Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comfrey and suppositories

In the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from my Healing Herbs ebook. The whole book is now available for free at - check it out!

Botanical name: Symphytum officinalis
Family: Boraginaceae (Borage)
Parts used: leaves, root
Properties: cell proliferant, nutritive, demulcent, expectorant, vulnerary
Used for: external use for healing of clean wounds, broken bones, pulled ligaments/sprains, varicose veins, burns, and hernias. Internal use with caution for coughs, ulcers
Plant preparations: infusion, decoction, oil, poultice, food

Comfrey is an incredibly important ally for herbalists. Its cell proliferating abilities can heal connective tissue surprisingly fast, resulting in a much quicker healing time for wounds, sprains, and broken bones. It heals so quickly that it is often cautioned against applying comfrey to deep or infected wounds because it will heal the outer skin before the deeper wound. This is why we only apply comfrey externally to clean and superficial wounds.

Herbalists John and Kimberly Gallagher of have created an informative free ebook illustrating how to make a comfrey poultice that can be used on sprains, strains, hernias, and broken bones. To download this free ebook, simply click here. .

Comfrey leaves can be harvested when the plant is in full flower. When I make an infused oil with comfrey, I like to let the leaves wilt overnight before chopping them finely and adding oil. I know the oil is ready when it is a rich green color.

You may have heard some bad press about comfrey lately. This highly medicinal plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that have been implicated in veno-occlusive liver disease. Because of this some herbalists recommend not using this plant internally. Other herbalists rely on the fact that comfrey has been used internally for hundreds of years, and do not see a problem with internal use. I tend to be middle of the road. Certainly, if you have liver disease, are a young child with a developing liver, or are pregnant or nursing, then comfrey should be avoided internally. If you are a healthy adult, research this topic and decide what you are comfortable with.

Historically comfrey has been used internally for soothing ulcers and strengthening the lungs.

The roots also have healing properties. Comfrey root, minced and mixed with a little water, can be stored in a container in the freezer for later use on burns. I’ve used this remedy before with fast results; it sucked the heat right out of my burned thumb.
Suppositories, or an herbal bolus, are a form of rectal or vaginal administration of herbs popularly used in the case of hemorrhoids or vaginal infections. The following is an example of an herbal suppository for hemorrhoids.

Comfrey suppository
Grind the following herbs into a fine powder:
one part comfrey root
two parts yarrow leaves/flowers
one part oak bark
one part calendula flowers

Slowly heat (over low heat or double boiler) a carrier oil such as cocoa butter (melts around 86o) or coconut oil (melts around 72o). Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the powdered herbs. You may have to play with the amounts to get the most herbs while still having enough oil to hold it together.

Pour this mixture into a mold. (To make a mold, fold several layers of aluminum foil around a pencil, secure one end by twisting it, and remove the pencil. Or you can simple wait for the oil to harden slightly and crudely form a suppository with your fingers.) Rectal suppositories look similar to a tampon (without the applicator) and are about one inch long. Keep them in the freezer until ready to use.