SLIPPERY ELM and MARSHMALLOW ROOT: 2 Gut-Healing Ingredients for Your Smoothies, Porridge, Tea, or Hot Chocolate

Megan Essential Oils & Supplements, Healing Diets, Health & Nutrition 28 Comments

What do you say to herbs that are slippery and milky and soothing to the gut? They’re easy to add to smoothies, hot cereals, breads, porridges, puddings, teas and coffees. And they taste good. They taste healthy; but they taste good-healthy.

Multitudinous testimonies boast these two herbs’ gastrointestinal powers: total relief of symptoms for those suffering from various conditions ranging from interstitial cystitis to acid reflux…

I am not a healthcare practitioner, nor do I pretend to be one. Please consult your doctor before beginning any new healthcare regimen. This post contains affiliate links.

Slippery Elm

Used for hundreds of years and by different native people groups, slippery elm is now being used to treat IBS, calming the gut.

Commonly written about in alternative healing journals, slippery elm is used topically to treat wounds; and internally it’s used not only to treat stomach issues like diarrhea, but also to treat coughs and soothe sore throats.

Slippery elm contains mucilage, which is a gel-like polysaccharide. This substance coats the intestines and gives the herb its name. For those who may lack adequate mucosal lining, due to leaky gut, slippery elm provides this protective barrier.

However, the herb is not only protective. It’s also high in antioxidants that fight inflammation.

The way I first initiated myself with slippery elm was to make a simple porridge. This grain-free porridge (the recipe is in my cookbook) is nutrient-dense, yet gentler than a bowl of soaked oatmeal, safe, and suggested for invalids and even infants. Cinnamon, raw (or dairy-free) milk or cream, raw egg yolk and unrefined sweetener can all be added. Up to 5 tablespoons slippery elm powder can be used per serving.


I love blending slippery elm or marshmallow root into our family’s hot breakfast drinks, 1 tablespoon per serving.

I now conveniently add slippery elm, 1 tablespoon, to my bulletproof treats: 1, 2, 3, and 4. (They’re steamy, hot beverages fortified with gelatin, frothy and delicious.)

It can be used three times a day for gastritis, as well as for lung conditions.

(To use as a lung tonic, steep the bark for 25 minutes. Optionally, add lemon, cayenne and raw honey. Sip throughout the day, about a pint total, for relief.)

There are many other uses, too, for slippery elm: pleurisy, tooth decay, typhoid fever, interstitial cystitis, hormone balancing, heart issues and constipation. Slippery elm can even be used safely for cats and dogs.

And, added bonus, slippery elm is a prebiotic food; (it’s consumed in the colon by probiotics, creating a healthier gut ecosystem).

You can buy slippery elm powder HERE.

Marshmallow Root slippery-elm-marshmallow-root

First used by the Greeks and Egyptians as both food and medicine almost 3000 years ago, and then in Africa, China and Europe, continents where it grows natively, today marshmallow root is often associated with sweet confections.

But by herbalists, marshmallow root is most commonly used for dry coughs and sore throats, reduction of inflammation, to break up mucous and to kill bacteria.

Marshallow root’s polysaccharides give it similar mucilaginous properties to slippery elm. (This quality is also what historically made it suitable for candy-making: the fluff potential.)

Additionally, marshmallow root is antibacterial. More recently, marshmallow root is being used to treat ulcerative colitis, ulcers, Crohn’s, heartburn, kidney stones and indigestion. Many who’ve suffered from interstitial cystitis find complete relief from symptoms by using 2-4 capsules of marshmallow daily.

Tangentially, marshmallow root is being explored for its uses with asthma, eczema and diabetes.

Internally, marshmallow root’s gooey texture coats the stomach’s lining. It contains flavenoids that fight inflammation, while also shielding a compromised gut from the caustic aspects of digestion. The mucilage itself does not digest until it reaches the colon, making it a prebiotic food (food for probiotics). Additionally, marshmallow actually engulfs undigested food particles that may be harmful to a leaky gut condition, as well as bacteria and dead cell tissues. It’s cleaning up, while it’s protecting and healing.

Because of the way marshmallow root absorbs toxins, it should not be taken with medications, as it may render them ineffective.

Slippery elm or marshmallow root can be added to gentle, grain-free porridges. Stir in 1 tablespoon per serving, or more, to taste.

Slippery elm or marshmallow root can be added to gentle, grain-free porridges. Stir in 1 tablespoon per serving, or more, to taste.

2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons may be used in teas or other settings, such as porridges and smoothies. If you’re planning to steep the root, I recommend this bulk tea.

For eating, even a coffee grinder (this is the one I use) has a hard time getting the root smooth; but you can use the coffee grinder method and then sift out the powder, which I have done several times. You can also buy the fully powdered herb HERE in capsule form. It’s very inexpensive, and the capsules can be opened to be mixed for porridge or into a smoothie, or however you plan to use the powder.

Approximately 4-6 grams a day, in capsule form, can be used for persons suffering from Crohn’s, colitis, or diverticulitis. For those with acid reflux (including pregnant women), approximately 2-4 grams marshmallow root can be used in place of heartburn medication, with most patients noticing zero symptoms within several days. (As a side note, those with acid reflux should be using digestive bitters or Betaine HCl instead of medication, in most cases. [These are my favorite bitters. This HCl is non-GM.])

Cautions with marshmallow root include these: it may lower blood sugar levels; and it has a diuretic effect for some. The diuretic effect is actually quite beneficial for many conditions, as marshmallow helps to draw bacteria out of the urinary tract.


Have you used one or both of these herbs? What conditions were alleviated as a result?


Sources 8 /

  • Renee Kohley

    I didn’t realize all these benefits for both of these herbs. I have used slippery elm after tummy bugs or with diarrhea with bugs the girls have gotten and felt it worked really well – thank you for this great resource to share!

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish

    Wow very cool! I didn’t know about either of these for this purpose. I have used marshmallow root as a tincture before and slippery elm powder with raw honey during illness.

  • linda spiker

    I have never used either of these herbs. Good to know! Pinned!

  • Can you use these herbs interchangeably? I have always had an issue using tree bark. Once you grow marshmallow in the garden, you are blessed with tons of it.

  • Anya | Prepare & Nourish

    I’ve used marshmallow root in…..marshmallows! But never really considered to include it into recipes to intentionally up the nutriention but totally makes sense. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Megan.

  • Good post. Well researched. I SO appreciate that you note your sources. As an herbalist, I am interested in where herb info comes from!! As always, I value your thoughts and good ideas!

  • Megan Stevens

    You’re welcome. It’s good to hear your uses and success with slippery elm. Thanks for sharing.

  • Megan Stevens

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Megan Stevens

    Thank you!

  • Megan Stevens

    I don’t think of them as interchangeable, no. They have similar benefits, though, for sure. Their mucilaginous properties are certainly similar and the herbs can be used interchangeably in that sense and for that function. But they also have differences; for instance, I would not use marshmallow root with pets. Thanks for the great question. Love that you have your own marshmallow.

  • Megan Stevens

    Yummy, Anya! I love homemade marshmallow that actually contain the root! πŸ™‚

  • Megan Stevens

    Thank you, Carol. I appreciate your kind words! πŸ™‚

  • Marjorieann1977

    Thank you for this article! So much I didn’t know about. Pinned to my gut health board πŸ™‚

  • Megan Stevens

    I’m so glad it was helpful. Thank you.

  • Rhonda Brougher

    I have been on gaps intro for 2 wks now for Hashimotos, your blog has been my lifeline, thank you. I am wanting some kind of prebiotic that is gaps legal, would you consider this to be? (Do you recommend it with meals when I am already taking betaine hcl with meals? )

  • Rhonda Brougher

    Also, I just started on the Prescript Assist probiotic that you recommend. I take that in between breakfast and lunch. If I wanted to make sure that the slippery elm wouldn’t decrease the probiotic effectiveness, how much time should I wait after taking the probiotic to take the slippery elm?

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Rhonda, thank you for your comment and questions. I’m so glad the blog is helpful to you! For GAPS, THE best thing to do, in my opinion, would be to stock up on fresh asparagus and ferment it. You could also do this with onions and garlic, if they do not cause bloating. They’re very high in prebiotics, which are lost when cooked, but heightened when fermented; and asparagus should not be eaten raw. This is the best option, and I don’t recommend any prebiotic supplement. Thus you could take the fermented food, yes, with your meals. πŸ™‚ You could begin eating just a small amount with each meal and increase over time, getting your prebiotic and probiotics from the same food source.

  • Megan Stevens

    You can take the slippery elm with meals. It is like a bandage to your gut lining. 2 teaspoons mixed with a bit of water would be great.

  • Megan Stevens

    One more addition– yes, slippery elm is prebiotic! πŸ™‚ However, I’m not sure that Dr. Natasha ever addresses this food/supplement option. So it’s hard to say it’s GAPS legal without her stamp of approval. I personally believe it to be.

  • Ciara

    Hi Megan,
    Thank you for providing so much info on IC and GAPS on your website! After discovering GAPS diet in your interstitial cystitis article, I began the intro diet about 7 weeks ago. My IC seems to have gotten slightly worse (more frequency) and I am constantly bloated. I’m about to start taking HCL and I am now considering trying the marshmallow root. Do you know if it is GAPS legal? Do you have any advice in regards to Frequency and bloating?

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Ciara, I would get your food intolerance evaluation done with Dr. Zeff, which I mention at some length in my IC post. Also, you may have a FODMAP sensitivity or SIBO, both of which produce bloating. Probiotics can cause bloating if it’s SIBO. If the FODMAP issue, onions and winter squash, avocado, many foods can cause bloating. I don’t think Dr. Natasha addresses herbs like marshmallow root. I’m glad you’re starting with HCl; that’s great. If you can notice which foods cause the bloating or if probiotics are the culprit, those are good places to start.

  • Ericka

    I just love your brain Megan!
    You’ve become my go to while trying VERY hard to heal my IC and what ever is going on in my gut. I was using both these herbs especially Marshmallow root, but had stopped everything for a couple months to give myself a break. I’ve started to do the full GAPS diet, but need to make the plunge and do the Intro here soon.
    I’m so glad I found this article. You’ve inspired me to add these back into my diet πŸ™‚ Or at least try them tomorrow!

    On another note, do you recommend using probiotics during the Intro stage of GAPS?
    Also, how did you find out you were suffering from Candida? Did you rotate your herbs while doing the GAPS Intro diet or afterwards?
    I suspect there is some pathogen causing my bowls to be soft, but I was under the impression that that would normalize out once my gut healed. From your blogs it looks like I might need to add some herbs in the rotation too. Are there any that didn’t cause your IC to flare?

    Thank you again for sharing all your wisdom with us!

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Ericka! I’m so glad the post is helpful. Thank you for your kinds words. πŸ™‚ Regarding probiotics and the Intro. Diet, I think it’s best to start out as Dr. Natasha recommends, by slowly introducing sauerkraut juice and then sauerkraut, then yogurt etc. I was on a very modified GAPS Diet when I did the herbal rotation- part Intro, part full diet, but very restrictive. I spent probably a full year overcoming pathogen overgrowth. I worked with a doctor in New York, via the phone, and then on my own and with Dr. Zeff toward the end of the process. Most of the herbs I took did not cause my IC to flare. The one exception I list in my post on the subject as not being gentle (Kolorex). Here’s the post if you haven’t already found it: Blessings in your process!! It can be a long one, but if you continue to see improvement, you can be encouraged and know you’re heading in the right direction and not stagnating. πŸ™‚

  • Ericka

    Thank you again for sharing your journey!
    I just read your candida article and found it very informative.
    I’m going to try Lauricidin since Interfase Plus has eggs which I tried a while back before Dr. Zeff told me not to eat eggs. Yep, caused a big fat flare!

    I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a pathogen causing my symptoms or food sensitivities or both. I did the Candida diet strictly for months and it seemed put my body all out of whack, especially with blood sugar and thyroid issues. However, my morning spit has pretty much cleared up instead of being super thick along with no more bloating or gas like I had about a year ago.
    Again, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together since there are definitely some still missing since my vagina and bladder gets hot after certain meals or if I haven’t eaten often enough.

    I’m pretty much still doing the candida diet, but I do allow myself to eat all kinds of squash and some berries as my form of Carbs to help keep my blood sugar from dropping too low. I know you can’t eat fruit now, but did you eat squash during this part of your healing process? It seems like Carrots and Squash would be equivalent due to the carbs/sugars, but I’m sure everyone is different.
    What about cashews? I’ve read many controversial opinions on cashews feeding pathogens as well.

    Dr. Zeff just sent me a parasite medicine to try for a few weeks to see if that helps with my symptoms. Again, thank you for your advice and wisdom.


  • Megan Stevens

    No, I didn’t eat squash while regaining my gut equilibrium/killing off pathogen overgrowth. I would also stay away from cashews, personally. I stayed away from mushrooms, cheese, carb veggies etc. I played it safe, and it worked, although not everyone uses the low-carb approach. Berberine was a great pathogen killer that I got from Dr. Zeff. You’re welcome! πŸ™‚

  • Ericka

    Thank you again!
    I’ll ask Dr. Zeff about Berberine and stay away from cashews for awhile.
    How long did you stay away from these foods?
    Also, I saw on your article you recommend 2 weeks of rotating the herbs? Did you do this longer to get yours under control or just for the 2 weeks?

    I can’t wait to get better so I can start making some of your recipes and come visit your cafe!


  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Ericka, sorry for the long delay in responding. We were out of town for a long holiday. To answer your questions, I stayed away from the above foods for about a year. But that’s not my advice for others; it’s just what worked for my body, and it may have been too long in regard to my thyroid health. I rotated herbs for many months. Dr. Zeff had me do berberine for 6 weeks, which is adequate for most.

  • Joanne Nancy Greer-Sierpinski

    HI everyone I have digestive issues and stomach problems plus IBS and diverticulitis. So I’m taking L-Glutamine and yeterday I was at health food store and they recommended slippery elm powder and marshmellow root for my digestive issues and stomach and IBS. Dies this really help and what else will help with all the above.