Plant Medicine In Action

While trying to pull apart a partially split piece of firewood yesterday, my left thumb received some impact trauma. I’ve injured this thumb before, falling off a bike in childhood (a fractured metacarpal); so the pain I felt as my thumb jammed against the heavy wood yesterday was familiar. Now, I have a high threshold to pain, and even as a child, my thumb was not in a cast till over a week later when I finally told my mom I was having trouble holding a pencil to write my homework. I’d fractured the lower bone of my thumb, and the doctor had to “reset” the bone before putting the cast on. Here again, I opted not to get the shot to numb my hand before the setting, as shots are really not my thing. Biting down on a roll of gauze, I sat the resetting and wore a pink cast for six weeks.

An impact to the thumb again has luckily not resulted in a fracture of any consequence, and I’ve spent part of this rainy afternoon writing holiday cards without too much issue from the injury in day three of recovery. However, my treatment and care of the hand right after the initial impact trauma, greatly enhanced that healing process none the less.

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comfrey Symphytum poultice

I stopped prepping firewood as soon as the injury happened, then turning to my partner who also happened to be outside with me, I told him what had happened and we agreed that comfrey would be a good thing to go dig up out of the herb bed. Symphytum officinal has come up in these writings before, and it’s a key plant at Leafhopper Farm. I usually talk about it as a chop and drop to grow the fertility in garden soil, but it’s also a very powerful medicinal plant to put to use in your natural medicine first aid. The root is most potent, and in winter, the only part of the plant available, so we dug up a few and chopped them up for a poultice. 

Most herbal remedy books will recommend really mushing up the plant into a paste; but we have not had good success in trying to masticate the plant in machines effectively because the sticky balm, which prolifically sheds from the plant matter (the material you’re trying to get on the wound) gums up most machines. Chopping is quite effective, and you’ll quickly have more than enough “sap” leeching out of the root pieces for a good dosage to the skin once it’s wrapped on. I simply replaced the root with freshly chopped new root every half hour for about 3 poultice treatments. After that, I used a comfrey salve for the rest of that day and the next and found the injury to now be almost free of any pain. It’s still a little tender, but no where near the pain I was enduring after the initial trauma.

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root stock in water, salve on thumb

There was enough dug up root left over to plant back out in the medicine hedges. Comfrey is prolific, with a tenacious tap root, so plant in places with compacted soil. It will take over, so manage the spread with a lot of chop and drop. Any part of the plant is used for medicine, but only externally! I’ll say right now that I’m not a professional medical practitioner of any kind, but I do appreciate natural healing, and happily apply plant medicine in my life to my self. Learning about safe, natural remedies is fun and rewarding, especially when you can empower your own healing process with confidence. There is still a time and place for natural healing, and it’s not something to use in place of calling 911 in cases of emergency. But for bumps and bruises, sniffles, and feeling in the dumps, nature’s medicine cabinet abounds with healthy plant remedies you can grow around the house.

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