SLIPPERY ELM TREE - Ulmus rubra syn. U. fulva
This plant is known by several common names— Red Elm , Indian Elm, Moose Elm, Gray Elm
FAMILY: Ulmaceae—the Elm family—other members include the nettles
PARTS COMMONLY USED: Inner bark
COLLECTION: Inner bark in Spring or Fall. Extreme care must be taken otherwise the tree will die. This tree is at risk and on it’s way to becoming endangered due to overharvesting and the Dutch Elm disease. I do not advise collecting this yourself.
DESCRIPTION & HABITAT: Rubra means “red” referring to reddish-brown bark or the rust color of the buds. This is the only ingredient in the tea that actually is a Native botanical. Dark green leaves are larger than those of the American Elm, are hairy underneath and rough on top. They are broad and toothed. Buds at the branch ends often display orange tips. This tree can reach 60 feet, adapts well to soils which are moist and high in compost. It can be found in moist woodlands and bottomlands, along banks of streams—but will also grow in poor dry soil. Found primarily in the northern and central U.S., it also extends up toward Canada. Relatively adaptable and easy to grow, anyone who has the space would be wise to plant one of these. The inner bark is whitish to pink, and when dried has the faint scent of maple syrup (to me anyway!).
HISTORY & USES: This tree was highly prized and utilized by the Turtle Island People long before settlers came. It was used for making canoes, homes, baskets, kettles, food, preservative for staples that may go rancid, and as a medicine. During the Revolutionary War, the bark was used as a source of survival food. Reportedly, some soldiers who got lost subsisted on elm bark and sassafras for 12 days.
It is safely used for infants, as well as elderly and pregnant women. It’s applications medicinally indicate that the soothing affects are related to it’s high mucilage content. Mucilage is strengthening and healing to most tissues. It seems to “calm down” any irritation to various tissues, soothing it and protecting it so that healing can be obtained. Internally, the intestinal and urinary tracts, throat, and lungs respond favorably to it’s properties It is also as nutritious as oatmeal, can be tolerated when other foods can’t, and is considered a “survival food”. It’s high calcium content helps with nervous and emotional issues. Tannins make it astringent, which acts to shrink skin and mucosa. Externally, it is made into a paste and applied to wounds, burns, boils, ulcers, burns, inflamed surfaces and will reduce pain and inflammation. (I would also add powdered charcoal—from opened capsules.) Indigenous people are reported to have also used it to “draw out the poisons from a bullet wound”. The composition of the inner bark is such that upon adding water/liquid, it will swell to a spongy mass. It is a helpful addition to douches, suppositories, enemas or lozenges.
ORGANS/SYSTEMS AFFECTED: digestive, lung
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine): sweet, bland, cool, moist with secondary qualities of nourishing, thickening and astringing—enters lung and stomach meridicans, influences lungs, stomach and bladder
SOLVENTS: water, alcohol
CONTRAINDICATIONS: none known
CONSIDERATIONS: Use with caution on children under 2 years old. It may difficult for them to swallow the tea or gruel. Must be taken with copious amounts of water. Low doses are anti-diarrhea. High doses are used with constipation, performing almost a bulk laxative type of effect.
I have suggested to many of our clients that they consider taking Slippery elm as a food or drink. In cases where they may be unable to eat due to lack of appetite, nausea or weakness, this may be an option. One to three teaspoons of the powdered inner bark can be added to oatmeal.
An infusion that may benefit those undergoing radiation to the throat, lung or digestive tract: Put 2 –3 Tablespoons of the bark powder in 16 ounces of cold water for 6-8 hours, then heat slowly, being careful not to boil. Stir constantly while heating. Strain and drink.
As this is considered nutritious enough to be a survival food, I find it invaluable in persons undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation. Digestive disorders tend to almost be the norm. Many have diarrhea or constipation. Constipation can come from the sedating effects of pain medication on the digestive tract. Drinking more water, eating fresh fruit and warmed prune juice can help. Loss of appetite during chemo is a major side effect due to nausea, food tasting worse than old gym socks, or like metal, etc. I read many years ago that Slippery Elm bark was given to those coming out of concentration camps, starvation from illness, and when no other food could be found. Many of the problems that develop after chemo can be attributed to the body becoming malnourished. You can mix one teaspoon of the powder and mix well with same amount of honey or syrup. Add one pint of boiling water, soya milk, nut milk, or cow’s milk. Slowly mix as you add the liquid. Try adding a small amount of the bark powder to your daily juicing recipe.
This powder is useful when making any preparation for an enema, douche or suppository. It’s mucilaginous properties are of great benefit for helping the healing process.
Please offer your thanks to what we are using and jeopardizing in our harvest of this tree for the making of essiac. Given my philosophy of always leaving enough plant for the next seven generations, I have been researching a suitable alternative to this inner bark for the essiac blend. As popularity for this tea grows, the available bark we have for use diminishes. Right now things don’t look too good at all for having enough of these trees left for my grandchildren
The inner bark of this tree is the medicinal part that has been listed in the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). It is also one of the few herbs that has been listed for a long time in the National Formulary. You will find it as the main ingredient in slippery elm lozenges
Consider this an option. Add 1/4 cup of slippery elm bark powder to 2 cups of cold water. Let stand 30 minutes. Slowly heat mixture for 5 minutes, gently stirring to prevent clumping. Let cool, and add sweetener such as honey (highly nutritious) and any spice that appeals to the person. I add peppermint leaves for their cooling action to lungs, ginger root to increase circulation, apple juice in place of water, rosemary leaves for their antioxidant properties. If constipation is a problem, try adding a pinch of clove, fennel or ginger.
Slippery Elm was one of the ingredients in Rene Caisse’s patented formula called “Kidney Tablets”. She combined prickly ash berries, juniper berries, burdock root, uva ursi and slippery elm.
This information is provided for educational purposes and to promote discussion only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or claim cure for any disease or imbalance in the body.