Last night we held our first class about the use of herbs at SFRAW: Top 10 Herbs for Dogs. It was a great success and a lot of fun! I had a wonderful time talking about some of my most favorite herbs, and everyone gathered around to watch while I prepared an incredibly delicious smelling healing salve. Students took home samples of this special blend I prepared just for their class. Participants will also revieve a document I wrote that profiles all 10 herbs featured for this class. I decided to share one of these profiles with our blog followers as well.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva)
Slippery elm is a large, deciduous tree native to North America; the inner bark is used for herbal and nutritional applications. Considered one of the most valuable remedies in herbal practice, this wonderfully strengthening and healing herb has been used for centuries for everything from a highly nutritional, restorative food to treating skin conditions to calming respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. Native American populations prepared slippery elm bark as a porridge for infants and the elderly during times of famine, and it works incredibly well as a nourishing gruel for very young, sick and old animals.
PROPERTIES & ATTRIBUTES
- Mucilage that coats, lubricates, soothes, tones, and protects the entire digestive tract. Has a similar action on the respiratory system, so it is useful for reliving the discomforts associated with Kennel Cough and bronchitis; makes swallowing easier, soothes pain from coughing & reduces inflammation.
- Being tolerated by the stomach when other foods fail, slippery elm is a highly nutritive food that contains fiber, bioflavonoids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, vitamins A, E, C, K and B-complex.
- Considered a prebiotic; helps to promote a healthy, balanced gut flora.
- Normalizes the bowels; acts as a bulk forming laxative that relaxes smooth muscles while tannins tighten digestive mucosa to reduce inflammation and inhibit the entrance of excess fluids into the intestines to help combat diarrhea. Soothes ulcers & reduces stomach acid. Oily mucilage helps lubricate the digestive tract to assist in the elimination of waste; draws out impurities and toxins from the body.
- Aids in healing and protecting, slippery elm has antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and astringent properties. It is used in a popular herbal remedy for cancer patients (Essiac Tea) and helps to stimulate the immune system.
Internally for convalescence, fasting, gastrointestinal or respiratory distress:
- During sickness: Mix 1-2 teaspoon slippery elm bark powder steeped in 8 oz of liquid (broth or hot water) with 1 teaspoon of unfiltered raw honey, grade-B maple syrup or blackstrap molasses.
- For constipation, add 1 teaspoon of organic goat or cow’s milk whole, unsweetened, unflavored yogurt.
- Prepare a soothing, nutritive treat by blending slippery elm bark powder with a small amount of equal parts unfiltered raw honey, grade-B maple syrup or blackstrap molasses & raw, unfiltered virgin organic coconut oil & raw organic tahini (sesame paste). You may also choose to add a small amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, peppermint, fennel, chamomile or ginger. Make a stiff dough and press/roll together to make bite-sized balls. This is a healing, nutritional power treat for pets and people. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Feed any of these options as often as needed throughout the day – slippery elm is medicinal food and you do not need to be concerned about overdosing.
- For weaning puppies and lactating bitches (starting at 4 weeks of age), prepare a nutritive gruel of warmed raw goat’s milk, raw local unfiltered honey, pastured raw egg yolks, chamomile or dill, and slippery elm. You may also add a small amount of soaked organic oat bran. This incredible Natural Rearing supplement was first recommended by the highly respected herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy; used for generations by NR breeders to promote optimal health, bone structure and muscle development, and overall strength and vitality in their litters.
Externally for all skin conditions and tissue trauma:
- Make a poultice (prepare a paste with small amount of warm water) of slippery elm bark powder and apply directly to wounds, ulcers, boils or abscesses. It is soothing and healing; reduces inflammation and pain, while drawing out impurities.
CAUTIONS & RISKS Possible allergic reactions are rare, but this is the only known possible risk for using slippery elm bark. Slippery Elm is very well tolerated and incredibly safe. Look for fluffy beige to light pink fibrous bark or a soft powder – it is sweet and nutty.Because this herb coats the digestive tract, there is a concern that continued long-term use may inhibit the absorption of nutrients. This is merely a theory of possible risk and has not been demonstrated or proven. However, out of an abundance of caution, we recommend limiting the use of slippery elm to acute periods of distress, and limiting long-term administration to three month periods of time; taking regular breaks from continued long-term use.
Slippery elm could theoretically slow down or decrease the absorption of medications or supplements taken by mouth due to hydrocolloidal fibers, although there is a lack of actual interactions or experiences reported.
If not collected carefully, you may end up contaminating your herb with the *outer* bark, which is not the part that should be used. This contamination is not a risk at all when purchasing this herb from any reputable sources. The outer bark may cause irritation to the digestive and urinary systems, and may induce abortion in pregnant animals.
NOTE: Slippery elm is considered at risk for being overharvested and populations in the wild are threatened by some common elm diseases, so responsible use is important. If you would like to use a different herb that acts similarly to slippery elm, you may also consider marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) as an alternative. Marshmallow is another excellent nutritive food herb that soothes, lubricates, and protects internal tissues and mucous membranes. Combine in equal measure marshmallow root with goldenrod or raspberry leaf for best results to match slippery elm’s action on the digestive and respiratory tract. Externally, common plantain (Plantago sp) would work similarly for skin ailments.