Scientific Name(S): Ulmus rubra Muhl. Also known as U. fulva Michx. Family: Ulmaceae
Common Name(S): Slippery elm, red elm, Indian elm, moose elm, sweet elm
This incredible herb is a member of the Elm (Ulmus) family. Native to Canada and the US, it can be found growing in the Appalachian Mountains. The inner bark is collected from trees which are at least 10 years old, and is mainly powdered for therapeutic use.
The Slippery Elm is a deciduous tree reaching 10-20 m tall and 50 cm trunk diameter. The leaves are 10-18 cm long, with a rough texture, coarsely double-serrate margin and an oblique base. The flowers are produced before the leaves in early spring, in clusters of 10-20; the fruit is an oval winged samara 2 cm long containing a single seed in the center. Slippery Elm may be distinguished from American Elm by the hairiness of the buds and twigs (American Elm has smooth buds and twigs), and by the flowers being very short-stalked.
Parts of slippery elm have been used as an emollient and in lozenges. It protects irritated skin and intestinal membranes in such conditions as gout, rheumatism, cold sores, wounds, abscesses, ulcers, and toothaches.
The bark is an ingredient in various lung medicines.
Slippery Elm mucilage is also prescribed to be mixed with Oil of Male Fern (2 oz. of the mucilage to 1 drachm of the oil) as a remedy for the expulsion of tapeworm.
Extracts from slippery elm have caused contact dermatitis, and the pollen has been reported to be allergenic. The FDA has declared slippery elm to be a safe and effective oral demulcent.
Slippery elm contains carbohydrates including starches with mucilage being the major constituent. It contains hexoses, pentoses, and polyuronides. The plant also has phytosterols, sesquiterpenes, calcium oxalate, cholesterol, and tannins (3% to 6.5%) as constituents. Isolation and structure of a cyanidanol glycoside has been reported from related species U. americana.
Slippery elm has been used for more than 100 years in traditional American medicine. The plant contains mucilage as its major component, which can be therapeutic in a variety of conditions. It has been used to protect irritated skin or mucous membranes in wounds, GI irritations, and respiratory ailments. It is also a good nutrient and possesses antiherpetic and antisyphilitic activity. Slippery elm is usually nontoxic but may cause dermatitis or an allergic reaction.
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