Library of Nature: Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm, also known as red elm or Indian elm, is a common tree found in Canada and the U.S. And yes, as you can guess from its name, it is a slippery plant as its bark is slippery when mixed with water or chewed. The inner bark of Slippery Elm is traditionally used as a medicine. Many studies have also been conducted to test its medicinal benefits.

So, let’s slide down the slippery slope of Slippery Elm and see how beneficial it really is!

Chemical Constituents of Slippery Elm

The inner bark of Slippery Elm contains active ingredients that include a combination of many polysaccharides like hexoses, pentoses and methyl-pentoses that are all fibers.

Slippery Elm: Origin and History

The Slippery Elm tree is found in Eastern and Central U.S. and in Eastern Canada. It can be easily identified due to its dark brown or reddish-brown bark that can grow up to 80 feet tall! It was usually consumed by the native Americans who used its inner bark to treat ailments like wounds, fevers and sore throats. It was also used to wrap meat and prevent it from going bad.

Moreover, they also discovered that when this bark is mixed with water, it forms into a slimy material called mucilage which can be quite therapeutic to touch.

Today, it is widely used for treating various ailments and many studies have also been conducted to prove its medicinal benefits. However, only the inner bark of Slippery Elm is used for these purposes.

Slippery Elm: Health Benefits and Uses

Slippery Elm has been long used for treating fevers, sore throat, stomach ulcers, skin problems, constipation, and other conditions traditionally. Here are some of the medicinal benefits of Slippery that have also been backed by science:

For Helping with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Slippery Elm is a mucoprotective agent that helps soothe stomach lining and reduce the inflammation. It has been shown[1] to alleviate the symptoms of bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcers. They have also been proven to act as an antioxidant.

For Coughs

Since slippery elm contains mucilage, it helps with cough and sore throat symptoms as it coats your throat. That’s why it can be found in various cough medicines. It has also been known to help with symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory[2] conditions.

Other Benefits

Slippery Elm can also help with symptoms of various urinary tract problems like interstitial cystitis as it soothes the tract’s lining. The herb is also widely used to help with heartburns. The mucilage found in Slippery Elm coats your throat and esophagus. Therefore, when stomach acids flow back into your throat, this mucilage reduces the irritation.

Is it Safe to Consume Slippery Elm?

Slippery Elm is usually safe to consume for throat problems. However, don’t take it with any other medication for at least an hour. You can take Slippery Elm tincture to help with common problems like sore throat and fevers. But don’t consume it in high doses.

References: 

[1]Jason A. Hawrelak and Stephen P. Myers.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.Oct 2010.1065-1071.http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0090

[2]Christopher R Watts, B. r. (2012). Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation. Retrieved from BiblioMed: https://www.bibliomed.org/?mno=17581#citedby

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