How does it feel?
The elm is a small tree native to Northern parts of America, but is now naturalised across Europe. The tree produces a particularly rough bark and the leaves are also toothed with a rough surface and a fine layer of hair. The leaf buds are covered in a characteristic dense yellow ‘woolly’ fibres. It is the inner bark of the tree that is used medicinally.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of slippery elm’s key qualities below to learn more:
What can I use it for?
Slippery elm is a soothing, nutritive, demulcent that targets sensitive or inflamed mucous membranes throughout the body, but with a specific action on the skin and digestion. It is also an astringent and has the dual action of soothing and astringing inflamed linings. Slippery elm produces a mucilage that will coat inflamed linings, allowing any damaged tissue under the surface to regenerate and repair effectively. The mucilage produced by the plant also acts as an excellent bulk laxative in cases of chronic and acute constipation but also as a wound packer that will draw out heat and toxicity from inflamed wounds. It is the primary medicinal component of the plant and has a similar chemical composition to the mucilage present in linseed.
Into the heart of slippery elm
The elm leaves and bark are classed as demulcents with anti-inflammatory activity that is focused within the digestive tract but also on the skin. It naturally contains a high level of mucilage that also helps to absorb and draw out excess heat and toxicity from wounds or inflamed mucous membranes encouraging effective wound repair mechanisms but also acting as a bulking agent. The bark was traditionally used as an external treatment for burns, ruptures, skin complaints and wounds and is considered to be naturally incredibly soothing and nourishing for the whole body.
Indicated in any generalised inflammation of the digestive tract including gastritis, duodenal ulcers, hemorrhoids, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery and enteritis.
Indicated in skin inflammation and irritation, particularly burns, abrasions, scalds, inflamed wounds, boils, abscesses.
Did you know?
In some traditions, elm was known as ‘chew-bark’ as both animals and humans would self-medicate by chewing the bark of this tree when they had an upset digestion.
Theoretically may reduce absorption of drugs.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are
- Amlapittahara Relieves hyperacidity.
- Balya Strengthening.
- Brmhana Nourishing tonic, anabolic.
- Dahaprasamana Alleviates burning.
- Grahi Reabsorbs fluid from the bowel, curbs diarrhoea.
- Kasasvasahara Relieves coughs & breathing problems.
- Sara Eases the passage of stool.
- Vranahara Heals ulcers.
- Ayurvedic Indications: Excellent for soothing, cooling & healing inflammatory problems associated with excess pitta. Has affinity with prana, anna & mutravahasrotas, useful in hyperacidity, gastritis, peptic ulcers & urinary problems. Strengthening, nutritive & moistening herb for debility & dryness that characterise excess vata.
Dried: Use 1 part powdered root to 8 parts water (or mix 1 tablespoon in 1 pint of water) and drink.
Decoction: Use 1 part powdered root to 8 parts water, bring to the boil and then simmer gently until it starts to form a paste. The paste can be taken internally and also added to wounds.
External Uses: Apply to burns, wounds, inflammation, anal fissures. Drawing for boils, abscesses.