Wednesday 10 June 2009

Comfrey for health, wealth and safe travel

I saw this lovely white comfrey - more unusual than the blue or purple variety - growing at the side of a path the other day and I must admit I was envious that it wasn't growing in my own garden. If it had been, I might have been tempted to collect some of the leaves to help my mum recover more quickly from her broken wrist, but I never pick rare flowers growing in the wild.

Comfrey is the traditional herbalist's remedy for broken bones. In fact, it was often called knitbone or boneset. Herbalists would often simply crush the leaves and apply them in a poultice to minor fractures that didn't need to be set in a plaster or make a cream to boost recovery from more serious bone damage. It is also good for sprains and even cuts and wounds.

According to Complete Medicinal Herbal (Natural Care), by Penelope Ody: "In the past, comfrey baths were popular before marriage to repair the hymen and thus 'restore virginity'."

Comfrey is rich in something called allantoin, which speeds the replacement of body cells and is easily absorbed through the skin. Nowadays, it is only applied externally, but historically comfrey was also taken internally - in a tincture or decoction of the roots for - gastric ulcers and internal bleeding. This has now been banned in many countries because some types of comfrey are high in alkaloids, which are toxic.

Comfrey is also a magical flower, associated with travel and money spells. Wrap your money in a leaf or two to bring you luck, especially if you fancy a small gamble. According to folklore, putting a sprig or leaf in your shoe will make every journey a safe one, and putting some in your luggage will prevent it going astray. Frankly, I'd probably take out holiday insurance as well, but at least the comfrey might come in useful if you get footsore!

Note: This is not medical advice. Always consult a qualified herbalist before taking any herbal remedy. See your GP if you are unwell.

Complete Medicinal Herbal (Natural Care),Trees&Fungi/Herbs/Comfrey/Factsheet1.htm

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