From the August 1999 Idaho Observer:
Back to the Basics
Comfrey, the plant often referred to as "people putty"
by Ingri Cassel
Warning: If you give credence to the FDA and its recommendations, do not read any further. This article is intended for those who choose to take personal responsibility for their health and are sensitive and respond appropriately to their body's reactions to different foods and products. The FDA has banned the use of this herb for internal consumption and it was banned altogether several years ago. In fact, do not attempt to bring this herb into Canada, where it is illegal and the penalty is the same as transporting marijuana over the border.
Our first introduction to this incredibly versatile and useful plant was through the teachings of Dr. John R. Christopher, a man revered as the father of American herbology. His stories of its use are nothing short of miraculous. My recent experiences using this plant has prompted this writing in hopes that more of you can benefit by its use. Before I go any further,
Comfrey was brought over to this country by European settlers as its therapeutic properties were well known in the old country. It is a perennial plant characterized by deep green broad and sword-like leaves with bristly undersides. It flowers in midsummer and bears a stalk of blue-bell-like flowers. Comfrey, symphytum officinale, belongs to the borage family and could relieve the masses if there were ever a protein shortage as well as being extremely useful medically. My personal experience with comfrey is as follows:
The other day, our editor called me to ask me what to do for the burn his son had sustained while stepping on a burning coal. In the meantime, he had submersed the boy's foot in cold water. I had given him a root of the comfrey plant earlier this spring since I am fanatical about this plant being in everyone's yard during these latter days.
Ascertaining what Don had on hand, I told him to chew up a comfrey leaf, spit it out, mix the pulp with raw honey and apply liberally in the form of a poultice to his burn. The pain went away almost instantaneously. By this point a large blister had formed which the boy refused to pop but the pain was gone and he was mobile again.
I was reminded this past weekend of the more miraculous virtues of comfrey. Don and I had met with a couple in Kooskia, Idaho and the man told me the following story: He is a welder and had an accident a few years past in which he lost the tip of his finger. Knowing the virtues of comfrey, he ground up some fresh comfrey root and applied it to his missing fingertip. He kept it bandaged in this way until it healed. When he showed us his finger, there wasn't even a scar and there was absolutely no evidence of the mishap ever occurring.
Don was visibly impressed since he lost the tip of his right middle finger several years ago and had gone the medical route. Don has a claw of a finger to this day.
A couple years ago, I had one of my herbal students call me about her son who had his hand cut severely in a log sawing accident. After the boy had visited the doctor and had a fairly grim prognosis, she asked what I would do (The doctor mentioned skin grafts, reattaching nerves and the prospect of a bill over $5,000).
I reminded her of the value of the comfrey plant. She was a bit apprehensive so I told her to bring him over. We made a poultice using comfrey root and instructed him to drink lots of comfrey tea, carrot juice and take some B,F,&C (Bone, Flesh & Cartilage) capsules. After two days, she called me rather upset. He was still in a lot of pain and she didn't have faith that it was working. I calmed her down and asked how HE was working (He was young and enjoyed beer and cigarettes). She admitted that he wasn't sticking to the program as outlined. He got with the program and I never heard from them about the incident. Last year I asked the father about the results and if their son healed without a scar. He was embarrassed to admit that both he and his wife did not have the faith they needed in God's herbs. They had scraped away the comfrey root that was in the process of forming new skin, nerves and tissue to see if it was healing underneath. They put a fresh poultice on and hoped for the best. As a result, their son has a permanent scar but has regained full mobility and use of his hand. But they both learned a powerful lesson. They now know the power of comfrey and won't question its virtues in the future.
Aside from comfrey's medicinal properties, it is a valuable nutritional food for livestock and a vegetarian source of Vitamin B12. Many people value its leaves for green blender drinks and used its dried form for teas. Comfrey is excellent for digestion, the respiratory tract, and an assimilable form of calcium and magnesium. It is a popular remedy for frayed nerves, sore muscles and osteoporosis. People who have suffered a broken or fractured bone have taken this herb internally and have healed 3-5 times faster than their doctors had anticipated.
Comfrey is often viewed as a weed as it grows prolifically in most soils and in most climates found throughout North America. Comfrey is one herb to make sure you always have on your property and an ample supply should be harvested and dried for use in winter.
Back to the Basics will be a regular column in The Idaho Observer. The importance of having access to plants such as comfrey is obvious: The more dependent upon pharmeceutical remedies we become, the sicker we become individually and as a society -- physically as well as sociopathically. If we are to regain our health, then we must relearn how to take better care of ourselves and the people who depend upon us.
If you have witnessed herbal solutions to medical conditions yourself, please forward your observations to The Idaho Observer so that they may be shared with other people who want to reclaim responsibilty for their own health and the health of their families.
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