Slippery elm is a tree that is native to North America. It is especially common in the Appalachian Mountain region. Because it can reach a height of more than 50 feet, it’s considered a shade-producing tree. Slippery elm is also quite hardy. Left undisturbed, the tree can live as long as 200 years.
The “slippery” part of the common name comes from the mucilaginous lining of the bark, which is the only part of the tree harvested. Native Americans applied the freshly shredded pith as bandages and made infusions from the dried material. The demulcent qualities of the mucilage provide a protective film for irritated, inflamed tissue, both internally and externally.