Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm (Chi Yu)Slippery Elm (Chi Yu)

Botanical Name: Ulmus fulva, U. rubra

Native to North America, slippery elm bark is considered one of the most effective and valuable remedies in Western herbology.  The bark’s abundant mucilage is both strengthening and healing, giving the plant a useful broad range of application. It is especially useful for treating lung infections from consumption to bronchitis as it soothes the throat and moistens dry lungs. It has been used in times of famine as a porridge or gruel for small children and the elderly.

Below is an overview of Slippery Elm (Chi Yu), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Slippery Elm (Chi Yu).

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Western Name: Slippery Elm

Also Known As: Red Elm, Indian elm, Moose Elm, Orme, Sweet Elm

Organs/Systems: Throat, Stomach, Intestines, Lungs, Skin

Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Demulcent, Emollient, Expectorant, Diuretic, Nutritive, Mucilaginous, Astringent, Antioxidant, Nutritive, Antiseptic. Coughs, sore throat, typhoid fever, bronchitis, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), urinary tract infections (UTIs), syphilis, herpes, expels tapeworm, ulcers, colitis, aborticant, wounds, burns, rheumatism, boils, abscesses, eases labor pains, pleurisy, diverticulitis, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease.


Pin Yin: Chi Yu

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Lung, Large Intestine

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Supports Lung Yin: sore throat, calm dry cough. Promotes Digestion: indigestion, gastric ulcers, dysentery, diarrhea, urinary tract infections. Heals Wounds and Soothes Skin: boils, scalds, wounds, itchy irritated skin disorders.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Slippery elm is a large deciduous tree, with rough branches and long leaves that are unequally toothed and that have hairs on both sides. The branches grow downwards and the leaf buds are covered with a dense yellow wool and the flowers have no stalks. The bark has deep fissures, a gummy texture and a slight but distinct odor. The trees can live to be 200 years old.

Slippery elm is native to the United States and Canada. It likes well-drained soils.

Slippery Elm (Chi Yu)Parts Most Frequently Used: Inner Bark

Flavors/Temps: Warm, Slightly Bitter

Caution: Be sure to take slippery elm with at least 8 ounces of liquid.  It is recommended that if you are using other herbs or drugs, these should be taken an hour before consuming slippery elm, due to its high mucilage content that can slow the absorption of the active ingredients in other herbs and medicines.

History/Folklore: The inner bark is collected in spring from the bole and larger branches. As the wood has no commercial value trees are often stripped and allowed to die. The inner bark is sold powdered or in flat pieces 2-3 feet long and several inches wide.  It is tough and flexible. Ten year-old bark is considered the best quality. For best results the powder needs to be greyish or fawn-colored, not dark or reddish.

The common name of “red elm” derives from the inner heartwood of the tree being a reddish brown color.

Chopped bark is suitable for poultices, but the inner bark is considered best for making teas.

The mucilage in slippery elm is responsible for the herb’s ability to sooth sore throats, stomach and intestines. The herb’s ability to aid digestion is such that it is being studied for its capacity to help aid weight loss.

A teaspoon of the powdered bark mixed with water to make a smooth paste, can have boiling water (or milk) added it to with cinnamon, orange peel, nutmeg and honey added as seasonings for an easy nutritious gruel.

As a remedy for typhoid fever, a gruel drink of slippery elm was taken until thirst was quenched. It helped cleanse, heal and strengthen the lungs.

As a tonic, the herb is said to benefit the adrenal glands, respiratory system and gastrointestinal tract.

To treat dysentery and diseases of the bowels, slippery elm can be mixed with warm water and injected into the intestines.

The phenolic compounds in slippery elm contribute to the plant’s ability to help protect the body from stress and anxiety.

Slippery elm is popularly used in formulas to help treat breast cancer because of its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting abilities.

A clean diet (low in processed foods and red meat and with lots of vegetables) and a daily tea of saffron and slippery elm bark showed remarkable results in treating chronic cases of plaque psoriasis.

Native Americans use the bark to prepare a healing salve used to treat boils, abscesses, wounds, ulcers and burns. They would soak the bark and then apply it to wounds as a natural bandage, allowing it to dry over the wounds. They would also wrap slippery elm around stored foods to help prevent spoilage.

5 tablespoons of powdered slippery elm bark can be dissolved in a cup of water.

Slippery elm is good for treating constipation in dogs and especially cats.

Key Constituents:

Mucilages, Antioxidants, Phenolics, Calcium, Amino acids, Iodine, Bromine, Manganese, Zinc.

Did you know?

Baby Food

Slippery elm is used in some baby foods and adult nutritional powders to lubricate the throat and help swallowing.


Similar to Oatmeal

It is said that slippery elm bark contains as much nutrition as oatmeal and can be made into a gruel good for children, the elderly and the very sick.

Fun fact!

A Pinch for Toothaches

A pinch of slippery elm powder in a freshly decaying tooth cavity will relieve the ache and slow infection.

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ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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