This month is all about Slippery Elm! A huge thanks to our sponsors for this month:
This month it’s time for a little tree magic!
Elm is in the Ulmaceae family. Slippery Elm’s botanical name is Ulmus rubra. He is also known as Ulmus fulva. Other species of Elm such as Siberian Elm (U. pumila) and American Elm (U. americana) are also medicinal and can be substituted if you do not have Slippery Elm growing in your area. Though he is available commercially, I recommend only purchasing from sources that you can trust to sustainably harvest the bark or harvest it locally so you can ensure the life and health of the tree.
Slippery Elm has an affinity with the mucus membranes, the respiratory system and the gastrointestinal system.
Slippery Elm can be made into a ‘gruel’ that is very nutritive and can be used for feeding to people who are very ill and cannot eat or drink much. His pleasant taste make him a very agreeable food. And, he is full of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine, vitamins A and C and zinc.
In addition to being a nutritive, he is also an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitussive, mild astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, laxative, pectoral, rejuvenative, restorative and vulnerary.
Slippery Elm helps to bring the body back to health, to rejuvenate and restore it when taken internally as a gruel or as a tea.
Slippery Elm is great for treating all kinds of inflammation, whether it be from an inflamed gut to inflamed lungs or inflammation on the skin from a wound or sprain. Making a poultice for the skin or a gruel for taking internally can be very helpful for soothing away the inflammation.
As an antioxidant, Slippery Elm is great for preventing rancidity. Herbalist jim mcdonald talks of his research on this subject in an article on his website (see resources for the article). Slippery Elm is a great addition to any herbal oil or salve to help the oil remain stable. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions combine well to relieve inflammatory bowel conditions.
Slippery Elm is soothing to coughs as shown by his antitussive, expectorant and pectoral actions. As an antitussive, he has the strength to suppress a cough. While it is usually desirable not to suppress a cough when it is productive, if the cough is overwhelming and not productive, suppression can be temporarily helpful to get some rest. At the same time, his expectorant actions will help to loosen any stuck congestion, helping your body to break up the mucus and bring it up. As a pectoral, Slippery Elm will be strengthening the lungs and respiratory system. These actions work great for whooping cough, pleurisy, pneumonia and tuberculosis where lungs are severely compromised and coughing can be overwhelming.
Slippery Elm’s soothing mucilaginous effect can be seen in his demulcent and emollient actions which sooth mucus membrane linings in the body. Combine that with his diuretic and laxative effects and you will find this herb to be useful for treating both the urinary tract and the digestive system. These actions work beautifully with his vulnerary action to sooth and heal irritated linings throughout the body.
Even though Slippery Elm seems to be mostly used on the inside, he is just as useful on the outside. Native Americans applied Slippery Elm as a poultice on all kinds of skin irritations including ulcers, boils, bed sores, diaper rash, wounds, burns, poison ivy and oak irritations and other skin eruptions. We find combining Slippery Elm with charcoal to be a great combination for treating wounds that are becoming infected. I like to add in some Calendula, Rosemary or other antimicrobial herb to help kill the infection in this formula.
Try Slippery Elm poultices on painful, itchy situations such as poison ivy/oak rashes, chicken pox and shingles. The poultice is soothing and stops the itch and pain while facilitating healing.
1 tablespoon Slippery Elm powder
1/2 cups raw honey
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (it’s best to get whole and grind as needed)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (I like to get the pods and grind them right before using)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
To start, begin with whisking the eggs with the Slippery Elm powder. Set aside.
Heat the milk and honey until it begins to boil. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the milk.
Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture has thickened.
Add the coconut oil and other herbs to the mixture, stirring well.
Pour into a serving bowl and chill.
A dollop of freshly whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon is a nice accent though we didn’t make it to that point!
This recipe and many more can be found in this month’s issue of Herbal Roots zine, Saluting Slippery Elm. You can purchase it for $7.99:
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