The 'Aha' Moment

Catskills Comfrey_Plant with Flowers.png

Why am I actually doing this? Why am I, at nearly 70 years of age, beginning a new business of growing comfrey and then infusing the dried comfrey into the final product, Catskills Comfrey? I knew, at 70, my technical career of designing databases was at an end. And after spending a year learning how to write smartphone apps for Google and Android, I realized that there were LOTS of other programmers doing the same thing - and with much bigger budgets.

My eyes, too, were becoming less effective so did I want to spend what available time I do have left in front of a computer screen, under less than ideal conditions, where I knew I would never read clearly again with any convenience?

My wife, Annie, and I live in Delaware County within the region known as the Catskills. It’s beautiful up here (well, 8-9 months of the year - we’d rather be in Jamaica during the Winter). Crystal clear water, pure air, dark night-time skies and ground that is ideal for gardening. I had been the DBA for the Watershed Agricultural Council and that, peripherally, allowed me to become more knowledgeable of agricultural practices.

Annie, though, was the big mover re gardening. She was the prime-mover in breathing life back into Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a NYC Park located immediately in front of the UN. She remains the lead person in maintaining and directing the Katherine Hepburn Garden within the Park.

But it was up here where we literally put our roots down. We’ve been gardening for nearly the entire time we’ve been living here, nearly 20 years. Tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, beets, potatoes, arugula, chard, herbs… we barely bought any vegetables in the Summer. The ground was receptive and we learned a lot.

My wife had studied herbology. Several years ago, she broke her pelvis on a bike accident in NYC. She had read that a comfrey-based poultice could relieve the pain and hasten the underlying bones to heal. She healed far faster than she ever expected - and credited the regular applications of the comfrey as a direct benefit.

My ‘aha’ came, in 2015, when I developed Trigger Finger symptoms; my fingers were exhibiting the ‘usual suspects’ of locking or spasms occurring, sometimes so bad that I’d literally have to pry my fingers open. The PA at my doctor’s office confirmed the self-diagnosis. “You can do massage, get an injection or, eventually, get surgery.”.

I’m not a big believer in pushing for injections - and a hand surgeon somewhat discouraged me from pursuing the cortisone-injection option, “Continue self-massage.”, he advised. I had been trying a poultice of sea-salts and vinegar to minimal benefit.

After reading of the numerous subdermal benefits of applying comfrey to achieve relief from the Trigger FInger symptoms, I decided to produce my own ‘medicine’ - and literally see if comfrey could help. I had time - and discomfort - on my hands, so why not? The process of infusing dried comfrey wasn’t hard; rather easy, in fact. I concocted a mix of mostly coconut oil, with olive oil added - and infused it with the dried comfrey we were already growing on the property.

In just days after beginning the topical application of the liniment, I began to notice relief: fewer contractions, much less intense, virtually no more 'lock and pry' issues. It was too obvious; I was doing no other type of treatment to overtly mitigate the symptoms.

Growing comfrey, I figured, would keep me outdoors, provide plenty of good movement and allow me to use my eyes under the best possible circumstances. It was also obvious that once the comfrey plants became established and planted [Note: In Spring 2017, we’re planting another 70 comfrey plants in raised beds.], they don’t really require a heavy load of maintenance of the growing plants; rather, the work is in the frequent harvests of the leaves throughout the growing season.

And now, when I receive reports that, eg, “...on the 2nd day, I began to experience relief.”, it’s all the more gratifying that I’m contributing some good to a specific person somewhere, offering inexpensive, clean and organic relief to an actual discomfort.

I'm in the ground for good reasons.

Danielle Gaebel