Slippery Elm is one of my favorite herbs. It is a tree, native to North America, and the inner bark is the part used. It's an amazing, highly nutritious herb with a mild-flavor. To me it's a slightly nutty taste. In The How To Herb Book, it's described as hinting of "burnt caramel candy". In the case of famine or food shortage, it would be an excellent herb to have stored or to forage for eating.
I like to buy it in powdered form so I can put a scoop or two in my fruit or protein shakes. It swells a little and gets thicker as it sits - in your glass or your stomach! - so you need to have plenty of water with it. My favorite Slippery Elm shakes are with a banana, soy milk (or water or milk), maybe a shot of vanilla, and a little Cinnamon sprinkled on top.
In our family, we've mainly used it for digestive and respiratory ailments. It is very healing and soothing for upset stomach, bowel problems, coughs, congestion, sore throat and tonsils. Here's a good over-view from my book called The Woman's Book of Healing Herbs, by Sari Harrar and Sara Altshul O'Donnell:
"History and Traditional Uses - Before Dutch elm disease destroyed many of the continent's mature trees, Native Americans relied on the sweet-tasting inner bark to ease childbirth, soothe labor pains, and relieve many other ailments, from diarrhea to dysentery, rheumatism to sore eyes, coughs to sore throats, and wounds to ulcers."
"Rich in slick mucilage, slippery elm was widely used at the turn of the century to coat and soothe irritated mucous membranes in the digestive system, mouth, throat, lungs, uterus, kidneys, and bladder. It also cooled hemorrhoids."
"Healing Potential - Today, proponents say that the mucilage in slippery elm bark is still an excellent remedy for bladder infections, diarrhea, peptic ulcers, coughs, colitis, acid stomach, and many more irritations and inflammations of the reproductive, digestive, and respiratory systems as well as of the urinary tract. Externally, homemade slippery elm paste or gel may help heal wounds, soothe inflamed skin, repair a torn perineum after childbirth, and restore vaginal lubrication at menopause."
My How To Herb Book explains that it basically coats, relaxes and heals all inflamed tissues, inside or out. It is very gentle and safe and therefor an excellent herb for babies with diarrhea or digestive problems. It normalizes stools and soothes, coats and heals the entire intestinal tract lining. It's great for ulcers and hiatal hernias. It's also a good thyroid support.
2 case studies were sited. The first was where hemorrhoid pain and bleeding was stopped within minutes by using a small retention enema. That's where you only use about 1 cup of warm mixture and it is entirely absorbed in the colon.
The second was used with baby lambs. When lambs are born, they have a tendency to get diarrhea (scours). Sometimes my baby goats did also. Many times the lambs die. This person fed her lambs slippery elm mixture and the diarrhea was quickly corrected and the lambs were fine.
Nature is full of tasty wonders. When we heal ourselves from the Lord's pharmacy, we are nourished, fed and strengthened at the same time. So I hope you'll consider adding some slippery elm to your storage!