Monday, June 1, 2009

Comfrey-Man's Best Friend?

By L. Jonas
(First printed in the Piedmont Virginian)

What plant will heal colds, infected sores, and other ailments; is good food for humans, chickens, and livestock; is insect and disease-resistant; can stand hot weather, and weather down to -40F.; is drought-resistant, and can compete well with weeds, growing well in full sun or semi-shade?

Apparently the best candidate for this position is the comfrey, also called Russian comfrey, which has been raised for human food, as well as stock food, for hundreds of years.

It produces prolific growth and needs to be cut several times per growing season in Virginia, to prevent it from going to seed.

It is rather bland, so that it is best used for mixed salads or as a pot herb, mixed with something like beet greens, spinach or poke salad. It pays to separate the roots each year, since the younger plants have more tender leaves; the older plants tend to have rather stiff bristles on them, which greatly detracts from its appeal in a fresh salad.

I had been interested in comfrey for a long time, having read of it in many places. I finally got some from C. E. Ellwanger, near New Baltimore, who has raised it for quite a few years. The roots grew amazingly well, so that it didn't take long before I had a lot of salad material.

But the thing which most impressed me was its great healing powers. Last winter, our family had more skin infections and respiratory ailments than we had in the entire nine preceding years. One severe burn on my son's hand refused to heal, though we had every salve we could buy, including triple-antibiotic ointment.

In desperation, I decided to try the old ways, so I dug up a root (no leaves were available in February), crushed it and poulticed the sore. In one day the improvement was noticeable, and the sore was well-healed in a few days.

Then, since we had bad coughs most of the winter, I began to pick the tender comfrey sprouts as soon as they appeared in early spring, and divided them up among those of us with the worse coughs. In a few days, the persistent coughs had almost stopped.

Now, this is not enough proof as yet for me to say that comfrey is the greatest herb of all, but it is good enough evidence for me to pay almost any price to keep comfrey growing around the place.

Comfrey has been analyzed, and apparently it is the allantoin in it which is such a good healing agent. The herbalists are said to use comfrey in case all other treatments fail.

Comfrey-man's best friend?
Ed. note: I well remember being fed pureed apricots and comfrey as a child, as well as lots of comfrey "Orange Julius". Comfrey is one of the first things we put in the ground, whenever we move into a new home.

No comments:

Post a Comment