Ulmus rubra, Indian elm, Moose elm, Red elm
The slippery elm is a species of elm native to eastern North America. This graceful tree can live to be over 200 years old and can be identified by its ‘slippery’ inner bark.
No food or drug of today comes close to matching the place of honour that slippery elm held in 18th and 19th century America. The herb was the nation’s leading home remedy for anything in need of soothing.
It gained a reputation as an effective wound healer among soldiers during the American Civil War. The herb also has a bulk laxative action and was valuable in providing nutrition during convalescence and recovery from battle wounds and exhaustion.
Scientific studies have shown that slippery elm, along with other sponge like fibre sources, help absorb excess fluid in the gastrointestinal tract and add bulk to stools. One study reported a 20% increase in bowel movements, a 65% decrease in straining scores, and a 29% improvement in stool consistency with a formulation containing slippery elm powder.
Slippery elm was found to have dose-dependent peroxynitrite-scavenging actions in a Korean study. Peroxynitrite is a cytotoxicant (cell toxin) with strong oxidising properties toward various cellular constituents, including sulphydryls, lipids, amino acids and nucleotides and can cause cell death, lipid peroxidation, cancer formation and accelerated aging of tissue.
Reactive oxygen metabolites (ROM) are present in excess in inflamed colonic mucosa and are likely to play a pathogenic role in inflammatory bowel diseases such as crohns and ulcerative colitis. Novel drugs or therapies for inflammatory bowel disease that have antioxidant activity may be useful clinically. Slippery elm, dose-dependently, was found to be a superoxide and peroxyl radical scavenger. Oxygen radical release from biopsies of the colon was reduced after incubation in slippery elm.
It also contains a variety of nutritional factors such as iron, vitamin C, thiamine (B1), zinc, magnesium and potassium, providing nutrition and antioxidants to depleted cells and protection to mitochondria and DNA from reactive oxygen species ROS and free radicals.
The tannins found in slippery elm are known to possess astringent and antimicrobial properties so they can help to detoxify the gastrointestinal tract and act as an antiseptic in wound treatment by killing harmful bacteria.