Written by: Charoula Dontopoulos
A lot of us do not consider trees as part of the Herbal Family of plants.  Huge mistake! Oak Trees, Willow Trees, Elder Trees, Hawthorne Trees, Juniper Trees, and – for me – the lofty Slippery Elm Tree — all are not just beautiful trees but also contain deeply healing chemicals in their barks, or leaves, or roots, or fruit.

For those of us who live in the country, the Slippery Elm is different from other Elms, and it takes someone with a good tree knowledge—and a good eye—to distinguish it in the woods.

We are fortunate that a young Slippery Elm has been growing at the back of our house, at the border of the tree covered slopes descending down to Deer Creek. I can follow it grow year in and out until it will be ready for me to ask it for some of its miraculous bark! For now, it is off limits!

Barks of different trees are valuable for their different kinds of medicinal healing qualities.

But: Slippery Elm Bark is a miracle soothing medicine.

I have been reading about it since the beginning of my Herbal studies, and I had good occasion to use it early on, when I was having a LOT of intestinal issues. I knew these were due to foods that did not agree with me at the time, but it was not enough to give those foods up.  The harm had been done (!), and I just needed to both detox well, and use some specific herbs to soothe the intestinal inflammation. Slippery Elm was the best remedy for me.

According to many Herbal sources/books I read back then, 50% of Slippery Elm is mucilage, which is a plant substance unique in moistening and soothing all our internal organs, including lungs, stomach, bladder, & Large and Small Intestines,  all of which often loose their fluids and get too dry to function as they should. The dryness causes cramping, pains, coughing, urinary and abdominal issues, etc.

The Slippery Elm tree is native to North America, and was widely used by the Native Americans who introduced the new arrivals to its qualities. The Native Americans were very skilled in extracting the inner bark of the tree without killing the tree, and used it both as a demulcent and a very nutritious food which could treat dry and malnourished conditions.

There are different ways to use Slippery Elm bark properly.  We can either get the powdered bark, or the bark itself in shredded form.

I personally use the latter, as powdered bark is harder to work with.


I infuse the bark in water (one to 2 or 3 teaspoons per cup of water) and let it simmer (low heat) for at least half an hour. Then I turn off the power and let it sit for another half hour, at which point its chemicals have been well absorbed into the water.

Strain and drink a cup at a time, as needed. It has been so miraculous for me, that I fully recommend it for intestinal issues!

If we make the tea with the powder instead of the bark, as many herbalists suggest, we are also able to enjoy its smooth flavor, but it is –for me at least! – hard to swallow!  So I stick with the bark, strain it, and enjoy it without any issues!


If you have questions on any of the above herbs and their use, please contact me:

Ask Charoula about Herbs

All answers are posted on our website E-Wellness.com, on the following Friday.

Thanks for reading!

Charoula Dontopoulos
Certified Herbalist
Holistic Health Advisor
BC Polarity Therapy Practitioner


Questions and Answers

Q: Why is the powder of the Slippery Elm tree hard to swallow?

A: Oh my, I wonder if anyone has had ANY tea in powder Form.  Some leaf so-called powders are not so bad because the leaves are not entirely pulverized but are in very small pieces, and we can always strain them and drink the tea easily.

Powdered barks are fully pulverized, the result being a flour like substance that is very hard to mix in water, therefore hard to sip and even harder to swallow. At least this is my personal experience!!

Q: You will probably discuss detoxing herbs in future articles, but in general lines—would you advise using the detoxing herbs first, and then follow up with the soothing demulcents, or vice versa?

A: Excellent question!   And not too easy to answer with certainty.  There are times when some of us have been doing so much harm to our intestinal system that soothing with demulcents would be                  best at first, sort of like preparing the system for the Detox.

Detoxing is something we all should do regularly, but it can be rough to go through, depending the state of our system!

In those cases, Demulcents (in my opinion) would facilitate and soothe the system, and make Detoxing less hard to accomplish.

Otherwise, if we have been cleansing regularly, Detoxing should probably go first, and Demulcents would follow, to sort of help complete the process.


Please do consult your Holistic Health Practitioner, and most importantly your Herbalist before you use any herb, whether as a tincture, a tea, or a standardized extract.  Herbs are powerful!!!

I would love to hear more of your questions on any of our blogs, and specifically on any Issues you are wondering about!  Thanks for sending in your questions!

Ask Charoula about Herbs