Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Bone to Pick

A broken fifth metatarcil may impede some of my gardening plans, but I have crutches, a rolling desk chair and an apron with large pockets for carrying things. I am mobile, at least and can do a few things. The orthopedist said I could possibly bear weight on the foot in a week, but it will take a couple of months to heal. And even then, a few things will be out of the question for several months.

It is interesting to note that prior to my mishap, I was looking at ways to maintain and improve bone health through foods and herbs.
How the young nettles looked a week or so ago.
 The stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, are coming up now and they will provide many nutrients to nourish my bones, as well as the rest of my body. Nettles often are used in herbal blends for bone health. Nettle is quite rich in calcium and magnesium, both minerals important to strong bones. Nettle also contains good amounts of other minerals and vitamins.

The sting of nettle leaves and stems disappears once the plant is cooked or dried, but I have only a mild reaction to the plant's formic acid contained in little hairs on the leaves and stalks, and even in the roots. Some people have more robust reactions. The juice of any dock species (Rumex) serves as an antidote to the nettle sting. Just crush dock leaves or stems and apply the juice. Plantain also will provide some relief. Some other Urtica species give a wallop far greater than this helpful plant, including one tropical species that can be fatally toxic.
How nettles look now.

Humans have used nettles for thousands of years as medicine, food, animal fodder and fiber. Nettle is a great nourisher for women, enriching the blood and other areas of the body. According to Susun Weed, some menopausal women have had their menses return after frequent use of nettles. I had intended to take advantage of the spreading patch of nettles at the back of my garden this year, to nourish my glandular system and tone the whole body. Now my need for healing highlights my need for this herb. Nettle has so many uses in nourishing and healing the body that it would take a lot of blog to cover them all here. I highly recommend that you find a copy of Susun Weed's "Healing Wise" and read what she says about nettle. I also will try to add information in future blogs.

Mature nettles sporting their tiny flowers.
Comfrey leaf.
Another bone-healing herb that grows in my garden is comfrey. While frequent internal use of large doses of comfrey can cause liver damage, many herbalists use this herb in medicinal amounts for short periods when healing is needed. Poultices of comfrey leaves also are recommended for healing bones and pretty much anything else, including open wounds. External use is apparently safe.

Comfrey provides a very energetic healing action. One should be absolutely certain that a wound is clean (be sure no infection is present, as well) and that broken bone ends are properly aligned before using comfrey for it will almost immediately begin knitting things together.

Unfortunately, it is too early to find comfrey leaves in my garden. I am taking homeopathic comfrey, known as Symphytum (the genus name for comfrey), which was recommended by a friend. I also purchased some dried comfrey leaf and horsetail (Equisetum) to make a bone nourishing tea.

Both comfrey and nettles are easy to grow. Too easy perhaps. You must be sure that you plant nettle in a place where she can run to her heart's content. Nettles are related to mints, and expand their territory by underground rhizomes. Once you plant comfrey, it is extremely difficult to move it out of the area. Essentially, you simple expand your crop, rather than move it, because its roots extend deeply and any piece left behind will become a new plant.

Comfrey in May.
Both of these plants also are good allies to garden plants. I cut them back in the summer and lay the leaves and stalks around the vegetables, where they will decompose and enrich the soil. They also are great additives to heat up the compost heap. Fermented "tea" made from them is a terrific liquid fertilizer, both as a root drench or foliar spray.

Bumblebees love to sip from comfrey blossoms, so this plant
supports this native pollinator.
I plan to greatly expand our crops of nettles and comfrey by planting them near and among the fruit trees, for which they will provide great benefits. One characteristic of nettles is that it improves the health of plants growing nearby, making them less susceptible to insect pests. Nettles also encourage certain beneficial insects. The large comfrey leaves serve as a living mulch, crowding out weeds and preserving soil moisture, as well as mining minerals from the soil with its deep roots and bringing them into the leaves. When the leaves die and decompose, they leave the minerals in the topsoil, where they are more available to the trees and other plants.

We also can use nettle hay to feed our chickens (when we get them), which not only will make the hens healthier but make their eggs a richer food source for us.

It is amazing to know that these two hardy, robust and easy to grow plants are so nourishing to myself and my gardens.

1 comment:

Meggie said...

That is a lot of good information...I am definitely going to add them around my fruit trees. I'll also add them to the compost pile. Thanks