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Slippery Elm
shopping: all 3 varieties
Ulmus rubra

slippery elm

plant overview
smooth and soothing, slippery elm

Slippery elm is a small species of elm tree that is native to eastern North America. The bark of the tree is harvested for its inner lining or pith, which contains a high mucilage content that gives rise to the “slippery” factor. Slippery elm bark is traditionally used to make soothing ointments, lotions, creams and other topical preparations for the skin. The herb is also used to make tinctures, teas, syrups and throat lozenges. Powdered slippery elm bark is typically used to make poultices and suppositories. Because slippery elm bark contains various nutrients, the powdered herb is also encapsulated as a dietary supplement or is combined with hot water, cinnamon and sugar to make a gruel, or hot cereal.

Clicking "learn more" next to each variety will take you to individual product pages for details.
Slippery elm bark
01.
A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about slippery elm

description
Ulmus rubra, commonly known as slippery elm, is a deciduous tree of the Ulmaceae family.

The slippery elm tree can grow to 65 feet (20 m) in height with its trunk gaining a diameter of 20 inches (50 cm). Slippery elm differs from the American elm in a number of ways. Slippery elm

has a more upright branching pattern. The tree can also be distinguished from the American elm by the hairiness of its buds and twigs; American elm buds and twigs are smooth. Slippery elm trees also have very short-stalked flowers.

The tree's roughly textured leaves are 4-6 inches (10–18 cm) in length and have coarsely double-serrate margins, acuminate apices and oblique bases.

The flowers are perfect, apetalous, and wind-pollinated. They are produced prior to the leaves in early spring, usually clustering in groups of 10–20. The tree's fruit is an oval winged samara that contains a single, central seed; the samara is about 3/4 inches (20 mm) in length.

common names & nomenclature
The common name slippery elm is an allusion to the tree's mucilaginous inner bark. Additionally the color of the trees heartwood is reddish-brown, giving the tree its alternative common name Red Elm.

Also known as:
red elm, gray elm, soft elm, moose elm, indian elm, slippery elm


02.
Where in the World
habitat and range for slippery elm

Ulmus rubra—the Slippery Elm—is native to eastern North America. Its range spans from southeast North Dakota, east to Maine and southern Quebec, south to northernmost Florida, and west to eastern Texas.

03.
Cultivating & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting slippery elm

climate
Slippery elm commonly grows on the banks of streams and low rocky hillsides in sun to part shade.

soil
Slippery elm trees thrives in moisture-rich uplands, but they will also grow in dry, intermediate soils.

growing
As soon as ripe, sow seeds in a cold frame, they usually germinate within a few days. Seeds that have been stored do not germinate well. Transplant into individual pots when large enough to handle and plant in the garden in late spring or early summer. Be sure to transplant before the plant is two years old, slippery elm will develop a thick tap root that will render later transplanting less successful.

harvesting
Harvest the inner bark in summer before it dries out in the fall.

preserving
Store dried slippery elm inner bark and powdered slippery elm in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

04.
The Rest of the Story
slippery elm bark history, folklore, literature & more

Soaked in water and wrapped around meats, the slippery elm bark retarded spoilage in the days before refrigeration. Coarsely ground and mixed with water, it turned into a spongy mass and was molded into bandages to cover wounds and made pill-like coverings for unpleasant-tasting medicines. Ground and mixed with water or milk, slippery elm bark turned into soothing, nutritious food similar to oatmeal, which was used to treat sore throat, cough colds, and gastrointestinal ailments and to feed infants and hospital patients. Slippery elm sore throat lozenges were a fixture in home medicine cabinets, and the herb was the nation's leading home remedy for anything in need of soothing.

Slippery elm is still listed in the National Formulary, the pharmacists' reference, and health food stores still sell lozenges containing the herb. But our once-great elm forests have been decimated by Dutch elm disease, and both our landscape and our herbal healing heritage are poorer as a result.

First-century Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed bathing in a European elm bath to speed the healing of broken bones. His prescription survived more than 1,500 years. In the 17th century, English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote: "The decoction being bathed in heals broken bones...[and] is excellent [for] places...burnt with fire. The leaves bruised, applied, and being bound thereon with its own bark heal wounds." Culpeper also claimed elm root decoction restored hair on bald scalps.

Colonists found the Indians using American slippery elm bark as a food and treatment for wounds, sore throat, cough, inflamed nipples (mastitis), and many other ailments. The colonists adopted these uses and developed many more, including applying slippery elm poultices to bring boils to a head.

The Food and Drug Administration calls this herb "an excellent demulcent" (soothing agent).

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
you should always consult with your doctor
before making any changes to your diet!!
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