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Slippery Elm

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Background and History

Slippery elm is a distinct species of elm that possesses deciduous characteristics. Commonly found in large numbers in North American forests, slippery elm typically grows to a height of about sixty-five feet, with some older specimens being decidedly larger. The leaves of the slippery elm are characterized by its rough, sandpaper-like texture, caused in part due to the profuse number of serrations that run near-parallel to the whole of the leaf. Being a fruit-bearing tree, it also sports a uniquely winged fruit, called a samara. Typically reddish or orange-hued, with darker-hued 'wings' extending from the fruit proper, it features a singular seed. This singularly shaped fruit is for all respects and purposes edible in its cooked or raw form, especially while yet immature. Slippery elm is also characterized by its bark, which is of a very rough, textured appearance and feel, as well as a slight 'hairiness' found in younger stalks and branches. Slippery elm is also replete with tiny flowers called 'perfects', which are of a delicate appearance, resembling tiny fur-balls. These flowers typically range from the slightly reddish, greenish, or even purplish coloration and grow in cluster-like form at the base of branches. Slippery elm is also well-known for its dense wood, replete with tightly packed grain making it a choice wood for industrial or artistic uses. [1]



Common / Popular Uses

Aside from the fact that the wood derived from older specimens of slippery elm can be employed for everything from furniture making to general carpentry, it has also been used medicinally since ancient times. The most commonly employed medicinal constituent of slippery elm is its interior bark which can typically be harvested (safely, at that!) from mature trees simply by peeling off a strip of bark with the use of a paring knife or some other sharp object. The inner part of the slippery elm contains mucilage, a slimy, slightly sticky substance not unlike sap or the goo that can be found in okras. This slimy mucilage is typically used as is in most applications, although it can also be left to dry in the sun, and is afterwards powdered. While the former is deemed more effective for topical applications and general first-aid, the latter is the best choice for herbalists who wish to have a ready store of the compound with them (technically, it is a 'spice', being derived from the bark; although it is typically referred to as an 'herb').

The most common applications for slippery elm are as an instant remedy for laryngitis, sore throats, and hoarseness of voice. The slippery mucilage found on the bark not only helps to soothe the throat, but its antimicrobial and astringent properties also help to stave off infection. When brewed into a strong decoction in its fresh form, it may be drunk to help relieve the pain associated with ulcer, and to soothe an upset stomach. [2] This tea may also be employed for the treatment of diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, and inflammations of the intestinal track or the bowels. Tisanes made from slippery elm may also be beneficial for individuals who experience frequent bouts of heartburn, as it helps to soothe the general discomforts associated with the problem. [3]



Because of its very soothing nature, raw (or rather, fresh) slippery elm can be employed as a soothing balm for cuts, bruises and burns when applied directly to the affected area. [4] Likewise, powered slippery elm made into a thick paste may be used as a soothing facial pack or hair mask, and is said to not only improve skin and hair condition, but help to increase elasticity and vibrancy through its moisturizing capabilities. [5] Applied topically, slippery elm may even help to remedy eczema and psoriasis, as well as help with the riddance of warts, boils, or scabies. When made into a syrup by either allowing whole slippery elm bark to decoct in a solution of honey and water, or if concocted via mixing slippery elm powder with pure raw honey, one can create a highly effective and soothing cough syrup that can double as a healing balm for cuts, burns and bruises, and, if allowed to set, a soothing lozenge for sore throats.

Esoteric / Magickal Uses

In magick, slippery elm is typically employed as a charm against slander and libel. Frequently employed by voodoo and hoodoo practitioners, it is said to be an integral ingredient in many protective 'conjures'. Carried in a medicine pouch, it not only reputedly protected the bearer from evil, but also made the person impervious to malicious intents and slanderous talk leveled at them. [6] Slippery elm powder can be used for warding, especially if sprinkled in the corners of rooms, which is said to protect the household from discord and ill-intentioned individuals both within, and outside of the household. Slippery elm may also be used in the shamanic context as an inhalant to help divine liars from true friends, and as offertory incense to spirits of woodlands.

Names of Slippery Elm, past and present

Chinese: yu
French: orme / orme gras / orme rouge / orme roux
Spanish: olmo Americano
English: elm / slippery elm / Chinese elm / moose elm / Indian elm / red elm
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Ulmus rubra / Ulmus fulva

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulmus_rubra

[2] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/slippery_elm.htm

[3] http://voices.yahoo.com/12-slippery-elm-benefits-uses-6007698.html?cat=68

[4] http://nutritionprinciples.com/slippery-elm/

[5] http://www.lolazabeth.com/in-the-lab-slippery-elm-yet-one-more-reason-why-you-need-it-in-your-life/

[6] http://herb-magic.com/slippery-elm-bark.html

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. © herbs-info.com 2013

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