Slippery Elm has long been used by the Native American as an herbal remedy for irritated or inflamed skin or tissue. Taken from the inner bark of a species of elm tree (Ulmus Rubra) that is found native throughout Eastern North America, slippery elm contains a high percentage of mucilage, a gel like substance that can serve as a protective coating for both skin and tissue. While few modern studies have been done on Slippery Elm, it has a very, very long history as a folk medicine and preliminary medical studies have found it to be potentially useful in a number of different areas.
One of the main ailments that slippery elm is thought to be beneficial is heartburn. Heartburn occurs when certain foods or eating habits end up forcing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus causing an uncomfortable burning sensation that many of us have become all too familiar with. Aside from the unpleasant feeling, the acids from frequent heartburn can also end up damaging the delicate lining of the esophageal wall, leading to more serious health complications. The mucilage in Slippery Elm can help coat and protect the esophagus helping to lessen the painful burning and even protect the lining from further damage.
On the other end of the digestive tract, slippery elm is also thought to be helpful for inflammatory bowel diseases such as IBS and Ulcerative Colitis. A study done in 2002 actually links the herb with the ability to help ease inflammation in the lower digestive tract.
Back before Big Pharma had its way, Slippery Elm was actually listed (until 1960) in the United States Pharmacopeia as the standard treatment for sore throats. The mucilage provided a natural coating that helped soothed an irritated throat and suppressed a cough. While no longer prescribed by doctors, slippery elm is still a main ingredient in many natural sore throat lozenges.
Where to Find
Slippery Elm can be found in many health food stores in powdered form as well as in lozenge, tea, and supplement form. You can make your own slippery elm tree by steeping two tablespoons of powdered slippery elm bark in hot water for three to five minutes. Like all natural substances with a high percentage of mucilage, slippery elm can adversely affect the absorption on certain prescription drugs, so be sure to give it a few hours to wear off before taking them.