Looking for a product to add some serious slippage to your hair? Then look no further at the amazing properties of slippery elm. Slippery elm scientifically known as Ulmus Fulva is a small tree native to eastern Canada and the United States. The Slippery Elm tree is known for its dark reddish-brown trunk and greyish slippery (when mixed with water) inner bark which contains most of its medicinal value. For centuries, Native Americans used slippery elm for healing wounds, boils, sore throats, and fevers. Currently, slippery elm can be used to soothe several symptoms. Because slippery elm bark is a demulcent (can sooth the lining of the stomach and intestines) it has been used to treat inflammatory bowel disease and urinary tract infections. Additionally, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, slippery elm has been shown to improve psoriasis and may help prevent breast cancer and anxiety. The mucilage in slippery elm is also beneficial for moisturizing and detangling natural hair, providing a natural barrier of slip.
What is slippery elm mucilage?
Slippery elm mucilage is a mixture of polyuronides (polymeric substance consisting or uronic acids, think gums and pectin’s) which is hydrolyzed into sugars, proteins, carbohydrates (l-rhamnose glacturonide, disaccharose uronide, sugars d-galactose and l-rhamnose, non-saccharine matrine and calcium oxalate). These compounds benefit the hair by providing it calcium, amino acids, (the building blocks of proteins) fatty acids, and Iodine (important for thyroid gland function).
This thick and gooey mucilage makes it an amazing natural detangler. When slippery elm powder is added to water, it can penetrate the hair shaft and make the strands more slippery. It breaks down strand cohesion and allows the strands to slide past each other. Slippery elm can be used as a detangler or a leave-in gel, and is great for moisturizing and strengthening dry strands.
See my recipe below for the best detangling gel ever!