Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva)
Slippery elm is the inner bark of a tree in the elm family, formerly known as U. fulva, native from Maine through the St. Lawrence valley, west to the Dakotas, south to Texas, and east to Florida. The bark is harvested from wild trees; the rough outer bark is removed and the inner bark retained. Often used as a digestive tonic, Slippery Elm helps soothe the mucous membranes of the throat and the entire digestive tract. It's a popular herbal ingredient in natural throat and cough lozenges. In capsules, this herb makes a wonderful stomach-soother and digestive aid.
Slippery Elm is rich in nutrients and is easy to digest, making it an excellent food during times of digestive discomfort. It can be made into a gruel. The primary chemical constituents of Slippery Elm include mucilage (galactose), starch, tannins, calcium, vanadium, and zinc. The herb works with the body to draw out impurities and toxins, assisting with the healing of all body parts. Due to its high content and peculiar mucilage content, Slippery Elm is remarkably effective, both internally and externally (in poultices), against sore & inflamed mucous membranes, and is one of the best agents for combating coughs. One early American ethnobotanist described the various uses for this herb that he observed among the Indians, and among the pioneers & settlers of the West, as follows: "urinary and bowel complaints, sore throat, scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera infantum, to ease childbirth and reduce the pain of labor, and externally for ulcers, swellings, chilblains, toothaches, burns and sores. In all these uses, the demulcent property of this herb was the therapeutic agent."
Slippery elm bark has been used as a poultice for cuts and bruises, and also for aching joints due to gout or other causes. Its principal use at this time is for sore throats. It is an ingredient in lozenges sold to soothe throat irritation. Since sore throat and cough are often linked, slippery elm bark has also been used in cough remedies. Tommie Bass used to combine slippery elm with wild cherry bark, sweet gum leaves, mullein, and sweetening for a homemade cough syrup. Chewing on the bark itself, if available, is said to produce the same effect and to have a pleasant taste. The powdered bark may be mixed with liquid and swallowed for mild stomach irritation; it has a reputation for easing both constipation and diarrhea.
Slippery elm bark is one of nature's miracle cleansers. Its sticky substance dissolves mucus that has been deposited in organ tissue, lymph glands and nerve channels. Its lubricating action protects and softens all the membrane linings in the body, especially damaged and inflamed areas. It buffers the effects of increased discharge of urine through the urinary tract. Slippery elm bark's sticky adhesive quality also lubricates the bones and joints, gathers up dissolved toxic waste material from all areas in the body including the bowel and then helps to discharge them. As the mucilaginous material passes through the alimentary canal, it coats the organs over which it flows with a sticky film. This action reduces irritation, reduces sensitivity to acids and bitters and, most importantly, slows down the entry of harmful chemicals. Slippery elm bark can reduce the pain of ulcers and eventually heal them by restoring normal mucus coating to irritated tissues.