Originating in eastern areas of North America from Quebec to Mexico, slippery elm is one of the most widely used herbal remedies. It’s used to heal and soothe damaged tissues—external wounds as well as internal mucous membranes. In addition, it’s highly nutritive, and therefore used as a food in debility and convalescence.
Parts used: Inner bark.
Main constituents: Mucilage, starch, tannins.
Effect: Antitussive, emollient, expectorant, soothing demulcent, laxative, nutritive.
HOW TO USE
Food supplement: Use in nutritional purposes in case of debility or for infants. Mix 1⁄4–1 level teaspoons of the powder with a little water to prepare a paste and add boiling water or hot milk, stirring nonstop, to make up to 1 cup of thin gruel. You can also sprinkle the powder on muesli or oatmeal.
Ointment: Use to “draw” splinters, thorn, or pus; often used in combination with marshmallow powder.
Poultice: Mix 1 teaspoon of powder with a little water or calendula infusion to make a paste, spread on gauze, and apply to varicose ulcers, abscesses, boils, or suppurating wounds.
Capsules/tablets: Take 200mg 3 times a day for esophageal or gastric inflammation, ulceration or chronic indigestion. Take 1 tablet or capsule before a journey to prevent travel sickness.
HOW TO GET
Grow: Slippery elm likes deep, moist soil in full sun. Commonly propagated by seed sown in autumn, from suckers, or from semi-ripe cuttings in summer. Usually not grown in gardens. Susceptible to fungal infections, pests, and Dutch elm disease.
Forage: You can find it planted as a street tree in parts of the US, but rarely cultivated elsewhere. There’s little chance to find it growing wild outside its native habitat. Stocks have been depleted by elm leaf beetle and Dutch elm disease, so great care has to be taken when collecting the bark to avoid damaging trees further.
Harvest: In spring, strip the inner bark from the trunks and branches of mature trees.
Caution: Availability of the whole bark is restricted in some countries.