Scientific Name:Symphytum officinale
About this Herb:Comfrey is a flowering perennial shrub of the Boraginaceae family. It is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia as it is fond of moist soils. Comfrey has a thick, hairy stem, and grows 2 to 5 feet tall. Its flowers are dull purple, blue or whitish, and at times may be striped. These bell shaped blooms are densely arranged in clusters that hang downward. The leaves are oblong, and often look different depending upon their position on the stem: Lower leaves are broad at the base and tapered at the ends while upper leaves are broad throughout and narrow only at the ends. The turnip-like root has a black skin and a fleshy cream colored interior that is filled with juice.
This plant and Foxglove are often mistaken for one another: identification should be made by an expert to avoid poisoning.
Common Names:Comphrey, Knitbone, Common Comfrey, Bruiswort
Uses:Comfrey has been used on the skin to treat wounds and reduce the inflammation from sprains and broken bones. Comfrey roots and leaves contain allantoin, a substance that helps new skin cells grow, along with other substances that reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy. Comfrey poultice, wash and plaster can be applied to the skin to heal bruises as well as pulled muscles and ligaments, fractures, sprains, strains, and osteoarthritis. Avoid using on broken skin or for more than 10 days.
In the past, comfrey was also used to treat stomach problems. However, the herb contains dangerous substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are very toxic to the liver and can cause death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration no longer permit any oral comfrey products to be sold in the U.S. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany also have banned the sale of oral products containing Comfrey.
Comfrey contains substances that help skin regenerate, including allantoin, rosmarinic acid, and tannins. It also contains poisonous compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids so it should never be used on broken skin. A Comfrey wash can be used to aid in the relief of acne dermatitis, sunburn and psoriasis.
Comfrey is a compost activator, include comfrey in the compost heap to add nitrogen and help to heat the heap. Comfrey should not be added in quantity as it will quickly break down into a dark sludgy liquid that needs to be balanced with more fibrous, carbon-rich material.
Comfrey as a liquid fertilizer can be produced by either rotting leaves down in rainwater for 4–5 weeks to produce a ready-to-use 'Comfrey Tea' (to water plants not to drink) or by stacking dry leaves under a weight in a container with a hole in the base. When the leaves decompose a thick black Comfrey concentrate is collected. This must be diluted at 15:1 before use.
Applications:Wash: Boil leaves and root in water and drain. Soak sprained joint in liquid when cooled. This water can also be used to wash acne dermatitis, sunburn and psoriasis. Be very careful to avoid eyes, nose and mouth.
Poultice: Uses leaves to make poultice (see methods for instruction) and apply to afflicted area.
Mucilage: Uses leaves to make plaster (see methods for instruction) and apply to afflicted area.