Get Comfortable with Comfrey

If you have been following me at The Bee Queen, by now, most of you should be used to my rambling posts. Posts that may take a roundabout turn but always relate back to bees. So, I thought I would preface this post by putting the bees up front and very personal in this post.

My little bee yard has grown to four. After making two splits earlier this spring from one strong overwintered hive, I had another hive (forefront-white and gray) that did not look healthy. In a previous post, I mentioned the fact that a good friend had allowed me to establish my splits on her property. I needed to move the bees some distance from their original hive to establish the new queens. I brought them home about 4 weeks ago and my friends, Jim and Pat Wolf were kind enough to let me bring the sickly hive over to prevent any contamination with the new splits.

A good dose of spring sunshine seemed to evaporate any lingering ill effects and the hive has finally started to thrive. The Queen is laying a good brood pattern and all appears normal once again. I’d left them for a month and last night despite lighting and rumbles of thunder we brought them home. We waited till it was almost dark in order to encourage the return of the last stragglers back to the hive. We strapped down the hive and drove the 5 miles home.

Moving is very stressful to the bees. Between the storm moving in and the particularly aggressive nature of this hive, they were quite agitated. My husband and I put on our Bug Bafflers, but I confess not to putting on my protective pants. So of course, I got stung not once but twice through my jeans on the tender flesh of the inner thigh as I was helping to lower the hive from the truck onto the pallet.

Stings are to be expected especially in times of high stress. Normally, I get a localized reaction from the sting with 2-3 days of redness and swelling  But, sensitive areas like the face or inner thigh can be a bit painful and I expected a fair amount of swelling and itching.

In my former career, I was a Registered Nurse, so Benadryl cream would have been a logical choice for me. But, I’ve undertaken the study of herbs and have started to grow a number of medicinal herbs this year. Aha, I thought, a good opportunity to utilize my budding knowlege of herbal medicines. So, I went through my choices and immediately thought of Calendula, a soothing, emollient herb suitable for stings and burns.

Well, as you can see, I had a problem with the Calendula option. I was in the process of drying my calandula buds in the dehydrator and pretty as the flower might be, partially dried blooms would not help my immediate problem.

I quickly took stock of my other herbs to come up with a viable alternative. I remembered the Comfrey leaves I had harvested earlier in the day and also in the process of drying.

Comfrey is a member of the borage family and is a periennial used medicinally for thousands of years. It was used to treat broken bones, brusing and swelling from injury. In fact, the Latin name symphytum officianali translates to “knit together.” It was taken internally as well as externally but is now contraindicated for internal use due to the risk of hepatic toxicity. Like borage, comfrey contains PA’s (Pyrrolizidine alkaloids) and when taken internally may cause liver damage. For that reason, Web MD does not recommend it be ingested or applied to broken skin. 

I decided to take a chance because of Comfrey’s anti-infllamatory effect an undertook making a quick poultice from the steeped Comfrey leaves.

Comfrey leaves should be harvested right before the flower blooms and can be dried and or used fresh.

Steep the fresh chopped leaves in water that has been brought to a boil for 20-30 minutes. Strain with a kitchen strainer or I prefer to use a French Press for my fresh herbal teas.

You can wrap the steeped leave in cheesecloth and or cotton or felt to make a poultice and apply to external wound. Re-apply as needed. I had instant pain relief from the poultice and used on and off for 10 minutes every hour initially. I also applied a comfrey soaked cotton ball bandage to the worse sting overnight. I was pleasantly surprised to have very little swelling the following morning. After 48 hours I started to apply The Bee Queen Manuka Honey lotion and voila’, no itching!

The tea can be stored in the refrigerator for cool soothing use. Do NOT take internally. Use comfrey for no more than ten days in a row. 

Using herbs is a personal choice, one I am willing to undertake. The medicinal use of herbs has been documented and used to treat disease and acute injuries across the world. In many cultures, herbs are are a first choice to promote health and retore the human body to a state of balance to facilitate healing. 

So, the next time you reach into the medicine cabinet, take a moment and look to nature. If you would like to know more about herbs and their uses become a subscriber to The Bee Queen web site.

Interested in purchasing Organic Manuka Honey Lotion? Check out my product page for handcrafted, organic lotions.

 Have a Bee-rrific Day!

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