Slippery Elm: A Mother’s Herbal Ally

As I sit at my desk this on sunny and cheerful Saturday morning in Brooklyn, excited and honored to write my first article for MommyBites, I confront the challenge of choosing the first herb to share in this herbal allies series for mom. The answer arrives when I get a text from a dear friend, cancelling our afternoon plans due to her 10-month-old coming down with a tummy bug. Slippery Elm!

What is Slippery Elm?

Slippery Elm is native to North America, and was widely used by Native Americans as medicine and as food. The inner bark of the tree is the only part used, often in powdered form. It  is mucilaginous  and has coating, lubricating, and cooling properties that soothe irritated and raw membranes. These properties relax the mucosa of the digestive system, stimulating a reflex action through spinal nerves to related areas such respiratory and urinary systems.  In addition to aiding recovery from stomach viruses and food poisoning, Slippery Elm is a very valuable remedy for respiratory issues, such as coughs, bronchitis, and urinary infections. It also prevents and alleviates symptoms of diaper rash.

Slippery Elm for Stomach Viruses and Food Poisoning

First of all, it is important to keep a vomiting baby or child well-hydrated. Also, if the illness persists for more than a day, seek medical attention.

As a baby or child recovers and the appetite slowly returns, introduce soothing and easily digestible foods mixed with Slippery Elm. The powder form is recommended for its versatility. As a baby or child recovers from a tummy bug, a teaspoon of Slippery Elm can be added to a quarter cup of water and administered with a dropper or spoon. It can also be added to oatmeal, applesauce, milk, yogurt, mashed potatoes, cereals, smoothies, etc.

My favorite way to use it, especially for recovery from stomach viruses or food poisoning, is to mix Slippery Elm powder in mashed cassava (Manihot esculeneta), also known as yucca or mandioca, which is the root that tapioca is made from. Once peeled, cassava can be cooked in water just like potatoes and it also assists in the digestive tract’s recovery. It’s a very safe and gentle solid first food after illness, especially when mixed with Slippery Elm.

Slippery Elm 2Slippery Elm and Diaper Rash

Slippery Elm powder may also be used topically to help prevent and heal diaper rash. It can be used instead of commercial baby powders because it absorbs moisture and transforms into a gel-like substance which coats and protects the skin.

Additionally, if a rash is already present, combine Slippery Elm powder and honey to the consistency of a soft cream. Apply it to the tender areas to soothe the irritated skin. Naturally, exposing the baby’s bottom to air as often as possible is helpful as well.

Slippery Elm and Respiratory Illnesses

Slippery Elm is a very valuable remedy for respiratory complaints such as coughs and bronchitis. Mixed with honey again, but to a firmer consistency so it can be rolled into balls, Slippery Elm powder brings great relief to sore throats when swallowed or in tea.

I always have several ounces of Slippery Elm powder in a glass jar in my kitchen because  it’s a very useful, safe, and comforting ally. I have used it for my child with very positive results.

There is no known limit to the amounts of Slippery Elm that can be safely consumed.

Purchasing Slippery Elm

It can be easily purchased online and found in some good health food stores. Some of the places in the New York area where it can be found are as follows:

  • Flower Power in Manhattan
  • Herb Shoppe in Brooklyn

And a good online source is

*Disclaimer- not meant to take the place of medical advice.

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Isa Brito is an Herbal Educator, Holistic Health Counselor, American Association of Drugless Practitioners Board Certified. She lives in Brooklyn with her daughter where she practices and teaches. She owns a small line of handmade herbal products.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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3 thoughts on “Slippery Elm: A Mother’s Herbal Ally

  1. Thank you for your information on slippery elm for babies. I recently went into a health food store and asked about it and the person there told me that the baby could become dependent on it for a laxative. I didn’t think so but didn’t have anything to tell me otherwise. I found the information you gave very helpful.
    I have a grandson who is three months old and on a Doctors recommended goat milk formula,however we suspect that he has an Alers Danilo syndrome colon as his mother has. It is still too early to really tell. He is on the low weight scale and people in the family keep pushing for the parents to put him on a regular store formula even though the dr says this formula is working. We were told that cereal would give him added carbs and help to boost his weight. We tried but he became constipated.I am interested in giving him the slippery elm with the cereal to help him. Thank you for the information so we have other options to possibly consider.

  2. Hello Lynette,

    I am sorry to hear about the issues with your grandson.
    As far as I know. there should not be an issue, but in the case of the possibility of Alers Danilo syndrome, it is best to be ion the safer side for sure. I tend to use Slippery Elm more a remedy than food, it could create bulk in the colon, if ingested in food portions. So maybe as an add on to the chosen food, for soothing the digestive track, could be good idea. My daughter ate over cooked yucca root (also a carb) as an 5 month old. We cooked it until it was very very soft, like the least firm of custards, and mixed it w a bit of goats milk and that was very gentle and brought her back to being regular. With any of these roots and barks, I think best make it as runny as possible and mix with something nutrient dense such as mothers milk or goats milk. Always go very slow and start with tiny amounts and monitor how his system reacts to it so you know what the ideal portion works for him and gets him to put on and gain weight. Yucca is regarded by the Amazonian natives as a very gentle nourishing food for babies and elderly people. Central American markets often carry, but in my area here in BK even the local Key Foods offers yucca.
    The Native Americans here, used Slippery Elm for porridges. But since we are speaking of a possible condition, its best to always do very small portions. Laxative dependency is nothing I heard about slippery elm before but again, best to be cautions and go slow. Goat’s milk is reputed to be very easy to digest and nourishing to babies, and I used it with my daughter with great success. Let me know if this helps. Kindly, Isa

  3. Thank you for getting back to me. We will try your suggestions.
    Again,thank you.

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