There is a growing awareness of the importance of returning to the use of whole foods and healthy herbs into our modern lives. When our grandmothers needed to attend to the bumps, bruises, fevers and other illnesses their family suffered, they didn't have a corner drugstore. Instead these good women relied on simple wisdom, common sense, and pantries well stocked with herbal remedies. With few exceptions, these herbal remedies were made from plants and herbs that grew in the kitchen garden or were gathered in the fields and woods surrounding their homes. Thanks to the internet and some resourceful modern women, many are able to return to the effective 'old ways' to help their family mend from basic aches and pains apart from typical over the counter pharmaceuticals.
In case you're not familiar with comfrey (Symphytum officinale), it's a member of the borage family, a strong-growing perennial with somewhat hairy leaves 12 to 18 inches long, rising on short stems from a central crown. The flower is a pretty blue bell, fading to pink. We don't wait to see the blossoms, however, because the foliage is at its best if cut before blooming time. The plant reaches a height of over two feet and spreads to more than a yard across, but — since comfrey doesn't throw out creeping roots and hardly ever sets seed — it's remarkably non-invasive for such a sturdy being.
Comfrey leaves have a high moisture content and dry more slowly than some of the herbs you may be used to working with. Just give them a little extra time. Make sure the leaves are crumbly before you store them, though, since any remaining dampness will cause mold. Then pack the foliage into jars and close the containers tightly.
Uses And Preparations
- Dried leaf as a salve.
Dried leaf and root infused in carrier oil for topical use
Comfrey leaf has been used since Roman times, dating back thousands of years. This herb has been utilized in folk medicine throughout Europe and North America and has been widely cultivated. It contains allantoin, a compound that has been known to help heal wounds. Apply fresh, washed and bruised leaves directly to wounds as a poultice, or as a paste of powdered leaves.
Comfrey leaf constituents include tannins, rosmarinic acid, allantoin (Allantoin is useful for the treatment of wound, carbuncles, burns and sunburns, scalds, acne and skin eruptions, impetigo, psoriasis, eczema, fissures and abrasions.) steroidal saponins, mucilage, inulin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, Gum, Carotene, Glycosides, Sugars, Beta-sitosterol, Triterpenoids, Vitamin B-12, Protein, Zinc.
It is used in herbal pastes, ointments, tinctures, decoctions, poultices and in cosmetics. Allantoin is an anti-aging ingredient used in facial rejuvenation products. It is a common ingredient of skin care products. It is proven effective in soothing irritated skin, stimulates cell regeneration and moisturizes dry skin.
It is important to understand that the part used, species, and time of harvest all come in to play when determining the safety of this herb. A large body of traditional use supports its safety and efficacy if used intelligently and cautiously.
Poultices are simply moist herbs applied externally and are commonly used to treat swelling, pain and congestion. They can be a simple as crushing a few leaves of basil to apply to an insect bite or putting a used tea bag on a black eye.
My favorite easy poultice is made by pouring hot water over chopped herbs in a reusable muslin bag. The following steps are good for making a more complicated poultice to apply to each chest congestion and coughing.
- Chop herbs then moistened with apple-cider vinegar or hot water.
- Mix the herbs with whole wheat flour or cornmeal, to hold it together. The proportion should be 1 part herb to 3 parts vehicle.
- Spread the mixture on a warm, moist cloth and fold the ends and sides over.
- Cover with plastic wrap, a blanket, or heating pad set on low to help retain the heat.
Compresses and Skin Washes
Infusions of herbs and/or essential oils are very effective in herbal compresses and skin washes. A compress can be made with a bandage or any clean cloth folded to form a pad. Simply dip a cloth in a cooled herbal tea, wring out the excess moisture and apply to the skin. Wrap over the area firmly (but not so firm as to cut off circulation. This method is used to treat skin irritation, headaches, chest congestion or swelling from an injury.
Specific: Not for internal use. Do not apply to broken or abraded skin. Do not use when nursing.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.