Generally speaking, herbalists seem to associate many of the main uses of Slippery Elm within the realm of gastrointestinal ailments. Because this bark contains mucilage, this compound has the unique ability to generate a film coating mucus membranes within the digestive tract. This coating can relieve discomfort associated, for example, with Crohn's disease, but helps in other ways, too. The herb simultaneously soothes various inflammations via the coating while simultaneously providing antioxidant benefits - making this remedy an attractive treatment in diarrhea and peptic ulcer ailments. The aforementioned calming mucilage film is also helpful for many patients suffering from bronchial issues - like coughs, sore throats and respiratory discomfort.
There are topical skin applications for Slippery Elm, also. Wounds, cold sores, burns and toothaches are all issues that some medical professionals believe can be improved from using this herbal product. In these efforts, coarse bark powder is mixed with boiling water to make a poultice or paste. The mixture is cooled and then applied to the affected area. It is strongly recommended that patients NOT apply this paste to open wounds.
Native Americans are often given credit for first using Slippery Elm as medicine. Some historians believe tribes soaked the bark and used it as bandages when dressing wounds. Other early applications may have included wrapping food within the bark in an effort to deter spoiling. Porridges of the substance are also believed to have been made from the plant to help maintain health during famines and when other food sources were scarce. Interestingly, some herbalists claim that older bark is more potent that fresher sources.
As with all use of herbal remedies, it is best to consult a health care provider familiar with a patient's specific medications and health history before starting any new Slippery Elm Bark program. Dosage recommendations can vary for patients due to a number of factors. Slippery Elm and other herbs can cause dangerous side effects when combined with other prescribed medicines or with other supplements. There is not significant research as to whether or not Slippery Elm is safe for use for breastfeeding women or for women who are pregnant. Some herbalists, in fact, claim that this herb may cause a miscarriage. Please consult with a physician to identify any risk factors and/or to see if Slippery Elm is a safe choice for use prior to incorporating any such product into your diet.