"What the heck is slippery elm?" is the normal response when I mention this herb. While it is an uncommon herb, it is a very useful one.
Slippery elm, as its name implies, is 'slippery'. I mix the powder with water, gently cook it, and allow it to cool to form a gelatine-like substance. The basic recipe is 1 teaspoon of
powder in 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan and stir. Simmer over low heat,
stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Let cool. Give 1 tsp of cooled
syrup 1/2 hour before a meal. Cover and refrigerate the rest. (It will be okay
for about 7 days.) It has a earthy smell and taste which some cats do like enough to eat off a spoon.
For other forms of slippery elm, the 1/8 tsp of the powder can be mixed with food, but added water is also needed. (1/8 tsp is about 1 capsule.) Most cats do not object to it being added to food.
So what is this stuff good for? I use it mainly to coat the intestinal tract when it's upset. Specifically, when a cat is vomiting or has diarrhea, slippery elm soothes the intestines and helps return the intestines to normal function. It will not stop diarrhea, but will calm the intestines so that the need for the diarrhea is removed. (Most diarrhea is caused by something irritating the intestines.) It also has the appropriate carbohydrates to encourage 'good' bacterial growth in the intestines and can be used as a stool softener.
Other than intestinal problems, another good use is for CRF cats with mouth ulcers. The slippery elm coats the mouth and makes the ulcers less sore, so a cat will eat. Obviously, the slippery elm must be given as a decoction, and not mixed in with the food.
Slippery elm is also reported to help with urinary tract infections and open skin wounds. I have never tried it for these problems because I use other herbs for these problems which I believe would work better.