What is Slippery Elm?
Mother nature provides incredible herbal remedies for all living beings on this planet and slippery elm is without a doubt - one of her highlights. Ulmus Rubra (or Fulva) is the botanical name for Slippery Elm, which is actually the bark cut from the elm tree and has been used to treat digestive issues in North America since the early 19th century.
Its name stems (pun intended) from the inner bark of the elm tree which contains mucilage – a gel-like polysaccharide (polymeric carbohydrate molecules). This amazing substance when consumed coats the intestinal wall to provide a barrier for those who have damaged mucosal lining due to leaky gut, which enables them to absorb minerals and nutrients from food otherwise lost. It also acts as a protective barrier, helps heal the intestinal wall and is high in antioxidants that fight inflammation.
Slippery elm is native to eastern and central North America including the U.S. and Canada. The slippery elm tree itself can grow to more than 20 metres high and can live to a ripe old age of 200 years. Native Americans used the bark (added with water) for healing sores and wounds, as well as gastrointestinal tract issues and to treat flu-like symptoms.
In modern medicine, slippery elm is used to heal digestive issues, relive stress and anxiety and treat skin conditions like psoriasis. In addition to mucilage, it is also packed with nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C. It also contains antioxidants, amino acids, carbohydrates, iodine and bromine.
This content is strictly the researched opinion of BioHax Australia and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal doctor or health care professional. All viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither BioHax Australia nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their doctor before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
Slippery Elm Benefits (for humans)
- Improves constipation, bloating, gas, IBS, diverticulitis and diarrhea
- Assists with weight loss, as it can improve digestion
- It contains phytonutrients and phenolics which help relieve stress and anxiety
- May help prevent breast cancer due to its immune boosting and anti-inflammatory effects
- Reduces severity of symptoms of psoriasis
- It contains mucilage, a sticky mixture of sugars that can’t be broken down by the digestive tract. It coats the throat and is found commercially in numerous brands of throat lozenges
- Helps soothe the lining of the urinary tract and is also used as a mild diuretic to increase the flow of urine and eliminate waste from the body
- Can alleviate heart burn (known as acid reflux) and is considered a herbal remedy for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Slippery Elm Benefits (for Pets)
- It can be used as a poultice to draw out infection and help heal wounds
- Its mucilage content coats, soothes and lubricates mucous membranes in the lining of the digestive tract for treatment of inflammatory bowel problems such as ulcers, gastritis, colitis
- Relieves diarrhea and constipation, as its high in fibre to help normalise intestinal action
- It may also help alleviate nausea and vomiting in pets suffering from kidney disease
- Helps relieve inflammation of any mucous membrane such as bronchitis, asthma, kidneys, bladder, cystitis, tonsillitis and arthritis
- Slippery elm contains magnesium which helps pets deal with elevated urinary pH or bacterial infection
- Bladder disease in cats is very similar to women, small doses of pentosan (found in slippery elm) can relieve pain for internal cystitis
History and Origin of Slippery Elm
Slippery elm has been around since the 19th century and was used by native American Indians and early North American settlers. The inner bark was used not only for poultice (to heal wounds) and to relieve flu and cold-like symptoms, but it was also used as a material for building canoes, make fiber bags, storage baskets and shelter. Other tribes used it to craft ropes and cords or even wrap the bark around meat to keep it from spoiling.
When the bark meets water, the inner side produces a thick mucilage which was used as an ointment or salve to treat urinary tract inflammation, swollen glands and even as an eyewash to treat sore eyes. It was also used externally on the body to treat boils and cold sores. A concentrated liquid of the slippery elm leaves was used to help heal bruised eyes or remove discolouration around blackened eyes.
Other nineteenth century doctors and herbalists recommended slippery elm tea for the management of:
- Lung disease such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and pleurisy
- Large doses of tea to expel tapeworm
- Skin ulcers
- And even leprosy
During the American Revolution, slippery elm was used by surgeons to treat gunshot wounds – like that of poultice. The early North American settlers used to boil bear fat with the bark in order to prevent rancidity. Preparation of elm mucilage was officially recognised in the late 19th century in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. Other traditional uses of the bark also included demulcent (relieving inflammation or irritation), emollient (ability to soothe or soften the skin), and as an antitussive (to prevent or relieve a cough).
When the colonists came along, native American herbalists shared their knowledge of the slippery elm tree, and they came to rely on it as one of their most valued home remedies for birth aid, because it acts as a lubricant to ease labour pain.
Sustainability of the Slippery Elm Tree
In some parts of the U.S. the slippery elm tree is rare or classed as a threatened species where Dutch elm disease has devastated elm forests. In order to harvest the tree for its medicinal value, the nutritious inner rind is stripped of large segments including the outer bark. If to much bark is taken, this often results in the death of the tree. The National Centre for the Preservation of Medicinal Herbs has listed the slippery elm tree as on of its “at-risk botanicals.”
Slippery Elm Composition
Slippery elm contains carbohydrates, starches and a complex assortment of chemical and nutritional compounds including mucilage (hexoses, pentoses, methylpentoses), calcium oxalate, glucose, polyuronides, sesquiterpenes, tannins, starches, fat, phytosterols, and various nutrients (calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium)
WebMD explains the possible side effects of slippery elm:
Side Effects & Safety
Slippery elm is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth. When applied to the skin, some people can have an allergic reactions and skin irritation.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Folklore says that slippery elm bark can cause a miscarriage when it is inserted into the cervix of a pregnant woman. Over the years, slippery elm got the reputation of being capable of causing an abortion even when taken by mouth. However, there’s no reliable information to confirm this claim. Nevertheless, stay on the safe side and don’t take slippery elm if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Always talk to your doctor first about dosing recommendations. Slippery elm has no serious side effects. However, when using it with other herbs, supplements, or medication, there is some potential for side effects. So be sure to speak with your doctor if you are concerned about any interactions. Because it coats the digestive system, it can slow down the absorption rate. Therefore, it can affect the absorption of other herbs and drugs. For this reason, take your other herbs, supplements, or medications one hour prior to taking slippery elm, or two hours after taking slippery elm.
Be cautious with this combination:
Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs) interacts with SLIPPERY ELM
Slippery elm contains a type of soft fibre called mucilage. Mucilage can decrease how much medicine the body absorbs. Taking slippery elm at the same time you take medications by mouth can decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To prevent this interaction, take slippery elm at least one hour after medications you take by mouth.
We always advise that before you take anything outside wholefoods, please speak to a health care professional to determine if its right for you and your current circumstances.
What is the recommended dosage for Slippery Elm?
According to Natural Healthy Concepts’ slippery elm, when used as a powder, can be steeped or blended into water and served as a hot tea to help coat and soothe an irritated throat, as well as relieve digestive issues.
The appropriate dose of slippery elm depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist, doctor or other healthcare professional before using.
No clinical studies exist to support dosage guidelines, however traditional use suggests a dosage of 1 to 3 tsp of slippery elm powder in 240 mL of water, up to 3 times a day. Note: adding to much slippery elm to water can cause it to congeal and become to think to ingest. However, 1 tsp can be added easily to any food to create a protective barrier for those suffering with leaky gut syndrome, which helps your body absorb nutrients, as the food remains in the intestines without leaking into the blood stream.
What is the shelf life of Slippery?
Store the slippery elm powder in a container that keeps out moisture and light, in a cool place - packets with a zip lock closure after opened are best. The shelf life, once the sealed packet is opened, is up to three years if kept cool, dark and dry.
Health Benefits of Slippery Elm
In this video, Dr. Alan Mandell talks about Slippery elm and how it not only provides a soothing and healing effect on all the tissues that it comes into contact with, but it is highly nutritious, providing a nutritive tonic to the body. When the body is in a weakened state, this is quite beneficial and aids in healing even further. In the process of healing, slippery elm helps draw out toxins from the body, aids the body in the expulsion of mucus, and calms down inflammation.
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