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Medicinal Herbs:

What You Need to Know About Comfrey

Latin name: Symphytum officinale

Comfrey has been called “The Legendary Herb of Life.” Known for centuries for its amazing healing properties, this herb is truly one that belongs in every home.

Legend has it that if you cut raw meat, then put a comfrey poultice on the cut, it will grow back together! I can’t say I believe that, but it’s a great reminder of one of comfrey’s talents: healing cuts and scrapes.

 

Comfrey’s Medicinal Uses

Parts used: The entire plant is used medicinally: leaves, roots and rhizomes.

Herb Actions:

These terms help you understand how herbs work and which herbs to use.

  1. vulnerary – helps the body heal wounds, cuts and other tissue damage.

Comfrey is a most impressive wound-healing herb. This is partly due to a chemical (allantoin) that stimulates cell growth, promoting healing both inside and out. It is used for healing cuts, and scrapes, surgical incisions, stubborn leg ulcers, and skin irritations. It also promotes smooth and proper healing of scar tissue.

Comfrey has even been used to heal broken bones, particularly fractures of small bones or those that cannot be put in a cast such as ribs, fingers and toes. A poultice of its large leaves is wrapped around the affected area. (see directions below)

  1. demulcent – rich in mucilage to soothe and protect inflamed or irritated tissue.

Its demulcent quality makes comfrey an excellent soothing herb for healing digestive ulcers, skin ulcers, ulcerative colitis, bronchitis, and persistent coughs.

  1. astringent – contracts tissue, can reduce secretions and discharge.

Comfrey’s ability to stop bleeding contributes to its use for first aid, wound care, hemorrhage, and nosebleeds.

  1. expectorant – helps remove excess mucus from the respiratory system.

Congestion from colds and flu can be alleviated with comfrey. It is also helpful for sinus infection, bronchitis, persistent cough, pneumonia, and other respiratory illnesses.

 

Regarding broken bones, I love the following, written by Euell Gibbons:

Modern herbalists may smile tolerantly at the old notion that herbal medicine could hurry the healing of broken bones. I refuse to join them. What causes broken bones to heal swiftly in one person and take months to knit back together in another? Could it not be that in the slow cases the elements necessary for the healing process are absent, or present in such small quantities that healing proceeds very slowly? Analysis shows that comfrey is high in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, along with many useful trace minerals, and the green leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, and broken bones simply refuse to heal unless many of these nutrients are present.

 

How to Prepare and Use Comfrey

  1. Make a poultice

A poultice is solid plant material applied directly to the skin. The medicinal properties work both on the skin and the area beneath it. A poultice can be used for cuts, wounds, bruises, burns, rashes, swelling, broken bones, sprained ankles or other joints, scars, and skin ulcers.

Directions:

  1. Put fresh or dried leaves in a large bowl.
  2. Heat enough water to moisten the leaves until it starts to simmer; pour the water over the leaves in the bowl.
  3. Cut and press the leaves to “bruise” them, using a spoon or other utensil.
  4. Put the leaves and warm liquid on a clean cotton cloth, and place it on the skin of the affected area. The herb material should be touching the skin. Leave on for thirty minutes or more.

 

  1. Make an infusion    

Infusion is herb speak for what most people call tea made from leaves. Infusions are used for internal healing, especially digestive and respiratory issues. An infusion can also be used as a warm compress for external application. Just saturate a cotton cloth with the infusion, then place it on the skin. Use a heating pad to maintain the warmth if needed.

NOTE: Use comfrey internally for no more than one week.

. Dr. James Duke says:

“No one should drink comfrey tea by the gallon every day, but I’m not

afraid of a little comfrey now and then. I base this on studies done by

biochemist Bruce Ames, Ph.D., at U.C. Berkley. According to his findings,

a cup of comfrey leaf tea is less carcinogenic than a can of beer, and I’m

not going to give that up either!”

 

Directions:

Use 1 cup water per teaspoon of dried herb, or two teaspoons fresh herb.

  1. Heat water to a boil in a covered pan.
  2. Remove from heat. Add herbs, stir until all leaves are saturated.
  3. Cover pan and let steep for fifteen minutes.
  4. Strain out herbs into another container. The remaining plant material makes good mulch for the garden.
  5. Keep extra in the refrigerator; stays fresh for up to three days.

Standard dosage: 1 cup up to three times per day.

 

Precautions:

  • Always clean a wound thoroughly before applying comfrey, as rapid healing on the surface can trap any dirt or debris.
  • Do not use comfrey on deep wounds, as the surface can heal over and form an abcess or interfere with complete healing beneath the surface.
  • The safe use of comfrey is currently a topic of discussion. Some studies suggest that one of the alkaloids can cause liver damage when taken internally, but other studies demonstrate it does not. Swedish and other researchers have determined that this alkaloid is destroyed when making an infusion of the leaves. To be absolutely sure, if you have any liver problems, you may want to choose a different herb. As always use your own good judgment!

Stay tuned for Part Two of All About Comfrey, coming soon!

Have you ever used comfrey? Tell us about your experience! Did you have the results you expected? Please leave a comment in the Contact section.

When Life Becomes a Bit Much, Try This!

What could be more luxurious at the end of a long day than soaking in a nice, warm mineral bath surrounded by heavenly aromas? Fancy European spas have known forever that this kind of pampering will revitalize you, body, mind and spirit. But you don’t have to jet off to Paris to discover this for yourself.

One of the key requirements for rejuvenating the physical body is relaxation. This is not a new concept, but could life be any more hectic or disconcerting than it is these days? And how long has it been since your last trip to the spa?

In my recent research, I’ve discovered that the degree to which we need to release the tension in our muscles and tissues to stay healthy is much greater than most of us realize. The internal body mechanisms that rebuild and replace worn-out cells do their job while we are at rest. Without deep relaxation on a daily basis, they are not able to do the job well. This leaves us heading for chronic disease rather than youthful vitality.

The more challenging life is, the more we need to relax, so here is one of the easiest, most pleasant things we can do to stay healthy:

 

Relax and Rejuvenate with Herbal Epsom Salts

Epsom salts start to release muscle tension and promote deep relaxation the moment you ease into the tub. Herbs can increase these benefits while they add their wonderful fragrance and rejuvenate your skin.

But which herbs to chose? Well, that depends on what you need at the moment, so keep reading to find out.

 

What To Do

Choose one or more of the herbs listed below. If you have some growing nearby, clip a few stems and gently rinse them in cool water. Then just tuck them into a small muslin bag and tie it up.

Dried herbs also work well. To get their full benefit, put the bag of dried herbs in a pan of hot water for about ten minutes before adding both the bag and the pan of water to the bath.

While running the bath water, put 2 cups of Epsom salt into the tub and swish it around to dissolve. Add the herb bag, and get in the tub while it’s still filling, to monitor and adjust the temperature. You want it to be as warm as possible but still comfortable.

When the tub is full, soak for fifteen to twenty minutes, adding hot water when needed to keep the bath warm. Mentally see your body relaxing. Notice your muscles letting go. If thoughts of your to-do list enter your mind, imagine them dissolving and floating away. This is your time!

NOTE: If you start to feel dizzy or your stomach feels upset, you’re a bit overheated and it’s time to get out!

 

Why you might want to go start filling the tub now:

  1. To relax muscles and relieve tension and anxiety.

Lavender is the traditional choice for both its relaxing effect and fragrance. It is antispasmodic and sedative, and relieves depression.

Skullcap, passionflower and valerian release muscle tension, but don’t provide much fragrance. If you use one of these, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Catnip, lemon balm, rose petal, and violet are milder, yet still calming.

Peppermint has an interesting mix of effects. It is calming to the visceral, deep core muscles, yet stimulating in ways that relieve migraine and tension headaches.

 

  1. To reduce inflammation.

If you have sore muscles from over-exertion, soak in an Epsom salt bath as described above, adding some anti-inflammatory herbs. You can also use these for inflammation following a mild injury, but do wait twenty-four hours. Don’t soak any open wounds or areas with stitches, and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

St. John’s Wort is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory herbs. If you have access to some growing fresh, that will give you the most benefit. But the dried herb maintains most of the medicinal properties, and you can also use a prepared extract.

 

Avena sativa is the Latin name for oats. Yes, it’s what’s for breakfast, but it also reduces inflammation, nourishes nerve cells, and relieves insomnia and anxiety. You can use dried stems or whole grains in the muslin bag for a calming effect. It also moisturizes the skin, and you can’t complain about that!

 

  1. To soothe irritated skin and insect bites.

Epsom salts baths can be used to relieve redness, itching, and irritation of the skin. It can help mosquito and other insect bites, and that après-garden itching from working outside.

Plantain leaf (the plant, not the fruit,) and marshmallow root, (not the kind used in s’mores,)  are soothing herbs, excellent for quick relief of dry or itchy skin when added to the bath.

Jewel weed is the best herb for relieving poison ivy.

 

 

4. To get your daily magnesium.

I read recently that many of us are deficient in magnesium due to soil depletion and processed foods. This adversely affects heart health, and can cause fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, type-two diabetes, memory loss, and more. Foods with magnesium include kale, spinach, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.

If you don’t feel like cooking, just have a nice soak with Epsom salts, whose scientific name, after all, is magnesium sulfate.

 

Using Epsom salts with herbs is a quick and easy way to relax and rejuvenate! Have you ever used Epsom salts in the bath? If you added herbs, which ones and what were the results? Leave a comment in the contact section!

… something that looks impressive on the table, is weak-in-the-knees delicious, and healthy enough to enjoy without guilt. Does such a thing even exist?

Yes, it does! And here it is:

Laura’s Holiday Chocolate Torte

 

paleo-flourless-chocolate-cake-4This decadently rich chocolate dessert has very little sugar, and no wheat or other grains, so it’s gluten-free. My dear friend Laura Miklowitz made one of these for my birthday last year, and I’m still thanking her! For holiday occasions, I serve it on a pedestal plate and decorate it with a very light dusting of powdered sugar and a few small holly leaves and berries. You can use fresh mint, raspberries, nuts or other decorative touches at other times of the year.

 

Cake:

1 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp almond or hazelnut extract

5 large eggs

1/4 cup turbinado sugar, equivalent stevia (check label), or real maple syrup

Optional: toasted slivered almonds and/or pomegranate seeds

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9” spring-form pan with butter; line bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. (This recipe serves a crowd, so for a smaller group you can use two smaller pans and freeze one for later.)

 

  1. Melt & stir chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth.

 

  1. Whisk in cocoa. Cool 10 minutes.

 

  1. Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer at high speed until thickened, about 6 minutes.

 

  1. Add extract and fold in the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

 

  1. Bake about 42 minutes until cake is dry and cracked on top. A tester inserted in the center should come out with moist batter. Cool in pan on a rack for 1 hour.

 

  1. Remove spring form, place a plate on top of the torte and carefully turn the cake over onto the plate. Remove from pan and discard the paper. Let cool completely.

 

Glaze:

1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 T. fruit preserves (pear, fig, raspberry…)

 

  1.  Stir chips and butter in small pan over low heat until smooth, just a few minutes.

2. Whisk in one Tablespoon preserves.

3. Cool 15 minutes, then pour in center of torte and smooth over surface with spatula. You may sprinkle toasted slivered almonds over torte while still warm. Refrigerate uncovered until glaze is set. (Can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.)

 

Serve torte at room temperature. Cut in small slices (remember, it’s rich!) wetting the knife with each cut. Freezes well and keeps up to one month. To divide the batter into two tortes, use one 5.5 “ springform pan and one 7” pan.

 

ENJOY!