Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Slippery Elm Bark

North American Indians and early settlers used the inner back of the slippery elm not only to build canoes, shelter and baskets, but as a poultice or as a soothing drink. Upon contact with water, the inner back, collected in the spring, yields a thick mucilage or demulcent that was used as an ointment or salve to treat urinary tract inflammation and was applied topically for cold sores and boils. Surgeons during the American Revolution treated gun-shot wounds with slippery elm. Early settlers boiled bear fat with the bark to prevent rancidity. Late in the 19th century, a preparation of elm mucilage was officially recognized in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Slippery elm coats and protects irritated epithelial tissue (skin and the lining of the digestive tract). The powdered bark has been used in this manner for local application to treat gout, rheumatism, cold sores, wounds, abscesses, ulcers, and toothaches. The tannins present in the bark are known to possess astringent actions. It also has bee known to “draw out” toxins, boils splinters, or other irritants.

When slippery elm preparations are taken internally, they cause reflex stimulation of the nerve endings in the GI tract, leading to mucus secretion. This may be the reason they are effective for protection against stomach ulcers, colitis, diverticulitis, gut inflammation, and acidity. Slippery elm is also useful for diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, IBS, and to expel tapeworms.

I also use slippery elm as a prebiotic. It is very high in soluble fiber that remains intact through the digestive process all the way to the colon. In the colon it feeds the healthy bacteria, the probiotics that form the microbiome.

Please refer to my blog “2014 in Review” posted on December 29, 2014. It lists 5 blogs posted last year on digestive issues.

As I have mentioned several times, the problem with probiotics is knowing which one or ones to use. Each of us has a unique composition of probiotics and the probiotic that helps one person can harm the next. The simple answer is to use a prebiotic whenever possible. That way you feed only the healthy bacteria that normally occupy the colon rather than risk introducing a new life form to an already compromised digestive tract.

So slippery elm back coats, protects the digestive tract while feeding the healthy bacteria of the colon. It is the ideal supplement for IBS, leaky gut, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and dysbiosis.

I often combine it with folic acid (or bioavailable 5-MTHF) to promote cell reproduction and healing of the gut while reducing inflammation.

It is one of the very few herbs I get here in the United States as it is native to North America and not readily available from Australia. That keeps the cost down remarkably. By comparison, the echinacea I use, also a native North American herb, is grown in the U.S., shipped in bulk to Australia, processed, and then shipped back. The quality is superb, in fact pharmaceutical, but it comes with a high price.

The Bottom Line:
If you have any of the digestive issues discussed in this blog, consider slippery elm bark. If you take a probiotic on a regular basis, consider replacing it with slippery elm bark. I just add a tablespoon to the protein shake that I make 3-4 days a week.

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