Slippery Elm is named after its slick, mucilaginous inner bark, which was chewed by the Native Americans and pioneers to quench thirst when water was not readily available. Also known as Red Elm (in reference to its reddish brown heartwood), this tree may reach 60 feet tall by 50 feet wide, when found in the open. As a member of the Elm Family, it is related to Hackberry, Zelkova, and the many other Elms.
Slippery elm bark may be consumed in different forms. One can also consume a tea prepared from boiling one to two grams of slippery elm bark in 200 ml of water for 10-15 minutes and drink it after cooling. Normally, a person may consume 3 to 4 cups of this tea daily to get the best results. If one is using the tincture of slippery elm bark, it is advisable to 5 ml of the same daily for best results. In addition, the bark of the slippery tree is also used as a component of tablets, lozenges or syrups to treat sore throats and persistent coughs.
Slippery elm can be ingested and is high in carbohydrates and is easily digestible. Powdered slippery elm, or slippery elm tea , can be used to soothe the digestive tract and control ailments such as diarrhea and heartburn. The herb does this by stimulating nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby increasing mucous production in the intestines. This increased mucous can protect the intestines from excess acidity and ulcer formation.
Slippery elm bark has a matter called mucilage that when combined with water turns into a smooth gel-like substance. This substance has several supposed benefits. One is its antioxidants that provide relief for inflammatory bowel conditions. Another benefit is that it soothes the throat, mouth, intestines, and stomach. In addition, it helps increase the secretion of mucus in the gastrointestinal tract by causing reflux stimulation. This increase of mucus could guard the gastrointestinal tract from a surplus of acid and ulcers.
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 a sore throat and cough are often linked, slippery elm bark has also been used in cough remedies. 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.
Native Americans used preparations made from the bark as a topical antiseptic treatment for wounds, burns, and skin irritations, and they ingested it as a treatment for coughs and respiratory problems.
Slippery elm is generally considered to be a safe remedy for digestive distress for adults and children.