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Slippery Elm Bark

Slippery Elm Bark

ulmus rubra

The inner bark of slippery elm is of immense importance as its demulcent property aids in attenuating inflammation, gastrointestinal tract disorders, respiratory tract disorders, and urinary tract disorders. Slippery elm bark is also used to pace up wound healing and ameliorating skin disorders.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Slippery elm, red elm, soft elm, moose elm
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Inner Bark
  • Side Effects:
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About Slippery Elm

Slippery elm bark, botanically known as Ulmus rubra, is a deciduous tree which can grow up to 65 feet. It belongs to the Ulmaceae family is widely found in the USA and Canada. It is marked by its distinguishing feature .i.e. the outer reddish-brown bark and slimy red inner bark. It is the inner bark that offers the medicinal perks.

The tree further sets itself apart from others by producing reddish-brown buds, velvety twigs, and slippery inner bark. The flowers of elm bark trees are composed in a clustered fashion, usually 10 to 20 in a single cluster. The inner bark of slippery elm is of immense importance as its demulcent property aids in attenuating inflammation, gastrointestinal tract disorders, respiratory tract disorders, and urinary tract disorders. Slippery elm bark is also used to pace up wound healing and ameliorating skin disorders.  

By the time the world came across the 19th century, the herbalists and physicians approved the use of slippery elm bark in managing tuberculosis, pleurisy, and pneumonia. If given in excessive doses, slippery elm bark is liable to respond as anthelminthic as it can eradicate the tapeworms from the gastrointestinal tract. The mucilaginous poultices of slippery elm bark can reduce the spirits of abscesses, boils, burns, syphilis, herpes, and leprosy.

Growing

Slippery elm is an easy-growing tree as it can be started via seeds during spring. This moderately fast-growing perennial can be grown both indoors and outdoors. For better germination, the seeds can be stratified in a moist medium at 40F for 2 to 3 months.

The seeds nutrient-rich, organic soil that is moist in nature. Usually, slippery elms are a frequent sight at the low rocky hillsides and banks of the streams. They are not much finicky about their light requirements and can do well in both partial to no shade spots.

In the wild setting, slippery elm can live for more than 200 years. The germination pattern of slippery elms is a bit paradoxical. The stratified seeds can germinate as soon as they hit the ground whereas sometimes both stratified and non-stratified seeds lay dormant for a year.

The slippery elm plant grows at a moderate pace. The flowers emerge before the leaves at the onset of spring. The flowers are pollinated by the wind which results in the formation of samaras. From April to June, the samaras undergo the ripening process and get dispersed by either wind or water to launch a new plant.

Harvesting

The best time to harvest the inner bark of the slippery elm is when the buds are breaking, which typically occurs during spring. The tree from which the bark has to be obtained should be either alive or recently fallen down due to any reason. Also, the tree should be around ten years old to carry out the inner bark harvest.

A sharp knife is used to fetch the inner moist bark strip. The outer bark can be detached from the inner one by simply rolling the strip.

The slippery elm inner bark can be stripped into fine, thin slices. This makes the drying process easy and quick. After drying the bark pieces, they can be crushed into coarse or fine powder and stored in an airtight jar.

Usage

The slippery elm tree is planted for its beauty, food, and medicinal qualities. Its slimy inner bark has obscured medicinal benefits due to which people are employing its medicinal preparations for managing their nuisances.

  • Tincture- Infuse freshly chopped or dried slippery elm bark in grain alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place.
  • Tea- Half a teaspoon of bark (or powdered bark) is enough to go with a cup of hot boiling water to make slippery elm tea. (finely powdered drug can make the preparation extremely thick and causes problem while ingesting the tea.)
  • Decoction- 2 tablespoons of powdered slippery elm bark are enough for 2 quarts water. The powdered herb is soaked overnight in the water and simmered the next day until the volume of the mixture reduces to half. The decoction is stored in an airtight glass bottle in the fridge.
  • Salve- Slippery elm bark is added to the coconut oil and heated for 2 ½ hours (Marshmallow root and calendula flowers can also be added). This oil is then strained and stirred with melted beeswax and raw Shea butter to form slippery elm salve.
  • Syrup- Slippery elm bark is simmered for 3 to 5 minutes with sugar solution to form slipper elm bark syrup.
  • Infused oil- Slippery elm bark is infused with coconut oil for 2 to 3 hours in crock-pot to form an infused oil.