Monday, December 17, 2012

Saying Hello to Comfrey

This is an article I originally posted last July.  I am sharing it again here, with a few edits, as I believe this is a great place to have it for new followers, if there are any.
The Comfrey in my garden last spring.
For centuries Comfrey has been known to be invaluable in the treatment of wounds, sprains, skin irritations, bug bites, rashes, bruises, even broken bones in both humans and animals (the origins of several of its common aliases, "Bruisewort", "Knitback", "Knitbone", "Boneset", and "Bruisewort"). There was a time when farmers regularly fed Comfrey to their livestock for various ailments or as a spring tonic after a long winter of being sun-deprived and relatively stagnant. Wise-women have also fed Comfrey to their families for its high content of protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, B12, and C. Taken in herbal folk remedies, Comfrey has been shown to heal gastric ulcers, treat colitis, heal bronchial conditions, pulmonary distress, lung congestion and cirrhosis of the liver. To that end, it can be eaten and is delicious in salads, sauteed along with other vegetables, or enjoyed in an herbal remedy as a comforting tea.

While Comfrey has finally gained some acceptance from the “official” medical community, there is also still quite a bit of fear surrounding the consumption of it.  Recently, I read that the FDA had banned Comfrey from all commercially produced herbal supplements. I hadn't ever heard this before - what's up with that?  Well, mind you, this happened only after they had conducted tests where they injected unnaturally large amounts of the plant's inherent alkaloids into animal test subjects, who then died of liver failure - just as they would have had they done the same experiment with a carrot! So, yes, under extreme circumstances, there can be dangers in consumption of Comfrey and you should probably not eat abnormally large amounts of this plant, as in a steady diet of just Comfrey for three months straight. I mean, talk about skewing the study to achieve a desired result!  I feel I should ask you to  keep in mind that the roots of Comfrey do contain compounds that are best avoided during pregnancy, though many herbalists with decades of experience will recommend Comfrey Leaf infusions for their nutritive value.

Used externally, Comfrey is completely safe and extremely soothing, even for babies; I use it extensively on my son when he gets "boo-boos".  I find that this is where the Comfrey's true Magick makes itself known. Keep this in mind the next time you suffer a cut, sprain your ankle, burn yourself, get poison ivy or contact dermatitis, or even break a bone: Comfrey comforts. Obviously, if you've broken a bone or have a serious burn, you'll want to visit a doctor immediately, but most forward thinking doctors today will admit that Comfrey has the power to speed up the healing process. In fact, when you use it to treat skin wounds, you really must be sure that the wound is clean and free of infection before applying as Comfrey heals so quickly, the skin may regenerate before the infection has had time to clear up.

So, whether you've suffered a bruise, sprain, strained muscles, burn (even sunburn or phytodermatitis), a cut, or broken a bone, why not try making a Comfrey poultice and see if that doesn't ease the discomfort and speed up the healing process?  And if you're still wondering how anyone can conscientiously make use of Comfrey in internal preparations, I encourage you to read the following by a couple of herbalists who have had a profound influence on my personal herbal journey:
Herbal Adventures with Susun Weed
The Comfrey Controversey by Rosemary Gladstar

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