Com­frey com­forts

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - WALLY RICHARDS

Last week I men­tioned how early set­tlers in­tro­duced many of the weeds that cause prob­lems for gar­den­ers. Among them is com­frey.

A herb, com­frey can also be a me­nace as it spreads rapidly and takes a lot of work to re­move. Leave a small bit of root be­hind and com­frey is back in business, spread­ing like con­volvu­lus.

So, only grow it where it can be con­fined. Use a tub or trough sit­ting above the soil or on con­crete and pre­vent the plants from seed­ing by re­mov­ing the flow­ers.

Over the ages com­frey has been known by many aliases – knit­bone, black­wort, bruise­wort and bone­set. Wort is an old com­mon name for a plant or herb.

A mem­ber of the bor­age and for­getme-not fam­ily, com­frey will grow in any soil but prefers to be un­der trees in the shade.

The chief and most im­por­tant con­stituent of com­frey root is mu­cilage which it con­tains in great abun­dance, with 0.6 to 0.8 per cent of al­lan­toin and a lit­tle tan­nin.

The roots have been made into con­coc­tions for tak­ing in­ter­nally. The leaves have been used ex­ter­nally on sprains, swellings, bruises, se­vere cuts; as a poul­tice on boils and ab­scesses, and ap­plied to in­flam­ma­tion where bones have frac­tured to re­duce swelling and as­sist in the re­union.

A paste of chopped or ground up fresh com­frey leaves, co­conut oil and a few drops of lemon juice has even been ap­plied with suc­cess to can­cer­ous squa­mous cell car­ci­noma le­sions. Ap­par­ently it is magic on hem­or­rhoids and vari­cose veins as well.

The ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in com­frey is al­lan­toin, which re­pairs tis­sue, and re­put­edly has anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties.

Com­frey is also said to be a good nat­u­ral worm­ing rem­edy and con­di­tioner for chick­ens.

Only small amounts should be taken in­ter­nally as the toxic ef­fects of the pyrrolizidine al­ka­loids in com­frey can lead to liver dam­age if taken in large amounts or over a long pe­riod of time.

As for the gar­den­ing ben­e­fits, com­frey con­tains high con­cen­tra­tions of ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rous equal to that of farm ma­nure which makes it great for use as a com­post tea.

The leaves are also high in vi­ta­mins B, C and E and beta-carotene. With high lev­els of potas­sium it makes an ideal fer­tiliser for any fruit­ing plant, which at this time of year means toma­toes, pep­pers, cu­cum­ber, mel­ons, pota­toes.

The leaves can be used di­rectly on the gar­den as mulch or added to your com­post or liq­uid ma­nure bar­rel.

It is best to har­vest the leaves just prior to flow­er­ing as this is when the nu­tri­ent lev­els are at their high­est.

A plas­tic rub­bish bin with lid is ideal for mak­ing brews of liq­uid com­post. Har­vest the com­frey leaves, chop them up a bit, add water and a lit­tle My­cor­rcin or Thatch Buster to help with the fer­men­ta­tion. An­i­mal ma­nure and urine can also be added.

Keep the lid on as it will smell, and keep it down the back of the sec­tion.

Prob­lems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmer­ston North 3570606) Email wal­lyjr@gar­de­news.co.nz Web site www.gar­de­news.co.nz

Com­frey has many ben­e­fits as a medic­i­nal herb and as a gar­den fer­tiliser, but must be kept con­tained. Photo: FAIR­FAX NZ

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