Comfrey

comfreyIf I could only choose a few herbs to grow in my yard, comfrey would definitely be in the top five, if not number one itself. It has been used medicinally for centuries to aid the body in healing anything that is torn or broken. Its common name was ‘knitbone’ and may be used as a poultice to treat bruising, sprains, varicose veins, sore muscles, bed sores, wounds, ulcers, insect bites, tumors, muscular pain, pulled tendons, gangrene,  and dermatological conditions, and , of course, broken bones. Use it in the bath for osteoporosis, rheumatism, or any of the other ailments listed above by making a tea out of the bath water using a cloth bag filled with dried comfrey.

Unfortunately, comfrey has been the subject of controversy. One of the constituents of comfrey is a pyrrolizidine alkaloid, which is found in higher quantities in the roots than the leaves. If taken in large amounts, under certain conditions, it can cause liver damage in rats. When comfrey leaves are dried, which is the most common way it is ingested, however, enzymes are released and much of the alkaloid is destroyed. Even so, government policy is such that no herbal product containing comfrey may be sold for internal use. This is in spite of the fact that it has been used just that way over the centuries. (Apparently the government is unaware of the studies on the ill effects of tobacco use, or else cigarettes would be banned as well.) I include comfrey in my own personal medicinal tea and, in addition, if anyone in my family suffers a fall or sprain, I make a comfrey poultice and have them drink the tea which remains. If ingesting it is a concern, I would still highly recommend its use in salves, fomentations, and poultices. I know of no other herb with as much healing power as this one. My ten pound pomapoo will often eat it throughout the growing season with no apparent ill effects.

How to make a poultice from dried or fresh leaves

Steep the desired herbs in boiling water, as you would a tea. When the herbs are cool enough so that it they will not burn the skin, strain the water and apply the herbs directly to the area to be treated. Cover with several thicknesses of cotton or wool cloth to retain the heat, and cover this with plastic to prevent staining clothes or bed sheets. You may leave this on for one to eight hours. I have gone to sleep with a comfrey poultice wrapped around a sprained ankle, and awakened to find no bruising, swelling or soreness in the morning.

For more information on comfrey I would suggest The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, Dr. Mom’s Healthy Living by Master Herbalist Sandra K. Livingston Ellis, and Herbal Home Health Care by Dr. John R. Christopher

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