Wise Woman Ezine with herbalist Susun Weed
November 2006
Volume 6 Number 11
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What's Inside Wise Woman Herbal Ezine this Month...


Grandmother Speaks...
Comfrey's Burning Secret
by Kimberly Gallagher

Comfrey's Burning Secret
by Kimberly Gallagher


Meet Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, one of my most favorite herbal allies. Comfrey's genus name, symphytum, means to bring together, and comfrey is an amazing wound healer, being high in allantoin, a constituent that encourages cell regeneration.

Wow! Cell regeneration, pause a moment and take that in. Does it sound like something worth having as part of your family's medicine chest?

Art by Durga BernardLet's take a moment to meet comfrey. She has a thick stalk with a mucilaginous inside (much like aloe), with broad, lance-shaped leaves. The stalks grow to about three feet and produce bell-shaped flowers with a color range from creamy white to purple or red. The leaves and stalk are covered with coarse, prickly hairs.

The whole comfrey plant is good medicine, but right now I want to focus on her beautiful black, tuberous roots that form a deep, expansive system beneath her. This time of year, sinking our hands into the soil to uncover roots is medicine in itself, immersing us in the smell and feel of our deep rich mother earth. The green, leafy parts of many plants are dying back now, and their energy is returning to the roots. This vital plant energy infuses our herbal medicine with life, so this is the time to gather roots.

Last year I tried to dig down with my hands to the very bottom of a comfrey root, but found that the roots kept breaking and the network was so expansive it was difficult to find an end. Luckily, there's no need to dig out a whole plant to gather the roots. Rather, simply dig down around the plant and take a section of root from the soil. Cover the roots again to allow the plant to return the following year. (Comfrey actually propagates through her roots, so each small piece left in the soil will become a new plant.)

Art by Durga BernardIn our family, we use comfrey root to make poultices, which means blending the plant with water to make a sort of herbal bandage that is used externally to promote healing. Comfrey is a cooling herb, and we've had great success using comfrey poultices for healing burns. It draws out the heat, and then that allantoin goes to work, regenerating damaged cells. (Please do read up on burn first aid to find out how to treat burns of differing degrees before applying your poultice. Just Googling "burns" leads to a wealth of information.)

I remember one night we were celebrating the winter solstice around a bonfire, and my friend's two-year-old picked up a hot ember. We took her into the house and pulled our comfrey poultice from the freezer, cut off a section and placed it directly on the burn, with some gauze over the top. Within ten minutes the frozen comfrey was hot and drying out, and our little friend had stopped crying. The comfrey was pulling the heat from the burn. We continued to change the poultice every ten to fifteen minutes while she stayed with us, and then bandaged the burn with a comfrey poultice and gauze before sending her home for the night. We sent some frozen poultice with her mother, but by morning the burn was healed.

Art by Durga BernardTo make your own comfrey burn medicine, clean your harvested root thoroughly with water, chop it coarsely and blend it in the blender with enough water for the blender to do its job (try water to cover half the root and add more as needed). Pour the blended mixture into an empty cardboard juice concentrate container, seal in a freezer bag and place it in the freezer. To use it, cut off a small portion and return the rest to the freezer.

Perhaps this season you will begin building your relationship with comfrey by adding this poultice to your medicine chest. Then you can continue to add to your knowledge, discovering even more uses for your root poultice and the powerful healing capacity of comfrey infused oil as a salve ingredient and of poultices made from comfrey's flowering tops (I have a free ebook on comfrey leaf poultices available with the purchase of the Herbal Medicine Making Kit). Truly, she is an amazing herbal ally and I wish you a full and rich relationship with her.

Kimberly Gallagher, M.Ed. and her husband John run Learning Herbs a family business that helps people learn about herbs. They created the Herbal Medicine Making Kit to start people on the path of making herbal remedies, and have created Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, a cooperative board game that teaches edible and medicinal plants. Kimberly is a priestess in the Wise Woman Goddess tradition, a homeschooling mom, and an herbal apprentice at RavenCroft Garden in Monroe, Washington.

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by Susun S. Weed
Introduction by Jean Houston.
Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Seven herbs -- burdock, chickweed, dandelion, nettle, oatstraw, seaweed, and violet -- are explored in depth.
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Other articles by Robin Rose Bennett
An Herbalists Notebook part 1
An Herbalists Notebook part 2

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Robin has been practicing Earth Spirit healing, herbalism and Wise Woman ways for twenty years and is an incredibly gifted spiritual teacher, healer and ceremonialist. Robin's powerful teachings come to the reader through a personal writing style that is immediately engaging, sharing practical wisdom through anecdote and example.”
Jen Prosser, Sunstone Herbs


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