Slippery Elm and Labour
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Katie
Posted on: August 5, 1998

I have heard that the herb slippery elm will help a woman go into labor, is this true? Do you have any other suggestions for a natural herb that would help in labor? Please let me know!

According to James Duke, author of "Handbook of Medicinal Plants" (CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL), a tea of the roots, bark or sap was used to "assist childbirth". He does not elaborate. Rosemary Gladstar, in her book, "Herbal Healing for Women" (available from Richters) does not mention anything about inducing labour. Likely, the action of slippery elm is more to support an easier birth, but not to induce labour.

Gladstar writes that slippery elm is "a favourite medicinal herb of mine and one I’ve used for years." It is rich is mucilage and nourishing at the same time, so it is excellent for anything that irritates or inflames the mucous membrane. Gladstar adds that slippery elm is safe to use during pregnancy for colds, infections, vaginal irritations and for morning sickness.

Gladstar offers some indication where the idea of inducing labour came from: she says that native American women used to insert slippery elm sticks into their wombs to induce abortion. Some U.S. states passed laws expressly forbidding the sale of slippery elm sticks because of this practice. However, despite its past association with abortion, Gladstar maintains that when used as a tea, slippery elm is perfectly safe for expectant mothers. The use of the sticks is totally unrelated and different from its use as a tea.

There are many herbs that induce labour. Gladstar covers them in her book. Because these same herbs can induce abortions if used incorrectly, we suggest that you consult a health care professional for advice before using any herb for this purpose.

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