Tuesday, September 27, 2016
SLIPPERY ELM – Ulmus Rubra, Ulmus Fulva
Also known as: Red Elm, Indian Elm, American Elm, Moose Elm, etc.
Parts used: inner bark
Systems/organs affected: lungs, stomach, intestines, oral, female reproductive, skin, urinary,
Properties: nutritive, demulcent, Yin tonic, expectorant, emollient, mild astringent, vulnerary, mucilage, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, diuretic
SLIPPERY ELM is a member of the Urticaceae family. It is a 50+ foot tree with long, toothed leaves. The branches are rough and the leaf buds are covered with a yellow substance. The flowers are stalk-less. The bark is collected from large branches as well as the trunk in the springtime and dried in strips generally 2-3 feet long and about 1/16-1/8 inch thick. Even dried the bark is flexible and tough with an odor similar to Fenugreek. Generally the bark is sold in two forms, a fine powder or a coarse one. The coarse powder is used for poultices while the fine is used for drinks, salves, encapsulating, etc. The bark is also more beneficial if it comes from a tree ten years old or more. Slippery Elm is native to North America (Canada and the eastern united states) and is considered somewhat endangered due to over harvesting or poor practices when harvesting. A lot of slippery elm will be adulterated with flour or cornstarch so it is important to know the source well. Slippery elm powder should be fawn colored or slightly grey.
Slippery elm has been used as a medicine for a very long time. It is very mucilaginous (creates a gel like substance when mixed with water) which helps a number of conditions such as digestive issues, sore throat, diarrhea, constipation, Crohn’s disease, GERD, diverticulitis, IBS, etc. In one study, two formulas containing slippery elm were used to measure their ability to normalize stool consistency as well as stool frequency. Both formulas worked for both things but the second one had a much higher percentage increase than the first one. Bother registered reductions in abdominal symptoms as well. (Incidentally, the 2nd formula was a mixture of slippery elm, licorice root, oat bran and lactulose which is a synthetic sugar used as a laxative and contains glucose and fructose. Mix one was a combination of bilberry fruit, slippery elm, cinnamon and agrimony). A study conducted by NY Chiropractic College found that slippery elm used in conjunction with a number of other whole foods and herbs assisted with weight loss.
Slippery elm has a number of phenols (aromatic benzene compounds that create hydroxyl groups for protection against stress). The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology did a study on several herbs to analyze their phytonutrient content. Slippery elm was one of those herbs studied and found to be helpful for anxiety and stress due to its combination of nutrients.
A series of studies were done on patients with psoriasis. Patients aged 40-68 were asked to follow a specific diet and drink saffron tea and slippery elm water every day. All cases from mild to chronic were followed for a period of six months and all were found to have improved their conditions following said protocol. (The diet consisted of fresh vegetables and fruits, fiber and/or fiber supplements, small amounts of fish and fowl, organic olive oil and no red meat, refined or processed foods).
Believe it or not, slippery elm was promoted as early as the 1920’s for breast cancer, helping to improve one’s quality of life, to fight fatigue, depression and anxiety not to mention inflammation and pain. (It has often been mixed with sheep sorrel, burdock root and Indian rhubarb for such things-similar to essiac tea).
The Native Americans have used slippery elm for leprosy, colds and flu, as an eyewash, for swollen glands, ulcers, rheumatism, as a laxative and to ease childbirth. The Meskwaki would use the outer bark for roofs and sides of their winter houses. The inner bark was boiled to make storage baskets, fiber bags, burial caskets, fence posts, musical instruments, furniture and ropes/cords. During the Revolutionary War the soldiers at Valley Forge lived for 12 days on slippery elm porridge. The early pioneers also stayed alive consuming slippery elm following native americans advice. The bark was often ground to a powder and added to flour to extend its life/use. It was also boiled and consumed much like oatmeal (the porridge was said to taste just like our modern oats). Young boys would also strip off pieces of the bark and chew it much like gum. According to the early almanacs and herbal publications, slippery elm was good for practically everything including catarrh, colds, flu, painful urination, coughs, pleurisy, tuberculosis, quinsy (a complication of tonsillitis where the infection spreads behind the tonsils), insomnia, fevers, chronic weakness, malnutrition and more. One of the early uses of the inner bark was as an abortifacient. It was so popular that it became banned in several countries (and still is apparently). One experience in particular was of a person with inflamed gums and a toothache. They didn’t want to have a root canal and was determined to find another way to heal. They had heard of slippery elm so they emptied some capsules into a cup of 4 ounces hot water and let it get thick. They then cut up some squares of cotton, soaked them in the thick goo and placed them in between the cheek and the gums, replacing the swabs every 2 hours. Within a week the pain and inflammation was gone entirely.
The inner bark contains a number of beneficial items including calcium, manganese, selenium, chromium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, potassium, tin, silicon, beta-carotene, vitamin C, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin, making it a nutritional power house.
Elm is one of the Bach flower essences. It is used for those who have chronic fear of failure or acute feelings of being stressed or over worked. If used daily it is said to help treat work related stress, impending nervous breakdowns, sudden feelings of overwork and acute illnesses. Elm is for those who feel unable to carry out their responsibilities.
Slippery elm is generally recognized as safe but WebMD cautions against using it during pregnancy or nursing. It is also not recommended taking if one is on medications as it can slow their absorption. If taking medication take it at least 1-2 two hours before taking slippery elm. ALWAYS CONSULT A PHYSICIAN before starting any herbal product.
As is customary with my posts I have included some links below for your perusal. Stay strong and healthy!