg of powder, which is actually a very small amount. It ends up being much cheaper to buy loose slippery elm powder instead. However, slippery elm capsules are the most convenient form to take. Because slippery elm capsules don’t have contact with the throat, they aren’t recommended for sore throat.
Best Way to Take Slippery Elm
For most health issues, the best way to take slippery elm is as an oil or glycerin extract. These extracts are more potent than other types of slippery elm supplements. You can also drink slippery elm tea but, because it has a gross gel-like consistency, it may be hard to drink enough of it to get benefits.
Below are guidelines about how to take slippery elm for health benefits.
- Stomach and GI problems, inflammation, cough or mucus: Take slippery elm as an oil or glycerin extract, drink slippery elm tea, or mix slippery elm powder into food.
- Sore throat: Take slippery elm lozenges or gargle slippery elm tea.
- Skin: Mix slippery elm powder with some water and wrap it in a clean bandage to make a poultice. Or dip a towel into slippery elm tea to make a compress. Apply to inflamed or irritated skin.
- Hair: Mix slippery elm powder with water and apply to hair.
Slippery Elm Bark Dosage
- Tea: 1.5 grams (1 tsp) in 1 cup of water, taken 1-2 times per day
- Decoction: 4-16ml, taken up to 3 times per day
- Powder or Capsules: 800mg to 1500mg per day, taken with water
- Liquid Extracts: 1ml of extract, taken 1 to 3 times per day.
Cautions and Side Effects
There are no reported side effects of slippery elm bark. It has been reported that slippery elm has abortive effects, and its use by females who are pregnant is not recommended. Because the mucilage might interfere with absorption of other medicines, it’s recommended that you wait at least 2 hours after taking slippery elm before taking any other medicines or supplements.