Controversial Comfrey. Part 2

Monday, September 19, 2011 11:48
Posted in category Herbology

While the war rages over whether comfrey is safe for internal use, the value of its external application is still peerless. Native Americans mix powdered comfrey, powered Oregon grape root and green clay to make a healing, soothing salve (see recipes). Comfrey cream or ointment is soothing and healing for the skin and is especially helpful when applied overnight for wrinkles under the eyes. Comfrey leaves in a facial steam help tired and aging skin. To keep skin youthful and beautiful, add comfrey to lotions and creams or soak in a nice, warm comfrey bath.

Applied externally, comfrey poultices wrung out of a strong hot tea help to reduce swelling and pain associated with bruises, sprains and fractures. Apply undiluted tincture of comfrey root to acne. Use comfrey oil or ointment to treat acne, boils, relieve psoriasis and treat scars. Whatever you do when preparing comfrey, don’t boil it, as high temperatures can break down the healing allantoin.

Some who don’t give credence to the risk of using comfrey say the very first leaves, gathered in March or April, long before the plant blooms, make a fine dish of greens. Or coat the young leaves in batter, fry them in oil, dust with salt and pepper, and serve as a vegetable. Gently steam the chopped leaves and eat like spinach or add a few fresh, chopped leaves to spinach. When cooked, the hairs on the leaves disappear.

English gypsies say that a handful of comfrey roots, cleaned and fed daily to horses and cows in the spring will put them into fine bloom in one week. All animals thrive when fresh or dried crushed leaves of comfrey are mixed into their fodder. Mix a teaspoon of powder from the dried root or leaves into dog or cat food for a beautiful, shiny coat.

A striking perennial, comfrey has soft purple flowers hanging down from tall, arched stalks amidst the deep green of the leaves. It grows anywhere that doesn’t expose it to excessively hot, drying sun, for its huge leaves hold a lot of moisture. It will tolerate full sun but does better when it receives dappled shade at least part of the day. It is a very hardy plant, known to withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero. It will survive in almost any soil but reaches its most luxuriant growth in a loose, rich, loamy soil. Care should be taken to allow a large enough space when growing comfrey, as it is a vigorous grower, up to four feet high, and returns each year in greater abundance. Outside leaves can measure two feet long and eight inches wide. To propagate from seed, sow in spring, but the best way to grow comfrey is by root division carried out in autumn.

The main concern in growing comfrey is not how to grow it, but how to keep it from spreading. The roots are persistent and any little piece left in the soil will shoot. It has a tendency to take over an entire garden, and there is virtually no way to remove it once it has established itself. To control it, plant it separately two to three feet apart. It will grow closer together but the roots will be more difficult to harvest. Or, use a containing device such as a border of sheet metal buried one foot deep.

Bibliography:
Compete Book of Herbs – American Herb Association.
Using Plants for Healing – Nelson Coon
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
Medicine of the Earth – Susanne Fischer-Rizzi
Herbs that Heal: Prescription for Herbal Healing – Michael A. Weiner, Ph.D. & Janet A. Weiner
The Healing Herbs – Michael Castleman
Growing & Using the Healing Herbs – Gaea & Shandor Weiss
The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal – David Hoffman
Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants – Andrew Chevallier
An Illustrated Guide to Herbs – Anna Kruger
The Book of Herb Lore – Lady Rosalind Northcote
Brother Cadfael’s Herb Garden – Rob Talbot & Robin Whiteman
What Herb is That? – John & Rosemary Hemphill
Natural Health Secrets from Around the World – Glenn W. Geelhoed, M.D. and Jean Barilla, M.S. (eds)
School of Natural Healing – Dr. John R. Christopher
Today’s Herbal Health – Louise Tenney, M.H.
Back to Eden – Jethro Kloss
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm & Stable – Juliette de Bairacli Levy
The Master Book of Herbalism – Paul Beyerl
The Roots of Healing: A Woman’s Book of Herbs – Deb Soule
Herb Gardens of Delight – Adelma Simmons
Charms, Spells & Formulas – Ray Malbrough
Herb Contraindications & Drug Interactions – Francis Brinker, N.D.
Stalking the Healthful Herbs – Euell Gibbons

Recipes
From an old remedy from the Middle Ages for burns, mix ? cup wheat germ oil, ? cup honey, and add a pinch of lobelia and as much dried or fresh comfrey leaves as it takes to make a thick paste.

Here’s a recipe for comfrey salve:

Comfrey Salve
1 lb. fresh comfrey roots
2.5 oz. Lanolin
2 cups olive oil, cold pressed
.6 oz beeswax, grated

Wash and clean comfrey roots and cut them into small pieces. Set aside. Melt the lanolin slowly in a heavy pot over low heat; add olive oil. Stir in the comfrey roots and heat for about 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t let it boil. Strain mixture through a cloth, pressing the liquid from the roots. Reserve. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler and stir in the olive oil mixture. Heat slowly until ingredients are well blended. While it is still warm, fill small salve pots. Stir in a cool place. It will keep for about a year.

Other non-controversial uses for comfrey include its use as a liquid fertilizer for vegetables, especially tomatoes. For this purpose, fill a large, non-metal container with rainwater, and add a few handfuls of comfrey leaves. Let it ferment for a while, and then dilute it for watering your plants. This mixture is also useful for watering your compost pile. Plant a few comfrey plants near a strawberry bed to improve the size and flavor of berries.

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