Ulmus rubra Muhl.

Last updated: 22 Mar 2017

Scientific Name

Ulmus rubra Muhl.


Ulmus americana var. rubra (Muhl.) Aiton, Ulmus crispa Willd., Ulmus fulva Michx., Ulmus pendula Willd., Ulmus pubescens Walter. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Red elm, slippery elm [2]
North America Red elm, slippery elm, pe tututupa (Dakota); wakidikidik (Winnebago); taitsako pahat (Pawnee); orme rouge [2].

Geographical Distributions

Ulmus rubra is a species of the deciduous elm tree native to North America ranging from Maine and southern Quebec to eastern North Dakota; from northern Texas to northern Georgia. [3]

Botanical Description

U. rubra is a member of Ulmaceae family. [1] It can grows quickly to a maximum height of 40 m. [4]

Between the months of February and May, U. rubra produces small, short-stalked, perfect flowers from the buds of the twig. [4]

The leaves grow to roughly 18 cm long and have jagged edges. [4]

The pubescence on the buds and twigs make the plant distinguishable from other Ulmus species. [4]


Though U. rubra typically grows best in moist soils, it can be found in drier climates, as well. [3]

Chemical Constituent

The bark of U. rubra was found to contain mucilage (e.g. D-galactose, L-rhamnose and D-galacturonic acid), methylated aldose sugar and pentose sugar. [5]

Aqueous extract of U. rubra leaves was found to contain 2-O-methylxylose, 2-O-methylfucose and apiose, and 3-O-methylgalactose. [6]

Plant Part Used

Bark and root. [7][8]

Traditional Use

U. rubra is commonly used as a gastrointestinal tonic, thought to relieve catarrh of the digestive and urinary tracks, as well as any disease effecting internal mucous membranes of the stomach, kidney and bowel. [9]

The Cherokee found use as both an anti diarrheal, [7] and a laxative, suggesting its general regulating effect on the digestive system. [10]

Additionally, the Dakota, Omaha, Pawnee, Ponca, and Winnebago tribes all use U. rubra as a laxative. [11]

Along with the Cherokee, the Iroquois [8] and the Ojibwa [12] tribes found use in U. rubra as gastrointestinal aid. In this instance, the Cherokee and Iroquois used the bark as the medicinal part, while the Ojibwa used an infusion of the whole plant.

In numerous instances, the bark of U. rubra has been used to treat throat ailments. The Iroquois, [8] Cherokee, [10] Chippewa, [13] and Ojibwa [14] tribes suggest either chewing of the root or a decoction of the root to east many common throat disorders. The bark has also been used to ease and alleviate coughing, and in some cases, tuberculosis, by the Cherokee [10] and Mohegan [15] tribes. The Cherokee, as well as the Iroquois, also used U. rubra as a respiratory aid to promote general respiratory health [8].

In cases of sores and wounds on the skin, a poultice was made from the bark and applied directly to the wounds by people in the Cherokee, [10] Menominee, [16] Meskwaki, [17] and Micmac, [18] most likely due to its ability to draw toxins from a wound. The Ojibwa tribe used an infusion of the roots as an antiseptic wash for cuts on the foot [12].

U. rubra has also been used as a gynecological aid, specifically to ease the process of childbirth, by the Alabama, Cherokee, [7] Iroquois, [8] and Meskwaki [8] tribes. With the exception of the Meskwaki, who used a decoction of the root, a decoction of the bark was used to produce the desired effects for women’s health.

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

A mixture of U. rubra extract with other herbs was found to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity. [19] U. rubra extract was evaluated as novel therapies in inflammatory bowel disease. [20]

Antioxidant activity

U. rubra extract was found to exhibit antioxidant properties in dose-dependent ONOO(-) scavenging activity. [21]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women. [22]


Dosage Range

Tea – three to four grams of powdered bark steeped in hot water one to three times per day. [22]

Topical application – Poultices are prepared by soaking the bark pieces in water until the mixture thickens. [22]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Ulmus rubra Muhl. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 26; cited 2017 Mar 22]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2448805.
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 669.
  3. Schuster WS, Griffin KL, Roth H, Turnbull MH, Whitehead D, Tissue DT. Changes in composition, structure and aboveground biomass over seventy-six years (1930-2006) in the Black Rock Forest, Hudson Highlands, southeastern New York State. Tree Physiol. 2008;28(4):537-549.
  4. Encyclopedia of Life. Ulmus rubra (Slippery elm). [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 Mar 22]. Available from: http://eol.org/pages/594817/details.
  5. Hough L, Jones JKN, Hirst EL. Chemical constitution of slippery elm mucilage: Isolation of 3-methyl D-galactose from the hydrolysis products. Nature. 1950;165:34-35.
  6. Bacon JS, Cheshire MV. Apiose ad mono-O-methyl sugars as minor constituents of the leaves of deciduous trees and various other species. Biochem J. 1971;124(3):555-562.
  7. Paz Taylor LA. Plants used as curatives by certain southeastern Tribes. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Botanical Museum of Harvard University; 1940.
  8. Moerman DE. Native American ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press; 2009.
  9. Hutchens AR. Indian herbalogy of North America. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambala; 1991.
  10. Hamel PB, Chiltoskey MU. Cherokee plants and their uses - A 400 year history. Sylva, North Carolina: Herald Publishing Co.; 1975.
  11. Gilmore MR. Uses of plants by the Indians of the Missouri river region. SI-BAE Annual Report. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1919; p. 33.
  12. Reagan AB. Plants used by the Bois Fort Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indians of Minnesota. Wisconsin Archeologist. 1928;7(4):230-248.
  13. Frances D. Uses of plants by the Chippewa Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report. Bureau of American Ethnology. 1928;44:273-379.
  14. Smith HH. Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians. Bulletins of the Public Museum of Milwaukee. Volume 4. No 2. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1932; p. 327-525.
  15. Tantaquidgeon G. Folk medicine of the Delaware and related Algonkian IndiansHarrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical Commission Anthropological Papers, 1972; p. 3.
  16. Smith HH. Ethnobotany of the Menomini Indians. Bulletins of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee. Volume 4. No 2. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1923; p. 171-174.
  17. Smith HH. Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians. Bulletins of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee. Volume 4. No 2. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1928; p. 175-326.
  18. Chandler RF, F Lois, Hooper SN. Herbal remedies of the Maritime Indians. J Ethnopharmacol. 1979;1:49-68.
  19. Hybrid protocols plus natural treatments for inflammatory conditions. Posit Health News. 1998;(17):16-18.
  20. Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton DS. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: An in vitro study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002;16(2):197-205.
  21. Choi HR, Choi JS, Han YN, Bae SJ, Chung HY. Peroxynitrite scavenging activity of herb extracts. Phytother Res. 2002;16(4):364-367.
  22. University of Maryland Medical Center. Slippery elm. [homepage on the Internet]. c2017 [cited 2017 Mar 22]. Available from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/slippery-elm.