For centuries, Native Americans used slippery elm as an herbal remedy for treating various ailments, including skin symptoms such as wounds, ulcers, burns, and inflammation. Though research is limited, slippery elm may be a helpful herbal remedy for controlling psoriasis symptoms. It may also help with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms — such as leaky gut syndrome — which research suggests may be more common among people with psoriasis.
Some members of MyPsoriasisTeam have asked about slippery elm’s effectiveness. “Has anyone tried slippery elm tea?” one member asked. Another replied, “I’ve used the tea and I’m moving on to try supplements too.”
If you’re curious about whether slippery elm might help your psoriasis symptoms, read on to find out what the research says.
The slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) is a medium-sized tree native to North America. Its inner bark can be dried and powdered for use in teas, tinctures, supplements, and skin salves. When mixed with water, slippery elm forms a gel with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
In addition to using slippery elm to treat skin ailments like burns and ulcers, some Native Americans took it to ease coughs, sore throats, and digestive problems like ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
A chiropractor named Dr. John O.A. Pagano wrote a book several years ago called “Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative.” He suggested trying what he called the Pagano Diet to manage psoriasis from the inside out, and one of the diet’s recommendations involves consuming slippery elm bark powder. For that reason, it has grown in popularity among people with psoriasis.
Various products contain slippery elm. But the most common ways to take it are as a dietary supplement capsule or as a powder to make tea.
Most people on MyPsoriasisTeam who have tried slippery elm tea admit that the taste isn’t their favorite. “I started drinking marshmallow tea to heal my leaky gut. Slippery elm works as well, but it’s very thick and kind of slimy. If I move on to slippery elm, I will use the tincture instead. I drink coffee in the morning with my tinctures added and tea in the evening,” explained one member.
Another said, “You’re not sipping it for pleasure, but pouring it down to ‘get it in ya.’ I’ve seen posters say, ‘Add honey and your favorite nut milk.’ But why take a chance of irritating your gut by adding anything that could sit there in glue like an irritant? I look at this like medicine.”
Some people who don’t like the tea have tried slippery elm supplements. “I’m doing the tea protocol (from the Pagano diet), but also bought some slippery elm capsules,” shared a member.
Several skin care and hair care products also claim to contain slippery elm as an ingredient.
A small number of researchers have evaluated whether slippery elm might benefit people with psoriasis, but their findings have been inconclusive.
In one study from 2004, researchers examined five case reports of people with plaque psoriasis who drank slippery elm bark water as part of a comprehensive dietary protocol. The study participants did experience symptom improvements. However, they combined slippery elm with a specific diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and small amounts of fish and poultry, while avoiding red meat, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.
Given the small sample size of the study and the fact that participants used interventions beyond taking slippery elm, it’s difficult to determine how effective the herbal remedy alone would be in controlling psoriasis symptoms.
Unfortunately, no new research on oral or topical slippery elm for psoriasis has since been published. The lack of evidence doesn’t necessarily mean slippery elm isn’t beneficial. However, it’s important to remember that slippery elm isn’t an evidence-based treatment and shouldn't be considered a substitute for validated psoriasis treatments like phototherapy, steroid creams, or anti-inflammatory medications.
This means that any suggestion that slippery elm helps with psoriasis is strictly anecdotal (based on personal experience). Always talk to a doctor and a dietitian before trying slippery elm or any other complementary therapies.
Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared their experiences with slippery elm, both positive and negative.
One member shared their recipe for making slippery elm tea. “The Baar slippery elm tea is a powder. This is best made about 45 minutes before each meal. Steep it for 15 and drink it 30 minutes before eating. Add a heaping teaspoon of the powder to hot water in a mug. If you microwave water, add the tea after. In 15 minutes, the tea will fluff up and turn into a sort of glop, to put it kindly. Getting this into your digestive tract is like giving it a temporary liner, so food can get through effectively. Some people liken this to temporarily lining your leaky gut,” they explained.
However, not every member who has tried slippery elm was impressed by the results. One member explained, “I was drinking slippery elm tea suggested by a natural skin clinic here in New Zealand, but after several months of unsuccessful treatment, we decided man-made meds were the way to go.”
Taking slippery elm as a dietary supplement or tea isn’t proven to help with skin conditions like psoriasis, but it might support digestive health. Studies show that gastrointestinal symptoms improve when participants take herbal supplements containing slippery elm. The gel that forms from slippery elm powder may help promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and protect against leaky gut syndrome. However, there’s still a lot to be discovered before slippery elm is recommended for psoriasis or other health conditions.
Slippery elm has no known serious side effects. It does coat your digestive tract, which slows down your body’s absorption of medications and other herbs. Therefore, Mount Sinai recommends taking it two hours before or after taking other drugs or supplements.
However, you should always ask your doctor for medical advice before introducing something new to your psoriasis treatment plan, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. And you should never discontinue your psoriasis treatments in favor of natural remedies without clearing that with your dermatologist.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 117,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.
Have you tried herbal medicine to help with healing psoriasis? What other forms of alternative medicine are you interested in or have you tried? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.