Slippery Elm Tree Bark

Slippery Elm

Slippery elm, (Ulmus rubra), is a species of elm tree native to North America, particularly the eastern United States and Canada. The inner bark of the slippery elm tree has been used for centuries in traditional Native American medicine for its various medicinal properties.

Slippery Elm Tree and Habitat

Native to North America, Slippery Elm is a deciduous tree that can grow up to about 65 feet in height and 20 inches in diameter. It grows mostly in the Appalachian Mountains and the damp forests of Eastern North America and Southeastern Canada.

Slippery Elm tree is also known as “Red Elm.” This is due to its reddish heartwood. With long, slender, and green leaves, the branches grow downward and also present densely-clustered flowers.

A great thing about the tree is that it is very resistant to Dutch Elm Disease, which plagues other elms. However, it does have problems with the Elm Leaf Beetle (Xanthogaleruca luteola).

History of Slippery Elm Use

Native Americans use Slippery Elm to create balms or salves to heal wounds, burns, ulcers, psoriasis and other skin conditions. They also use it orally to soothe sore throats, relieve coughs, and help with diarrhea and stomach issues. Slippery Elm was used during the American Revolution to help treat and soothe the wounds of soldiers.

The tree is mentioned quite a bit in older literature and today it is widely discussed in alternative medicine writings and reports. Currently, there is little scientific research regarding Slippery Elm and its uses, but it is widely recommended to patients with various conditions.

Active Ingredients in Slippery Elm Bark

The inner bark of the Slippery Elm is the part that is used for its active ingredients. It is dried and ground into powder, and used for medicinal purposes.

Slippery Elm contains a substance called mucilage, which is a polysaccharide that becomes a gel when mixed with water. The mucilage comes from the inner bark of the tree and is a bit slippery and slimy, hence the name “Slippery Elm”.

The mucilage does a good job of soothing and coating the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines, causing much relief from things like Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, diverticulitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Slippery Elm Bark Health Benefits

Slippery Elm has been used as a herbal remedy in North America for hundreds of years. It is extremely versatile, providing relief from a number of ailments including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and sore throats.

Slippery elm bark contains mucilage, a gel-like substance that swells when mixed with water, forming a slippery, soothing gel. This mucilaginous substance gives slippery elm its name and is responsible for many of its therapeutic effects.

Here are some of the potential health benefits and uses of Slippery Elm Bark:

Slippery Elm Bark Soothes Sore Throats and Coughs

Slippery elm is often used to relieve sore throats, coughs, and other respiratory symptoms. The mucilage in slippery elm forms a protective coating over the throat and respiratory tract, soothing irritation and reducing inflammation. It may also help alleviate coughing by reducing irritation and promoting mucus expulsion.

Slippery Elm Bark for Digestive Support

Slippery elm is commonly used to support digestive health and alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms. The mucilage in slippery elm coats the lining of the digestive tract, providing a protective barrier and soothing inflammation. It may help relieve symptoms of conditions such as heartburn, acid reflux, gastritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Slippery Elm Bark Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Slippery elm may help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and diarrhea. Its soothing properties can help calm inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and provide relief from discomfort associated with IBS.

Slippery Elm Bark Promotes Wound Healing

Topical preparations containing slippery elm may be used to promote wound healing and alleviate skin irritation. The mucilage in slippery elm forms a protective barrier over wounds, helping to keep them moist and protected from infection. It may also help reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair.

Slippery Elm Bark Supports Oral Health

Slippery elm lozenges or mouth rinses may be used to promote oral health and relieve symptoms of conditions such as mouth ulcers, canker sores and gingivitis. The soothing properties of slippery elm can help reduce pain and inflammation in the mouth and throat.

Slippery Elm Bark Acts as a Natural Demulcent

Slippery elm is classified as a demulcent, meaning it has a soothing and protective effect on mucous membranes throughout the body. It is often used to alleviate irritation and inflammation in the throat, esophagus, stomach and intestines.

Slippery Elm Bark Protects Against Gastric Ulcers

Since many experts think it causes extra mucus production in the gastrointestinal tract, Slippery Elm may protect the tract from ulcers due to excess acid. It is rich in nutrients, including beneficial antioxidants that help relieve inflammation.

How to Take Slippery Elm Bark

Slippery Elm Bark is available in the form of tablets, capsules and lozenges. Finely powdered inner bark is used for soothing teas and a more coarsely ground bark is used for poultices.

Slippery Elm can be combined with the bark of Wild Cherry, the leaves of a Sweetgum (Liquidambar), and Mullein (Verbascum) to make a very effective cough syrup.

Slippery Elm Bark can also help indigestion and heartburn when mixed with water and consumed. It is reportedly of great benefit to those with bronchitis as it comforts the upper body as well.

You can also blend some Slippery Elm with glycerin and apply to cuts, burns, other skin problems, or if you just want to keep your hands feeling soft and supple.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Slippery Elm Notes / Side Effects

Slippery Elm Bark is generally considered safe for most people when used appropriately and in recommended doses. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult with a healthcare professional before using slippery elm bark supplements.

Additionally, individuals with certain medical conditions or taking medications should seek medical advice before starting slippery elm supplementation to avoid potential interactions or adverse effects.

Latin Names

Ulmus rubra

Common Names

Slippery Elm is also known as Ulmus fulva, Red Elm, Sweet Elm, Moose Elm, Indian Elm, Gray Elm and Soft Elm.

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