Ulmus rubra

The Slippery Elm is a small tree abundant in various parts of North America.

Slippery elm is the inner bark of a tree in the elm family. The bark is harvested from wild trees. The rough outer bark is removed and the inner bark retained. The inner bark has important medicinal value and is an official drug of the United States Pharmacopoeia.

The powder should be greyish or fawn colored. If dark or reddish, good results will not be obtained. If powdered, the bark is said to be adulterated with damaged flour and other starchy substances.

Slippery Elm as an Herb for Medicinal Use

slippery elmThe medicinal part is the dried inner rind separated from the outer bark. The texture is mucilaginous and the odor slight but characteristic. The powdered inner bark is used for its mucilaginous quality. Taken as a drink, it relieves irritation of the mucous membrane. The same water retaining properties allow the powder to be used as a poultice.

Slippery elm was one of the most useful medicinal plants of the American wilderness. Native Americans from the Missouri River Valley used a tea of the fresh inner bark to make a soothing laxative. Among the Creek, a poultice of the bark was a toothache remedy. The Osage and other groups applied bark poultices to extract thorns and gunshot balls.

During the War of 1812, when food was scarce, British soldiers fed their horses on slippery elm bark.

Surgeons during the American Revolution used bark poultices as their primary treatment for gunshot wounds. It is made as follows.

Mix the powder with hot water to form the required consistency, spread smoothly upon soft cotton cloth and apply over the parts affected. A soldier, separated from his company, survived for ten days in the wilderness on slippery elm and sassafras barks.

Adopted as an official drug for the first U. S. Pharmacopoeia in 1820, slippery elm was listed until 1936. The tea has long been the herbal treatment of choice for acute stomach ulcers and colitis.

When water is added to the powdered bark, the “slippery” brew is soothing to irritated mucous membranes of the intestinal tract. They also soothe the throat. It is still approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a nonprescription product for demulcent use.

Taken unsweetened, three times a day, slippery elm as an herb gives excellent results in gastritis, gastric catarrh, mucous colitis and enteritis. It is well tolerated by the stomach when all other foods fail. It is of great value in bronchitis, bleeding from the lungs and consumption (being most healing to the lungs). It will sooth a cough and build up and prevent wasting.

Slippery elm bark is an ingredient in various lung medicines. A valuable remedy for bronchitis and all diseases of the throat and lungs. It is compounded as follows.

  • 1 teaspoonful flax seed
  • 1 ounce slippery elm bark
  • 1 ounce thoroughwort
  • 1 stick licorice
  • 1 quart water

Simmer slowly for 20 minutes. Strain and add 1 pint of the best vinegar and 1/2 pint of sugar. When cold, bottle. Dose: 1 tablespoonful two or three times a day.

The injection for inflammation of the bowels is made from an infusion of 1 ounce of the powder to 1 pint of boiling water. Strain and use lukewarm. Other remedies should be given at the same time.

An injection for diarrhea may also be made. Take one drachm powdered slippery elm bark, 3 drachms powdered bayberry and 1 drachm powdered scullcap.

Slippery Elm for Heartburn

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid splashes back up into your esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest. Fried foods, fatty foods and big meals produce more stomach acid, so it is more likely that acid will splash back up. When heartburn hits, try the following fixes.

  • Chew each mouthful thoroughly so it is easier to digest. A good trick is to put your fork down between bites and swallow before picking it up again.
  • Talk a long walk after dinner. Light activity helps your stomach empty faster.
  • Slippery elm bark tea, when consumed with a meal, is said to coat the lining of your esophagus, making it less sensitive to the acid. You can also try slippery elm in a zinc supplement.

Culinary Uses of Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm not only has a most soothing and healing action on all the parts it comes in contact with, but in addition possesses as much nutrition as is contained in oatmeal, and when made into gruel forms a wholesome and sustaining food for infants and invalids. It forms the basis of many patent foods.

Slippery Elm Food is generally made by mixing a teaspoonful of the powder into a thin and perfectly smooth paste with cold water and then pouring on a pint of boiling water, steadily stirring meanwhile. It can, if desired, be flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg or lemon rind. This makes an excellent drink in cases of irritation of the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines, and taken at night will induce sleep.

Another mode of preparation is to beat up an egg with a teaspoonful of the powdered bark, pouring boiling milk over it and sweetening it.


No side effects or special cautions are noted.

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