Sunday, 6 August 2017

Knitbone and Cracked Ribs

As an Assistant Cub leader I do look forward to our last evening of the Summer term as we have a water evening that involves super soakers, a fire engine (really really) and an impressive water slide.

The only downer this year is that propelling myself down a length of soapy builder's membrane resulted in my then having a rather painful cracked rib and for a few days any movement was painfully hard.

It was only after I finished work on the Friday that I had the light bulb moment of gathering some Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum) leaves to aid my recuperation. It's old English name is Knitbone as it was widely used to help heal breaks.

Comfrey is a plant that is often mistaken for Foxglove when there are no flowers present and as you can see from the above picture it is a very hairy leaf and stem.


The stem is also quite thick and the leaf leathery so I decided to remove as much of the stem as possible and then roughly rip the leaf before using a mortar and pestle to pound it into a dark green poultice. I also added in a little Plantain (Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major) to the initial batches as it is noted for reducing swelling and I've used it on a wasp sting on my son to good effect.

I added a few drops of water and then just applied it to the area on my rib cage. The cool feel of this poultice alone was quite soothing but with the it being a rough leaf with lots of hairs it does need a good pounding or it feels a bit coarse on the skin.

I noticed that the initial Comfrey/ Plantain poultices issued a dark brown liquid which I was worried would stain anything it came into contact with. I was wondering which leaf did this or if it was a result of their union. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was mud from the low growing plantain.

During the application of the poultices my rib improved significantly but the following apply to this statement:-

I was keen for it to work and I am well aware that there could be a bit of a placebo effect going on.

I was also taking regular pain killers to help with the discomfort and any inflammation.

I had four consecutive days off work.

I will therefore never know what effect it had in getting my rib settled but with a free resource that has been used for centuries on breaks available it would have been silly not to use it. Will this episode stop me using the water slide next July? I know where there's a decent patch of Comfrey near me...

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