"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"

I chose to write my thesis on comfrey because I have had much recent experience in its use, although I actually became acquainted with comfrey nearly 30 years ago.  At that time, it was the trend to drink comfrey leaf tea.  My aunt, who is very skilled and knowledgeable in the natural healing arts, informed me that comfrey leaf tea was good for me, I believed her, so I drank it.  I canít say that I noticed any particular health benefits from drinking the tea, but I know that it didnít harm me.  It was a good introduction.

I began growing comfrey in my back yard gardens, as mentioned earlier in this paper.  I wanted to grow it so that I could harvest its leaves for the tea of which I had become so fond.  In addition, I found that it was a beautiful plant.  So, with every move my family made from coast to coast, I would take some root cuttings and plant them in my gardens.  I didnít do much else with comfrey for many years except drink the tea.  During those years, I was relatively unfamiliar with its marvelous healing potential.  I look back now with regret, seeing opportunities where I could have employed its properties to help members of my family.

However, my knowledge about this plant began to increase when I began the serious study of herbs in the School of Natural Healing in 1995.  Since comfrey was readily available to me, I began to experiment with it.  I once took a mature leaf, crushed it, and applied it as a poultice to a cut on my arm.  I was very sorry that I did that because the itching from the hairs on the leaf was almost worse than the pain from the cut.  I canít say that the makeshift poultice did any good because I didnít leave it on long enough to find out, due to the skin irritation.

My principal experience with comfrey came this past summer in a most unexpected, but welcome manner.  When I fell off a ladder while up in a tree, I crushed the platform of my tibia.  It was a very serious injury, which also involved a fracture of that large lower leg bone.  My surgeon decided that due to the nature of the injury, he would try to let it heal on its own, rather than do surgery, which was sometimes warranted.  However, there was no casting of the break, and I was ordered to have no weight bearing on that leg for at least 6 weeks, initially.

Once I realized the scope of the injury, I decided to put some of my herbal knowledge to work.  I might mention here that for many months I had been hoping to gain a firm belief in the efficacy of herbs.  Up to this time, I had used them simply because I wanted to believe they were the best and safest way to heal.  My training had taught me those principles.  But as I had personally experienced no miraculous cures, my belief system was somewhat limited.  So I used this injury as a vehicle to increase not only my knowledge of herbs, but I also hoped to increase my belief in their medicinal powers.

I began my experiment and treatment on myself by researching the herbs that would be of most value in this situation.  I already knew that comfrey would be among my primary herbal choices.  I found that Dr. Christopherís BF&C formula contained all the herbs that would be good to heal this bone.  I began by buying some of this formula in ointment form.  Since I was using this ointment on the injury six times a day, the jar of ointment didnít last long.  Having completed the part of the course that explained how to make ointments, I felt confident that I could make my own, saving money and also increasing my experience level.  My first attempt was rather clumsy, but I did manage to make several jars, which I used during the rest of my treatment.

As mentioned before, I used this ointment six times a day, spreading it liberally on the knee and a little below, where the bone had been crushed.  Additionally, I used comfrey fomentations every evening, with hot and cold alternating applications.  I drank lots of comfrey iced tea every day, making it fresh from leaves in my garden.  I also took the BF&C formula in capsules throughout this entire period.  I was getting lots of comfrey into my body, in every way imaginable.

At the end of six weeks, I returned to the doctor.  He took an x-ray and told me that he wanted me to stay off the leg another two weeks.  I must confess to being disappointed, as I thought that the comfrey would have surely accelerated the mending process to the point where I would be allowed to start limited walking on that leg.  Nevertheless, I did as he ordered, and continued my daily treatments for an additional two weeks.  At the end of that time, another x-ray was taken, and the doctor informed me that the leg had healed very well.  I was allowed to start walking on it, using crutches occasionally for extra support when needed.  He told me that if the leg had not healed well, he would have had to go in and do some surgery.  The doctor told me that the healing was very good considering that my age (55) was certainly a factor in the expected manner of healing.

I was still a bit disappointed that I hadnít been able to get back on my feet any sooner than I did, which was a full 8 weeks.  I thought that the large amount of comfrey I fed my body would have restored the bone, muscle, and cartilage much faster.  Someone suggested that perhaps the doctor was being cautious; that maybe he could have let me walk sooner, but that the standard treatment for someone of my age, with this particular break pattern, was treated no differently despite the restorative treatment I was doing.  Nevertheless, I was pleased that the doctor did say that it had healed well.  As I went on about my life, I felt that I had done the right thing in using the comfrey the way I had.

About four months after I returned to walking, I had occasion to visit this doctor again for another matter.  He asked how my leg was doing, to which I replied, ďJust fine.Ē   Then he asked me, ďHow much Tylenol are you taking every day?Ē  I was surprised at that, because I didnít realize that I should be taking Tylenol.  When I replied that I wasnít taking any, he seemed surprised, and told me that most people who suffer a crushed tibia never experience a pain-free day after that.  Most end up taking some sort of pain relief every day for the rest of their lives.  I told him that I have no pain.  I do have a bit of residual stiffness and limited mobility, but I have been assured by my physical therapist that with proper exercise those problems have a good chance of being resolved.

The dialogue I had with the doctor convinced me that the herbal formulas I used so diligently definitely made a difference in my healing.  I may never see, in the physical sense, the results of that healing as it is deep within my leg, but I do know what I feel.  The absence of pain tells me that the healing was better and more complete than it would have been if I had not supplied my body with the necessary building blocks for it to lay a firm foundation of bone, muscle, and cartilage around this crushed and fractured bone.

I have continued to keep a supply of BF&C ointment on hand.  It will be one of my staple first-aid items from now on.  I continue to use it on both of my knees twice a day.  I believe it will continue to help the area that was broken, and I am confident that it will also help me to avoid losing cartilage in my knees.  I am also finding more uses for it all the time.  My mother is currently using it on her arthritic hands, and she reports that the pain has diminished considerably.  She seems very pleased with the results.  In fact, she has told several of her friends about my healing and the comfort she is now experiencing in her hands.  People are beginning to ask me to supply them with the ointment.

In addition to the use my mother has made of the comfrey ointment for her arthritic hands, she used comfrey internally last summer, as well.  She had surgery to remove part of her stomach.  I had her taking comfrey in capsule form to help heal the wound inside.  Her doctor reported that she had healed very well, especially for an 80-year old woman.

I recently used the ointment on a nearly continuous basis to heal a very large cold sore on my lip.  I felt that the sore healed more quickly because I kept that ointment on it.  I canít verify that scientifically, of course, but I also canít verify the healing on my leg that way, either.

When my daughter used ďBag BalmĒ on her babyís diaper rash I gave her some of the BF&C ointment.  I told her that it would heal the diaper rash as well as, or possibly better than the Bag Balm.  In addition, I mentioned that it is safer for the babyís skin than the Bag Balm.  I have no results to report yet, but I truly believe that the comfrey and other herbs in the formula possess the properties to heal diaper rash very successfully.  I wish I had known about this marvelous ointment when I was raising my children.

I made some Mucilage of Comfrey Root several months ago when my daughter had a chest cold.  Although my first choice would have been to make the bronchitis formula listed on page 341 of the School of Natural Healing book, the only herb in the formula that I had was comfrey, so I just made up the comfrey by itself.  I had her take it several times a day.  She said it tasted good and she didnít mind doing it.  I am sure it helped, although I wasnít around to see her progression.

So far in my herbal career, this is the extent of my exposure to and work with comfrey.  I feel that I am gaining in knowledge and experience with this very important herb and I look forward to using it in many more creative and helpful ways in the coming years.
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by Janet Ollman