Another Dive into the World of Natural Health! Even our Animals are Included This Time!

Songdove Books - brown thumbAnother random post to my blog!  This one is health-related this time, as opposed to financial like the last one.  While most of what I write is indeed devotional in some manner, or issues-related as they relate to life as the Bride of Christ in today’s world, occasionally something other than that will be written, such as one of two blog posts from the geekier side of the coin, a recent blog post about my daughter’s horse, reviewing Cashcrate and one of two posts about a book marketing course I was taking last year.  This time I’m writing about a plant!  For a brown thumb that can’t keep much more than Spider plants or African Violets and maybe Christmas Cacti alive, writing about plants will undoubtedly be quite rare!

Even rarer is an article about delving into the world of natural health!  Growing up, the local health food store was so steeped in New Age mysticism, Bahai teachings, Wicca, and other crazy stuff, that I eventually quit stopping by for my big thick piece of licorice root.  In fact, I stayed away from health food stores for many years after that, thinking they were ALL into the crazy stuff.  How could I trust an apparent industry supposedly touting benefits of plants when it came with hocus pocus in over-abundant measure?!

The past few years have begun to change my mind, and local health food stores in Kelowna, while they do carry material on the crazy stuff, seem to lean more toward the practical nature of natural health instead.  Crazies are left to the magazine rack most of the time, other than a local store hosting a yoga event which I strongly advise against taking part in.  Natural health regimens have helped me heal from adrenal fatigue, and no hocus pocus was recommended to achieve the results either!  For that I am quite grateful.  In Scripture, we do read that God gave us the plants for food:

Genesis 1:29  And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Psalms 104:14  He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

and their leaves for healing.

Revelation 22:2  In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Indigenous peoples around the world have used various plants for healing and as I’ve read more about various plants, I’ve come to the conclusion that every region of the world has two plants: a super food for overall general health, and a super plant to handle most medicinal needs.  Some of these I discovered when I had to attack pinworm in my daughter when she was a child.  I was still largely holding off on the whole natural health industry back then, but Oregano Oil would be my first tentative foray back into a world I’d left in my own childhood.  Needless to say, the following disclaimer is in order:

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a health practitioner of any stripe!  I am not a herbalist!  Information I am about to share is strictly that, information, and not to be construed as offering any kind of medical advice.

Ok, now that my disclaimer is out of the way, let’s dive into my latest discovery on this road of natural healing remedies:

Songdove Books - Comfrey PlantI recently heard about a plant that was being used to help a lady’s horse heal from bone injuries.  A quick bit of research showed it was great for people too, as well as animals.  That was a month ago now, roughly.  The name of the plant is Comfrey, known in older times as the bone-knit or knit-bone plant because of its ability to speed up healing of bone breaks, rebuild cartilage, and help return fluids to joint sacks.

My daughter got after me for not looking for the plant sooner, and I hopped online to research more about it tonight.  Apparently a report done in 2003 in Canada, banned two strains of the plant due to high levels of Pyrrolizidine alkaloids that had been isolated, then administered to rats.  The liver damage was fatal!  Information about this ban can be read here, and was updated in 2004.  The Canadian government’s list of poisonous plants lists the Comfrey plant as a result and somehow feels these alkaloids can be absorbed through the skin, although most other discussions of North American research state the opposite.

Continuing my research, I came across a discussion of this plant taking place in 2014 where one person had this to say:

“…the root has a higher level of these alkaloids and is not recommended for internal use, but the leaf is SAFE if taken moderately. One cup of tea with one teaspoon of dried leaf per day, is not excessive.

American botanist, Dr. James Duke is reported to have said that one bottle of beer has the same level of dangerous alkaloids as 100 cups of comfrey tea.”

We’ve always known that alcoholics often end up suffering debilitating liver issues, some so bad they need a liver transplant.  Up until now, I didn’t really know what was in a can of beer that would cause this problem.  Now I know!

People are saying they make a tea from the plant for uses spanning asthma to fractured bones to slipped disks to gout-like issues in feet, etc.  I am seriously wondering if this plant will help our family and our animals with our various joint-related issues.  All three of us humans have joint issues going on, from shoulders to hands to hips.  Ashley’s horse has back/hip issues with what appears to be a slipped disk that we largely have under control now.  The cat is going to be 12 soon and has never landed with proper shock-absorption in his front legs, and it would be nice to ensure he doesn’t break something in his old age.

Continued research reveals this plant to benefit gardens as well, and that contrary to the Canadian list of poisonous plants, the plant has successfully been used as fodder for animals and livestock.  Some livestock owners feed it as part of their hay, others turn it into a poultice to wrap around wounded legs.  It’s been successfully used as a rub for animals, most specifically horses, as well as people.

Apparently, the most widely stated problem with the plant is that it can take over your garden, is difficult to uproot once established, and will grow back from bits of root or stem left in the soil.  I found one source where the plant can be grown in its own container on an apartment balcony, and it likes full sun as well as partial.  Due to the stiffly hairy nature of the leaves, most users are recommending NOT placing fresh leaves directly on skin, but integrating it into a poultice, or crushing into a tea to either drink medicinally (read: for certain number of days then stop) or add to a cream to apply on the skin.  I’ve found two actual recipes for these applications I can print out so far. One is for creating a salve and the other for tea which is used to treat wounds, ulcers, asthma, and other things.  However due to the presence of PA’s, it isn’t recommended to take every single day or more than one cup per day.

Consequently, it’s good to see the natural health community and the government agencies in more or less agreement that yes, there is potential for poisoning, but that there are moderate means by which the health benefits of the plant can be realized.  As noted at the beginning however, the potential for poisoning would require 100 cups of comfrey tea to equal what is found in one can of your average beer.  Stories discovered so far where poisoning did occur, occurred after 6 to 7 months of drinking the tea every single day.  That’s roughly 180 to 210 cups of tea if drunk once per day, or roughly two cans of beer if Dr. James Duke is to be believed.  Most beer drinkers don’t complain about liver problems until they’ve become drunkards.  A Kenyan in 2014 wanted to know why, after growing up eating the plant’s leaves in salads with kale and spinach in their home country, they were still healthy with none of the reported side-effects.  The only answer thus far has been that the fresh leaves have less concentration of the PA’s than the dried leaves.  The leaves in general have quite a bit less PA content than the roots, so no one recommends drinking anything made with the roots.  Comfrey roots are best used in poultices and creams as a result.

The concept of tea in general is said to have tannins in it that can harm the kidneys.  Green tea in particular, for all its many health benefits, has quite high levels of tannin, causing me to joke with one person a few years ago that you’ll trade one problem for another.  Anything of a leafy or root nature will have this issue.  Even my favourite root, Licorice Root, will have certain levels of tannin in it.  Some people make a tea using Licorice root and comfrey leaves.

As a general rule, the more I look into various natural remedies for things, the more I am reminded of the saying, “All things in moderation”.  Many natural remedies have medicinal doses and maintenance doses.  Taking anything at its medicinal dose for longer than the needed length of time is going to run the risk of causing problems.  In addition, many natural remedies have warnings for pregnant or nursing mothers, people with allergies, and people taking medications that are also cleansed from the body in the same way the desired remedy is.  Medications cleansed by the liver will compound the workload when taken with comfrey for example.  Medications cleansed by the kidneys will compound the effects of tannin in tea for example.  In the context of this research on the Comfrey plant, one could theoretically have the strongest bone system on the planet, and find themselves needing a liver transplant if they aren’t careful! Needless to say, it’s safe to assume that this particular plant does not have a “maintenance dosage”.  The unspoken label over everything related to human ingestion is “Use as Needed!”  When the need goes away, stop!  In fact, many sources encourage the new user to talk to either a doctor or natural health practitioner before beginning treatment.

Supposedly the tea from the leaves has helped women with heavy menopausal bleeding and fibroids too.  One person claimed the tea and poultice helped a friend regenerate vertebrae in their back, first in the form of cartilage and later with the cartilage hardening up, successfully doing what doctors couldn’t do with that scenario.

My daughter wants to grow the plant ourselves and make what we need from it.  I’m starting a txt file and have four items on it right now:  Direct application to an infected wound, ,how to make a simple salve using comfrey, coconut oil and beeswax, how to make a simple tea and direct application of grated root.  In locating these items, I’ve come across a Pinterest board with more information as well  For those who prefer to watch rather than read (I’m a reader more than a video watcher), YouTube has quite a few videos from a wide variety of people on the subject.  One thing to note when researching simply “Comfrey Tea” is that there are two kinds; one for your garden and one for you!  Don’t get them mixed up! Apparently Comfrey is just as helpful for your garden as it is for you, but I’m not a gardener.  I may have to write again in the future about how well this plant grows for us if we ever get our hands on it.