Archive for the ‘Herbal remedies’ Category

Comfrey ointment

April 11, 2013

I think everyone who grows comfrey knows about its legendary healing properties. It’s also useful as a dynamic accumulator and compost accelerator. My chooks love it, too.

Years ago I bought some comfrey ointment but it’s well past its use-by date now and I wanted to have a go at making my own. I found this recipe which looked pretty easy and simple.

I used:
300 ml sunflower oil
30 gm beeswax
About 15 large comfrey leaves, cut into 2 cm strips

I decided I wouldn’t heat the oil on the stove, but would infuse the leaves in it at room temperature for couple of weeks. I thought it just possible the heat might change some of its properties, although I did warm it in the dehydrator on those days when I had yoghurt curing in there.

I put the chopped leaves in a bowl and poured on the oil:

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That’s the potato masher on the left. I used it to keep pushing the leaves down:

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Eventually they wilted enough to remain under the oil. I covered the bowl and left it.

I had trouble buying beeswax at first. I finally found a craft shop selling it by the sheet:

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I drained the oil in a sieve and put it in a saucepan. By now it was quite green. I cut the beeswax into small pieces, added it to the oil and gently warmed it on the stove. It didn’t take long to melt into the oil. I sterilised a couple of  jars in the oven and poured in the mixture:

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Within an hour it had solidified, at least on the outside:

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It smells a bit like old socks…that typical comfrey smell. Next time I’ll try a few drops of lavender oil in it.

I thought it looked a bit hard, but when I dug my finger into it, it was quite soft:

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I’m storing it in the refrigerator as it doesn’t contain any preservatives. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

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Herbal remedies

October 31, 2012

A few days ago I was cutting back some of the saw-sedges that grow on the property—pulling on the leaves while simultaneously cutting the bases with a serrated sickle. They’re not called saw-sedges for nothing—the edges are razor-sharp. Of course, gloves are a necessity, but dum-dum that I am sometimes, the pair I was using had a significant-sized hole in one finger.

So of course, the inevitable happened—that finger was cut into by a sharp stem.

There was a lot of blood and a lot of swearing as I headed for the bathroom. It was a deep cut. I washed it, dunked it in some antiseptic and tried to apply a bandaid. But it wouldn’t stop bleeding. The bathroom basin was getting redder & redder.

Then I remembered yarrow. I have it growing down in the food forest as a groundcover. It’s known to be anti-haemorragic, in other words it stops bleeding. Isabell Shippard in her excellent book, How Can I Use Herbs in my Daily Life, mentions that Achilles used it during the Trojan Wars to stop the bleeding of his soldier’s wounds, and goes on to say,  “during the first world war it was used to treat wounded soldiers”. Its botanical name is Achillea millefolium, in memory of Achilles and some of its common names are ‘staunchweed’ & ‘soldier’s woundwort’.

So I headed down the back and picked a few feathery stems, took them back to the house, washed them, chewed them into a paste and stuffed it into the cut. After 10 minutes, holding it there tightly, I took a look. There was a slight oozing of blood but no gushing like it had been. I put a bandaid around the finger, holding the paste there and waited half an hour, then took it off and washed the cut again. There was no bleeding. Of course, I knew it would work as I’d done it before!

Here’s yarrow in flower in the garden. Very pretty, but I have to put wire around it as the rabbits love the flower stems and flowers. They don’t worry about it when it’s not in flower. Perverse creatures:

That’s not the end of the story. Being a deep cut, it was going to take some time for new skin to grow and heal over. That’s where comfrey comes in.

I won’t waste time raving about the healing powers of comfrey here. Go to Isabell Shippard’s website and read her article about it.

In this case I didn’t go out to the garden, pick some comfrey and chew it into a paste. I’ve tried that; it’s yuk! Some years ago, being aware of comfrey’s healing powers, I bought a jar of comfrey ointment in a health food shop. Much cleaner and nicer to use:

I knew it would work too, because I once used it to clear up a nasty ulcer on my husband’s leg. I smeared some into the cut and put a bandaid on it. Changed the bandaid twice a day with  more ointment. The rate of healing has been amazing! The deep cut has rapidly become shallower as new skin filled it in. No photos of the finger, I’m afraid—this post didn’t occur to me until much later and anyway, it would have been hard to take photos initially without getting blood on the camera!

So there you go! A collection of medicinal herbs growing in the garden could be a very valuable asset to have in a medically-uncertain, peak-oil future.