A Tree with Many Uses: The Slippery Elm

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    Although not a common food item in modern times, the inner bark of the slippery elm tree was once dined upon by pioneers and early settlers. Typically enjoyed in the form of porridge, the pinkish-white bark of the slippery elm tree was dried and ground, then boiled before being enjoyed as a meal similar in nutrition and consistency to oatmeal. In fact, this meal is so effective that Revolutionary War soldiers at Valley Forge sustained themselves for 12 long days on slippery elm porridge alone.


    Another use for slippery elm bark is as a flour extender for cooking. Ground into a fine powder, slippery elm can be added to regular flour to stretch it further and get more use out of it. Also possible is turning slippery elm into a sweet, chewy snack by simply stripping off the bark and chewing it. The result was a long lasting gum of sorts that helped quench thirst, providing nutrition at the same time. Slippery elm's uses do not end here, however, as it offers many health benefits as well.



    From a medicinal standpoint, slippery elm has the ability to quell a lot of that which ails us. Afflictions such as bladder and urinary tract infections, colic, colitis, constipation, cough, diarrhea, diverticulitis, duodenal ulcers, hemorrhoids, herpes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), GI inflammation, sore throat, syphilis, and even tapeworms can be addressed by taking slippery elm. For skin ailments and wounds such as abscesses, boils, burns, cold sores, gout, rheumatism, and toothaches, applying slippery elm can help. It is also possible to use it as lubrication during labor and delivery. Slippery elm is even used in health care products such as throat lozenges and can be found in nutritional aids. Pregnant women should not partake in slippery elm consumption, however, as it is rumored to cause miscarriage or abortion; this claim is more of a wives tale than scientifically backed, but chances should not be taken regardless.
    In addition to health benefits, slippery elm is also hard and tough when seasoned. This makes it a good choice for rugged items that need to be able to withstand heavy use, such as tool handles. In the past it was used in wagon wheels, if that is any indication of its strength.

    Slippery elm grows along water on lands at lower elevations and can reach a height of 80 feet. They can be found in much of the United States and Canada and have large leaves that are coarse and dark green in color. Buds are yellowish with a wooly texture in spring and take on a brown color in winter. Bark is rough and deeply furrowed as well as reddish brown in exterior color but a pinkish white inside. It is able to be harvest year round but is most easily accessible in the spring when sap is flowing.


    There is widespread information about the usefulness of slippery elm inner bark that is good to keep in mind should you find yourself in a pinch out of which this tree can help you. Whether or not you are a believer in the inner bark of slippery elm trees, it may be worthwhile to call upon them and see what they might be able to offer you. It is quite possible that you could wind up pleasantly surprised by the benefits of the slippery elm tree.

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