The dried inner bark of the slippery elm tree was used by Native American people to treat wounds and skin irritations such as boils, burns and ulcers. It was also administered to soothe coughs and sore throats, diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal complaints. Later, settlers from Europe adopted the remedy and it was widely used during the American Civil War to help heal wounds.
The spongy inner bark of the tree is dried and powdered for medicinal use.
Slippery elm bark contains mucilage, a substance that absorbs water and swells, taking on a gel-like consistency. The gel coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. It also stimulates the production of mucus in the gastrointestinal tract, helping to protect it against ulcers and excess acidity. Tannins in slippery elm have an astringent effect.
Slippery elm also contains antioxidants such as sesquiterpenes that help relieve inflammatory bowel conditions. The extract is believed to be useful in tumour reduction and treating cancer.
Herbal practitioners prescribe slippery elm to:
- Treat sore throat and coughs.
- Soothe pain and discomfort of indigestion and gastric reflux, as well as irritation of the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
- The anti–inflammatory action of flavonoids, sesquiterpenes and other antioxidants reduces inflammation in the intestines and bowel, making slippery elm useful to ease irritable bowel syndrome.
- The astringent action of the tannins in slippery elm tightens the bowel and reduces diarrhoea, preventing dehydration.
- Use with Clove to treat ulcers.
- Slippery elm is one of four primary components of the herbal cancer remedy, Essiac Powder.
- Help the body recover during convalescence.
Flora Force Products containing Slippery Elm
Domestic & culinary uses
Slippery elm is not generally used in cuisine.
Slippery elm is a medium-sized tree indigenous to North America, where it can reach some 20 metres in height. The branches grow downward and bear long, dark green leaves. The bark has deep fissures, a gummy texture and a characteristic odour. No records were found of the tree being grown in South Africa.