Category Archives: Herbs

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plant

Image via Wikipedia

Aloe Vera is a common garden plant with almost miraculous healing properties. DNA testing suggests it probably originated in Sudan and Yemen and records indicate the aloe was used in that area in medicinal preparations for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians called it the ‘plant of immortality’, legend has it that Queen Nefertiti, and Cleopatra relied on Aloe Vera to maintain their youth by drinking and bathing in the juice. Alexander the Great used large amounts of it to heal his soldiers.

The plant was introduced into Europe and China in the 1700’s and has since established itself in every dry arid region in the world. Today it grows wild in the Arab Peninsula, Africa, Australia, US and Asia. In other parts, it requires special care and attention during the winter but still grow well.

Most of us are aware that Aloe Vera is regarded as the best treatment for burns and sunburn. Cut the leaves from the plant, remove the green outer skin to reveal a clear inner gel, which is then applied directly to the burn. For large burns, blend the flesh to produce a smooth gel that is easier to apply.

Researchers at the University of Texas say that Aloe penetrates seven layers of tissue and reaches the deepest parts of the body. They also report that when used externally it absorbs into the skin four times faster than water.

Externally, the gel is good for all skin problems, is safe to use on babies and pregnant mothers, and makes a great nappy rash treatment. Internally, herbalists recommend taking an infusion or juice daily as a general tonic and immunity booster.

To make an infusion, cut 1 or 2 large leaves and allow to stand until the yellow sap to drains. Cut the leaves into 2cm chunks and place the pieces into 500ml jars, filling the jars about one third. Fill the jars with cold water and put them in the refrigerator. Leave too steep for about eight hours. Take ½ glass first thing in the morning, before meals and at bedtime or anytime you feel thirsty. After draining the infusion from a jar, refill the jar with water. Discard after 10-12 days or if fermented.

To prepare a 100% juice you need to stabilise it with vitamin C. Pick large leaves, remove the skin, rinse the yellow sap off with water and place the gel in a blender on low speed. For 3 cups of gel, add 1 teaspoon of vitamin C powder. Store the gel in the refrigerator. Take 2-5 tablespoons daily, mixed with water or fruit juice. The pure juice is the most effective way to obtain the medicinal benefits of aloe.

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Comfrey

Comfrey has been used and trusted as both a food plant and a medicinal plant for over 2000 years. In the late 1970’s, Comfrey fell into disrepute and was listed as a dangerous poison in 1984. These days, Comfrey is mainly used in organic farming as a fertilizer and soil improver.

The truth about comfrey and its history is quite interesting and no plant has ever suffered the same treatment by authorities. The Australian poison listing followed an overseas study on baby rats. The rats were injected with pyrrolidine alkaloids, a chemical found in Comfrey. The report stated that the rats eventually developed liver failure or died.

Over the years, the truth about the study has been revealed, or at least part of the truth, but the listing has never been removed. In the original study, the alkaloid was injected into 28 baby rats every day for 600 days and at the end of the study, one rat had developed one liver tumour. A human would need to ingest 19,888 leaves for 16 years to obtain a comparative dose or consume 5 to 6 leaves everyday for 150 years. No human has ever developed liver tumours from consuming Comfrey.

Most of the original study was never released and the reasons behind the campaign to ban comfrey may never be known, but the fear remains, and its use in society is limited. Recent studies have discovered many benefits of using comfrey, both internally and externally, with no side effects.

Comfrey is high in Allantoin, an important ingredient in commercial skin treatments, moisturisers and anti aging preparations. All skin conditions, including bruises, boils, cuts, grazed, insect bites, varicose veins and muscle pain will benefit from applications of comfrey. Poultices and ointments are said to halve the healing time when applied to broken bones, tendon damage and bad backs.

Decoctions and infused oils, made from the leaves and roots, are the basis for many external preparations. Make a strong tea and apply it as a simple wash or add it to your bath water.

The listed benefits for internal use are extensive, but if you choose to take it internally, you should investigate comfrey for yourself.

To grow comfrey,   take a root cutting anytime of the year and plant it about 5cm beneath the soil surface. The plant likes moist compost rich soil and loves cow manure tossed around the surface. In dry period, make sure your comfrey gets plenty of water, as they hate to dry out.

Organic gardeners can use the leaves in the compost or make a nutrient rich tea to apply as a liquid fertiliser. The leaves are safe to feed to livestock and are an excellent green feed for poultry.

Although it is against the law to sell comfrey preparations for medicinal internal use, they have not banned growing the plant. Comfrey makes my list as a ‘must grow plant’ in your garden, I recommend planting comfrey and learning to make your own creams, ointments and poultices.

I will post links to research data shortly.