The Sombre Habitat of
Saturn as a Teacher
- About 20 years ago as a
student of herbal medicine, I reached a point at the end of my second year
when I started to doubt whether herbs actually worked or not. Studies
up to that point were entirely theoretical and lacked any real practical application.
I wanted intensely to experience using herbs in the clinical situation
so that I could really get to understand how they worked, rather than just
filling my head with "book" knowledge.
That summer I was holidaying at an international yoga centre in Denmark, where I had stayed twice previously. Shortly after my arrival I recognized an American girl at a distance walking with the aid of crutches. I had previously met her three years earlier at the centre. The following day I overheard a conversation in which she describe the accident which led to her injury.
- Her brother, an Olympic windsurfer,
was teaching her how to jump with the surf-board from wave to wave.
Unfortunately when she tried to jump she got the timing wrong, the
board alighted just short of the second wave. The oncoming wave forced
the surf-board to tip on its side. As she slid into the sea the edge
of the board clipped her right knee smashing the cartilage of the patella
and tearing both the posterior cruciate and the fibular collateral ligaments.
surgeon said there was nothing he could do other than allow the knee to
heal itself and that such an injury would take at least six months to heal,
of which she would probably need to spend about
four months on crutches.
Knowing how keen this girl
was on doing her yoga daily I could readily see what an additional handicap
this injury was to her. In particular, meditating in the lotus position
was completely impossible, as she was unable to bend her knee. Knowing
that the longer it takes for a joint injury to heal, the more likely it
will become arthritic with age I realised that this injury could also make
her yoga very painful for the future.
Do Herbs Work?
- I introduced myself to her again and apologised for intruding on her conversation. After hearing
that her surgeon could do nothing for her, I suggested that she might like
to try herbal medicine.
"Do herbs work?' she asked.
"Of course they do." I replied, lying through my teeth to cover up my inexperience of using herbs at the time.
"Well lets give it a go, as nothing else
has helped me." she responded.
By coincidence in travelling
to the yoga centre that year, I had spotted a thick expanse of comfrey growing
beside a ditch, in a village about four miles away. I borrowed a
bike and pedalled off to get some. I returned with a plastic carrier
bag full of comfrey leaves. After obtaining a bandage from the camp
doctors I set down to help the girl.
Comfrey leaves have a prominent
mid-rib that needs to be torn out in much the same way as preparing spinach for boiling. After preparing six of the healthiest looking leaves
I simply laid them directly onto the skin around her knee, with the upper
side of the leaf in contact with the skin and the length of the leaf aligned
longitudinally with her leg. Finally I wrapped the bandage around
the knee to hold them all in place. I told her that after a while
the hairs will cause the skin to itch.
A New Sensation
Read the following article on Dandelion
- About four hours later she
said to me: "Dylan, I think you have introduced me to a new sensation!"
I laughed, knowing very well what she was on about, having experienced comfrey
leaves strapped on my back after a cycling accident in my early teens.
I inspected her knee to find that it had become red and swollen to the
size of a football. The inflammation revealed that the healing process
had been initiated. I suggested that she subsequently need only to apply the leaves nightly as she went to bed and to take the leaves off as soon as the itching aroused her from sleep. Her knee progressed well over the next few days; a marked reduction in pain and swelling with increased strength and mobility of the joint. I cycled off every other day to maintain a
supply of the fresh leaves for her - by this time I had fortunately spotted
a closer clump of comfrey growing only about one and a half miles away.
About a week later I went to her caravan to see how she was. Her crutches were leaning against
it beside the door but she was not inside. I asked to find out where
she might be. I was somewhat aghast to be told that she had decided to go for a bike ride so she could get some more comfrey leaves. Shortly afterwards
she returned, brake pads screeching on the wheel rims, ecstatic that she
had just pedalled the three miles without any difficulty whatsoever.
both delighted for her and stunned at the speed of her recovery.
I had no idea that herbs could heal the body so quickly. From that
moment onwards I have never doubted the healing power of herbs.
A month after first applying
the comfrey leaves, the girl had returned to California. She wrote
to me expressing her gratitude for the help I had given her in Denmark.
She described how she had walked into her orthopaedic surgeon's clinic
and slammed the crutches down on his desk saying "I don't need these any
After examining her knee he was equally aghast. He responded,
"Never in forty years experience have I seen such a serious injury heal
so quickly." After being told about the comfrey leaves, he did not
say a word.
Since the knees are ruled
by Capricorn the choice of the Saturnine comfrey to sympathetically heal
this knee injury was especially appropriate for the girl. Having
my Sun in Capricorn, I have often mused on how this experience also confirmed my vocation as a herbalist.
N. Culpeper, The English Physitian, 1653, section on Comfrey.
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