Although some herbs on this site are regularly featured in the news, Slippery Elm is featured for a much more controversial reason. The value of its bark, as a treatment for digestive complaints, has led to widespread theft of the tree in North America and beyond. Incredibly, this once-widespread elm tree is now in danger of extinction.
Slippery Elm Bark was used by Native Americans and early colonists for digestive ailments such as diarrhea and constipation. As such it was an important part of the fabric of these early communities. It was also used to treat external wounds and skin irritations.
This medium sized deciduous tree is native to North America and found across the continent. Its medicinal properties are primarily ascribed to the inner bark.
The increasing theft from US forests is not the only problem facing the Slippery Elm. Accidentally introduced from Asia, a fungal tree disease (named Dutch Elm disease) is exacerbating the problem and contributing to the Slippery Elm’s declining numbers.
Slippery Elm has a long history of use in North America, from the early settlers using it to calm their stomachs, to civil war soldiers applying it to gunshot wounds. It has proven a readily available, effective herbal remedy.
When combined with water, it creates a mucilage (with a slippery consistency – hence the name) which has a very soothing action on the digestive lining. It coats and soothes mucous membranes while also absorbing toxins which can cause intestinal imbalances. Slippery Elm works effectively to remedy many digestive ailments such a diarrhea, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and heartburn.
Slippery Elm bark is also very effective in soothing sore throats, coughs and respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pleurisy. Unlike many other herbs which are still under testing, Slippery Elm Bark is already currently recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective nonprescription.
Slippery elm's inner bark can be ground up and eating as a porridge. It is highly nutritious and packed full of antioxidants, with a similar consistency and taste to oatmeal.
Slippery Elm is also used to make burial caskets, rope, chords, fence posts, furniture, and some musical instruments such as drums.
Slippery Elm Bark is available in powdered form, either as a tea or as a capsule. It is often also combined with other herbs that aid the digestive system, examples being peppermint, ginger or aloe.
Although Slippery Elm Bark is recognized by the FDA, always be sure to consult your doctor before starting a course of herbal treatment.