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Slippery Elm Information: Tips On Using And Growing Slippery Elm Trees

Slippery Elm Information: Tips On Using And Growing Slippery Elm Trees


By: Teo Spengler

When you hear about a tree called slippery elm, you might ask: What is a slippery elm tree? Slippery elm information describes the tree as a tall, graceful native. Its inner bark contains mucilage, a substance that becomes slick and slippery when mixed with water, hence the name. Slippery elm has been used in herbal medicine in this country for centuries. Read on for information about growing slippery elm trees and slippery elm herb uses.

What is a Slippery Elm Tree?

The scientific name for slippery elm is Ulmus rubra, but it’s generally called red elm or slippery elm. So exactly what is a slippery elm tree? It’s a tall tree indigenous to this continent with lovely arching branches. These elms can live for 200 years.

The winter buds of slippery elms appear fuzzy, as they are covered with red-brown hairs. The flowers appear in spring before the leaves, each bearing at least five stamens. When the leaves appear, they are thick and stiff. The tree’s fruit is a flat samara, containing one seed only.

However, the defining element of this elm is its slippery inner bark. It is this bark that is featured in slippery elm herb uses.

Slippery Elm Benefits

If you are wondering about slippery elm benefits, most of them involve the inner bark of the tree. The first known use of slippery elm bark was by Native Americans as material for home building, cordage and creating storage baskets. However, its best known use involved scraping the inner bark of the tree to use for medicine.

This medicine was used for many things – to treat swollen glands, as an eye wash for sore eyes, and poultices to heal sores. The inner bark was also made into a tea and ingested as a laxative or to ease childbirth pain.

Slippery elm herb uses continue today. You’ll find slippery elm based medicine in health food stores. It is suggested as a helpful medicine for sore throats.

Growing Slippery Elm Trees

If you want to start growing slippery elm trees, it isn’t very difficult. Gather slippery elm samaras in spring when they are ripe. You can knock them from branches or sweep them from the ground.

The next step toward growing slippery elm trees is to air-dry the seeds for several days, then sow them. Don’t bother to remove the wings since you might damage them. Alternatively, you can stratify them at 41 degrees F. (5 C.) for 60-90 days in a moist medium before planting.

Transplant the seedlings into larger containers when they are several inches tall. You can also transplant them directly into your garden. Pick a site with moist, rich soil.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

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Ulmus rubra

Ulmus rubra, the slippery elm, is a species of elm native to eastern North America, ranging from southeast North Dakota, east to Maine and southern Quebec, south to northernmost Florida, and west to eastern Texas, where it thrives in moist uplands, although it will also grow in dry, intermediate soils. [4] Other common names include red elm, gray elm, soft elm, moose elm, and Indian elm. The tree was first named as part of Ulmus americana in 1753, [5] but identified as a separate species, Ulmus rubra, in 1793 by Pennsylvania botanist Gotthilf Muhlenberg. The slightly later name U. fulva, published by French botanist André Michaux in 1803, [6] is still widely used in dietary-supplement and alternative-medicine information.

The species superficially resembles American elm (U. americana), but is more closely related to the European wych elm (U. glabra), which has a very similar flower structure, though lacks the pubescence over the seed. [7] U. rubra was introduced to Europe in 1830. [5]


History

Even prior to the American Revolution, the dried and powdered inner bark of the elm tree was found to have an array of medicinal uses. Moistened with water and used as a poultice, this powdered bark was used as a toothache remedy and to draw out splinters, thorns, embedded shotgun pellets, and boils. It also was commonly used as a pain-relieving and infection-preventing poultice for gunshots and other serious wounds. Brewed into a rather thick and bland-tasting tea, the elm’s inner bark was even found to be mighty useful in facilitating a woman’s labor.

This same tea was used by professional singers and speakers, due to its throat-soothing effects. This same inner bark tea has also proven helpful in aiding everything from simple upset stomach and indigestion, to coughs, stomach ulcers, pleurisy, pneumonia, diarrhea, constipation, and dysentery.

A salve made by mixing this inner bark powder with water, mineral oil, or even lard proved soothing and promoted healing when applied to fresh wounds, skin ulcers, burns, and scalds. Throughout much of our country’s pioneer era, small amounts of this same powder was frequently mixed into rendered lard, tallow, and other fat to prevent its going rancid.


Slippery Elm: Herbal Remedies

Aptly named, this tree is truly slippery -- but it is also elusive in another way. Once used widely by American settlers, many wild slippery elm trees have succumbed to Dutch elm disease, making the trees less plentiful than they once were.

Fortunately, slippery elms have not been lost forever: You can buy slippery elm products in health food stores. It has many uses, including as a popular herb used in herbal remedies to treat inflammations.

Uses for Slippery Elm

The species name fulva means "tawny" or "pale yellow" and refers to the light color of the pleasant-smelling powdered bark. Added to water, the powdered bark becomes a soothing mucilage. The mucilage moistens and soothes, while the herb's tannins are astringent, making slippery elm ideal to soothe inflammations, reduce swelling, and heal damaged tissues.

Mucilage is the most abundant constituent of slippery elm bark, but the tree also contains starch, sugar, calcium, iodine, bromine, amino acids, and traces of manganese and zinc. Many people eat slippery elm to soothe and nourish the body.

Slippery elm helps heal internal mucosal tissues, such as the stomach, vagina, and esophagus. It is often recommended as a restorative herb for people who suffer from prolonged flu, stomach upset, chronic indigestion, and resulting malnutrition. You can use slippery elm to soothe ulcers and stomach inflammation, irritated intestines, vaginal inflammation, sore throat, coughs, and a hoarse voice.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

  • For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main Herbal Remedies page.
  • To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main Home Remedies page.
  • One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to make sure you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs. Visit our Vitamins page to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Slippery Elm Preparations and Dosage

Slippery Elm can be used in herbal remedies to reduce swelling and heal damaged tissues. Its bark is often made into tea, and its mildness makes it easy to ingest. Below are some ideas on how to prepare and take slippery elm.

Preparations and Dosage

Because slippery elm does not tincture well, its bark is powdered or cut into thin strips for tea. Like all demulcents, the bark is best prepared with a long soak in cold water. The powder is used as a healing food: Stir 2 to 3 tablespoons into juice, pureed fruit, oatmeal, or other foods. You can also mix slippery elm powder with hot water, bananas, and applesauce to prepare an oatmeallike gruel that can soothe an inflamed stomach or ulcer.

The powder can also be used in rectal and vaginal suppositories to soothe inflammation of these tissues. For treating a simple sore throat or cough, try slippery elm lozenges, which you can make yourself or buy in health food stores and some pharmacies.

Precautions and Warnings

None. Slippery elm is considered safe, even for babies, the elderly, and pregnant women.

Of Slippery Elm

Slippery elm is usually well tolerated. Whether taking it in tea, as a lozenge or in another form, slippery elm's mild nature makes it a useful herb to treat inflammation and its resulting discomfort.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

  • For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main Herbal Remedies page.
  • To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main Home Remedies page.
  • One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to make sure you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs. Visit our Vitamins page to learn more.

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

This recipe uses fresh applesauce as a base. But if you're experiencing acute stomach pains and can't tolerate food, make a tea of slippery elm or whisk the powder into plain water.

Make 1 or 2 cups of fresh applesauce, pear sauce, or nectarine puree. Add 1 cup of slippery elm powder slowly, whisking it with a fork a bit at a time. Eat as is or add raisins, maple syrup, chopped banana or other fruit, nuts, or granola to improve the flavor.


Plants→Ulmus→Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit:Tree
Sun Requirements:Full Sun
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet Mesic
Mesic
Dry Mesic
Soil pH Preferences:Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Slightly alkaline (7.4 – 7.8)
Moderately alkaline (7.9 – 8.4)
Minimum cold hardiness:Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Maximum recommended zone:Zone 9b
Plant Height :35 to 60 feet
Plant Spread :30 to 50 feet
Leaves:Good fall color
Deciduous
Fruit:Edible to birds
Fruiting Time:Spring
Flowers:Inconspicuous
Flower Color:Brown
Bloom Size:Under 1"
Flower Time:Late winter or early spring
Uses:Windbreak or Hedge
Erosion control
Shade Tree
Wildlife Attractant:Birds
Resistances:Deer Resistant
Rabbit Resistant
Pollution
Flood Resistant
Drought tolerant
Pollinators:Wind
Miscellaneous:Tolerates poor soil
Monoecious
Conservation status:Least Concern (LC)


Slippery or Red Elm is still a very common tree. I think it has out-run the Dutch Elm Disease, as it sows itself around so fast and much, and must have selected its own resistant progeny . Slippery Elm is similar to the American Elm, but does not get quite as big, and it is somewhat vase-shaped or sort of rounded in form. It has larger leaves than the American Elm that are 5 to 7 inches long x 2 to 3 inches wide, and they are rough to the touch, a little bit like sandpaper. The foliage gets a golden fall color that is alright. Its native range is from southwest Quebec and far southeast Ontario to southern New England down to northwest Florida to east Texas up to central Minnesota to all Michigan. Oftentimes it is weed tree in waste places, abandoned lots, and tough urban situations, but it is also a pioneer tree, being one of the first trees to colonize a open field or meadow, with Green Ash, Boxelder, Cottonwoods, and such, or grows along forest margins. It can make a fine shade tree. The inner bark, especially in twigs, contains a sticky, aromatic substance that once was chewed for sore throat relief, thus "slippery."

This is a rather common plant here in the Great Lakes region.

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For Healthcare Professionals

Slippery elm is a tree native to North America. Its bark is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, sore throat, cough, and skin ulcers. Slippery elm is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The primary constituent mucilage has demulcent effects. A small clinical study showed that a formulation containing slippery elm improved the bowel habits and symptoms of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (1) .

Slippery elm is one of the components in Essiac, an herbal formula used as an alternative cancer treatment.

  • Bronchitis
  • Cancer treatment
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Inflammation
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Skin abscesses
  • Skin ulcers
  • Sore throat

Mucilage in slippery elm is responsible for its demulcent, emollient, and antitussive properties. Insoluble polysaccharides in mucilage (hexose, pentose, methylpentose) form a viscous material following oral administration or when prepared for topical use. The fiber content is thought to reduce gastrointestinal transit time, act as a bulk forming laxative, and adsorb toxins. Mucosal biopsies from patients with active ulcerative colitis incubated with slippery elm showed a dose-dependent reduction in oxygen free radicals (4) . Another in vitro study also showed antioxidant scavenging activity (5) . The tannin component can act as an astringent (2) . Fatty acid esters such as oleic and palmitic acid are thought to be responsible for antitumor activity (3) , but the specific mechanisms remain unclear.


Slippery Elm Side Effects are Minimal

Slippery elm bark is considered a relatively safe supplement, though it has not been well-studied. Occasional allergic reactions have been reported. Also, the mucilage coats the gastrointestinal tract and therefore can slow down the absorption of other drugs or supplements.

No contraindications are reported, both in terms of medical conditions and concurrent drugs. It remains unclear whether slippery elm bark is safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding therefore, most health practitioners would recommend avoiding it and most other herbal supplements during either of these states. Maximum safe dose has also not been established for children or those with severe kidney or liver disease.

Slippery elm bark has a centuries-long tradition of being used for a number of health-related issues, most notably cancer, skin conditions, and respiratory tract infections. It is generally believed to be safe with no serious side effects or contraindications, but as with any herbal supplement, should still be used with caution and under the supervision of a health practitioner.


Watch the video: Slippery Elm Bark: How To Use It for Healthy Digestion, Beautiful Skin, and More!