Slippery Elm- Nature's Digestion Support February 07 2018, 0 Comments

You’ve all heard the saying “no hoof, no horse.” Well, the same goes for “no gut, no horse.” Much of horses’ immune systems and hence overall well-being is regulated in the large intestine or hindgut, which, although endlessly important to your horse’s health, also is one of our horses most vulnerable organs. Enter Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva/rubra), one of nature’s wonder herbs, excellent at soothing and healing equine ulcers and encouraging overall gut health for horses.

Slippery Elm is a beautiful tree, native to Northern America, from Texas to Manitoba and east, and can grow over 80 feet tall and live between 15 and 20 years. Its medicinal uses are many, but it is best known as a demulcent (inflammatory relief) due to the mucilage found in its inner bark. Slippery Elm can be used topically as a poultice to soothe irritated skin or internally or to support gut and respiratory issues.

The ever popular Digest Support from Hilton Herbs in the store's main ingredient is Slippery Elm- and for good reason.

Plant parts and uses

Only the inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree is used for medicinal purposes. It should be ground into a fine powder and be light tan in appearance. If it is darker, then it includes outer bark, which is much more fibrous and can be irritating. In order to use, you must add water to the powder. The mixture will turn into viscous liquid, thanks to a naturally occurring polysaccharide (a.k.a. mucilage), which helps line and soothe inflamed membranes of the body and is the key to Slippery Elm’s healing properties. 

Most common uses for horses

Colic and ulcers! Slippery Elm is a great horse colic preventative, as it encourages healing, assists with regular bowel movements, acts as an antacid and also restores bacterial balance in the gut. All of these benefits are primarily thanks to the mucilage found in the inner bark.

Ulcers in horses are also often treated with slippery elm. Commonly combined with chamomile tea or aloe vera juice, Slippery Elm will assist the healing of equine ulcers by soothing and coating inflamed tissues and drawing out any toxins. You can either add the mixture to your horse’s feed or syringe it directly into your horse’s mouth.

 Lastly, you can add Slippery Elm powder to any poultice mixture, and it will assist in reducing inflammation and removing toxins- this is especially helpful for hoof abscesses.

Slippery Elm is commonly accepted as a safe herb to administer to horses, with no known side effects. However, please be sure to feed to your horse several hours after administering any medications, as the mucilage may prevent your horse from absorbing the medication.

 Home grown

Growing a Slippery Elm tree many sound like a daunting task, but is relatively do-able, and a good idea if you plan on using a lot of Slippery Elm. Unfortunately, due to Dutch Elm disease, Slippery Elms are an at-risk tree, so it is encouraged to limit harvesting of these trees in the wild. You can plant seeds in the spring, in a peat moss and sand bed, and transfer to a tree tube for a few years before planting directly into the soil. These trees prefer part to full sun and a well-drained soil with plenty of water, leaf mulch, and limited weeds. Be careful not to plant in an area prone to flooding as it will not tolerate long-term exposure to water. It is best to harvest young, healthy robust trees, preferably in the spring.