Slippery Elm Bark Uses and Benefits

slippery elm barkElm trees are native to eastern North America from Canada to Georgia, from Texas to Minnesota, but especially in the Appalachian Mountain region. The slippery elm is less susceptible to the Dutch elm disease that ravaged so many of the other species. It is also called red elm, Indian elm, moose elm, and sweet elm.

The Slippery Elm grows to a height of 30 to 60 feet. The leaves are about 6 inches long, growing alternately on the branch, and have a rough texture and coarsely double-serrated edges. The flowers appear before the leaves in early spring in clusters of ten to twenty. The fruit is half an inch long containing a single central seed. Slippery Elm may be distinguished from American Elm by the hairiness of the buds and twigs and by the very short-stalked flowers.

Slippery elms have been the object of poachers because of the $23 billion dollar herb industry in the United States. From mid June to early July the bark is slippery and easy to peel. The trees are stripped and left to die while the bark is sold for great profit.

One illegal and immoral use of the bark is as an abortafaciant. Longer pieces of the bark are moistened with water, then inserted into a pregnant woman’s uterus. Drugs from the bark are said to induce an abortion. This practice resulted in so called “Elm Stick Laws” in many states limiting the size of the bark sold. Because of this possible effect, pregnant or lactating women should avoid using slippery elm. There are no other documented hazards in taking the herb.

Elm was used by colonists to make pudding, to thicken jelly, to preserve grease, and as a survival food on long trips. It was used medicinally to treat toothaches, skin injuries, gout, arthritis, stomachaches, coughs, and intestinal worms.

The inner bark was also used to waterproof canoes, baskets, and dwellings. It can be made into a gruel. In times of famine, early American settlers used it as a survival food; George Washington and his troops survived for several days on slippery elm gruel during their bitter winter at Valley Forge.

The fibrous inner bark is a strong and durable fiber, which can be spun into thread, twine or rope. It can be used for bowstrings, ropes, jewelry, clothing, snowshoe bindings, woven mats, and can even be used in some musical instruments. The wood was used for the hubs of wagon wheels, as it is very shock resistant because of the wood’s interlocking grain. Once cured, the wood is also excellent for making matchless fires with the bow drill method, for the wood grinds into a very fine, flammable powder under friction.

Taken internally, slippery elm bark is used to relieve gastrointestinal conditions, ulcers, and respiratory irritations. The bark also contains a substance that is used by some as a remedy for sore throats or as a cough medicine. External uses include treatment of skin conditions, vaginitis, and hemorrhoids. It will also make the skin smoother and softener.

Slippery Elm Bark Tea (loose)

The recommended dosage is three 500 mg capsules daily for adults. Tea can be made with one part slippery elm powder to eight parts water. It can also be added to oatmeal or juice. For a poultice, add coarse powdered bark to boiling water. Apply to the needed area when cool. For children, remember that herbal dosages are generally calculated for a 150 lb adult. If a child weighs 50 lb, the correct dose is 1/3 of the adult dosage.

So get some Slippery Elm Bark Tea today and boost your health!

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 22nd at 5:48 pm and is filed under Bulk Herbs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Slippery Elm Bark Uses and Benefits”

  1. Tatia Says:

    Hi! I’m really interested in where you got your historical information about Vallley Forge…I would love to read the whole story about George Washington and his troops surviving on slippery elm…it sounds fascinating! Could you email me a reference to your source of information please?
    Thank you!
    -Tatia
    tatianelson@yahoo.com

  2. Herb Says:

    Hi Tatia,

    Here is one source: http://www.essortment.com/all/slipperyelm_rdbk.htm

    Here is the quote from that page:

    “Two hundred years ago, George Washington and his army faced defeat due to the need of food for the survival of his troops. Slippery Elm fed the starving troops. They stayed alive by making and eating a Slippery Elm Gruel. Gruel is kind of porridge made from pounding the inner bark of the
    tree into a powder then mixing it with water.

    General Washington needed medicine for the soldiers. He mixed the powder with a little water to make poultices and salves to heal the soldiers’ gunshot wounds.”

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