• Learning Herbs: Comfrey

    by  • May 7, 2012 • Herbs, Learning Herbs Series • 21 Comments

    {click HERE for entire “Learning Herbs” series}

    TT_LH_Comfrey

    Comfrey Herb Profile:

    Latin Name: Symphytum x uplandicum (other varieties S. officinale and S. asperum)

    Other Names: Russian Comfrey, Knit bone, Bruisewort

    Description: Comfrey is a perennial that can grow between 3-5 feet producing large green leaves that are fuzzy and veiny. The flowers start to form in a curl and as they bloom, you will find small, bell-like blooms in the colors of lilac-rose that fade into purple, violet or blue. Comfrey is a sterile plant, making it difficult to grow at home, unless you know someone who is willing to share a root or two with you. There are many mixed reviews about this wonderful herb*, but its healing abilities are hard to deny.

    Parts used: Whole plant. The leave and flowers can be harvested at any time once the plant begins to flower, use fresh or dry. Roots can be harvested, but the leaves have just as much healing properties, so I don’t find using the roots necessary. All parts can be frozen and store best this way.

    Medicinal Properties: I think comfrey is one of the best herbs you can use to heal and restore the body’s musculoskeletal system. One of the main healing compounds in comfrey called allantoin, which is an anti-inflammatory, aids in the healing of wounds and encourages new cell growth. Comfrey is historically known to heal open sores, bruises and even broken bones. I have a personal friend who used this amazing herb (and some prayer) to heal her son’s fractured ankle; it worked wonders knitting his bones back together and quickly too. Since comfrey speeds up the healing process, it is important to only apply to areas that have been thoroughly cleaned. Use caution when applying to deep wounds because it will heal the outer skin before the deeper wound.

    Common (therapeutic) uses: Arthritis, Broken Bones, Bruises, Bug Bites, Burns, Chafing, Eczema, Fractures, Gum Diseases, Hemorrhoids, Inflammation, Muscle Strains, Psoriasis, Rashes, Skin Tags, Sores, Varicose Veins, Wounds and more…

    Other uses: Comfrey is a great natural fertilizer for other garden plants. You can simply cut off a leaf or two and lay them on the ground and allow them to decay naturally. Or you can chop up the leaves and make a “fertilizer tea” by steeping them in boiling water, then pouring over plant roots.

    Medicinal Forms: Here are a few ways to use/apply comfrey:

    External:

    • Infused Oil
    • Liniment
    • Salve, Balm, or Ointment
    • Poultice
    • Herbal Bath or Soak

    Internal:

    • Not recommended unless under the supervision of a professional

    Precautions: You may have noticed I labeled comfrey’s Latin name as S. x uplandicum, which is the species pictured above. Many have mislabeled the pictured comfrey as S. officinale. S. officinale is apparently what researchers used in their studies that have caused controversy over whether comfrey is a safe herb.* The pyrrolizidine alkaloids, compounds which can be toxic to the liver, in S. x uplandicum are significantly lower than S. officinale. It’s important to know that while most of the comfrey used medicinally is S. x uplandicum, I would use caution when thinking about using internally. I personally don’t take comfrey internally and probably will never recommend it.

    Where to find: While having fresh comfrey is nice, it is hard to grow since comfrey itself is a sterile plant. It can only be grown by root divisions. If you know a friend or neighbor who has some, you might be able to snag a piece of root and grow your own. If not, you can purchase bulk, dried comfrey leaves at Bulk Herb Store or Glenbrook Farms. Comfrey (fresh or dried) is best preserved by refrigerating/freezing.

    Resources:

    • The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook by James A Duke, Ph.D.
    • Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung
    • Healing Herbs by Rosalee de la Foret (get this book for free)
    • Bulk Herb Store (note: this is my affiliate link)
    • * per Wikipedia sources

    I am so glad I have comfrey growing in my medicinal garden; it’s such a wonderful addition. I personally use comfrey leaves in my healing salves.

    Have you ever needed to use comfrey?

    p.s. Linking up to Thankful Homemaker, Homestead Barn Hop, Domestically Divine, Wildcraft Wednesday, EOA Link-up, Simple Living Link-up, Frugally Sustainable, Healthy 2day Wed… {see link-up list}
    Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

    About

    Jasmine is a God-fearing, always-learning, stay-at-home-wife to the best husband in the world! In the past couple of years, her new found loves have become herbal fix ‘ems and things “all natural”! She is continually learning to slow down, enjoying the important, simple things in life…like naturally taking care of her home, husband and health. She really enjoys creating things “home-made” and showing others how to do the same! You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

    http://www.thymeandtimber.com

    21 Responses to Learning Herbs: Comfrey

    1. May 8, 2012 at 8:57 am

      I’ve never heard of comfrey, but now I want some! It sounds like I am going to have to do some searching to find a plant of my own. Any suggestions if I don’t already have a friend growing some?

      • May 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

        Victoria…My sister-in-law just found some yesterday, in a city backyard! You may be able to find some growing wild, look near shady and moist areas. Otherwise, you may be able to find and purchase a fresh root starter online, just be sure the seller knows what they are talking about. If all else fails, contact me and I’ll see what I can do 😉

        • May 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm

          Any idea what parts of the country this tends to grow wild?

          • May 9, 2012 at 9:53 am

            I really am not sure…I would assume that it will grow most places other than dry, desert like areas. It’s not too picky, but prefers rich, loamy/sandy soils, plenty of water and dappled sun.

      • kellyr02@live.com
        June 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm

        I purchased some seeds about 3 years ago. Afer planting them all I had 1 seed germinate and have been sucessfuly growing Comfrey, I just this divided my plants to share with a friend. I passed a patch of what looked like comfrey the other day while driving a country road in North Ga and will go back and check it out next week.There lots of medical plants that grow on road sides. I fun to wildcraft.

    2. May 8, 2012 at 8:57 am

      I’ve been looking all over for some Comfrey seeds, including at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Planting Festival this weekend. They didn’t have them, but I ended up talking at length with one of the growers and he said I should look specifically for the “Bocking 14″ variety. Great for healing wounds, makes awesome but REALLY stinky compost tea for your garden, and is really good to plant at the base of fruit trees. Just Google it for more info.

      • May 8, 2012 at 9:19 am

        Cranky Puppy…you probably won’t be able to find comfrey “seeds” as comfrey (bocking 14) is a sterile plant and only grows via root divisions. Sometimes you may be able to find comfrey growing wild, otherwise see the comment above ^^^ to get your own! :)

    3. Farmlife Chick
      May 8, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      Thank you for this post! I found you through Deep Roots at Home! I just picked up comfrey at a plant exchange and didn’t know much about it only that it’s medicinal.

      • May 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

        Sure thing! I used comfrey on my father-in-law’s very swollen, sprained ankle a few days ago. He only applied it once and he feels 110% better. It is definitely a strong medicinal herb and great to have around. Have fun learning more about it. Thanks for stopping by!

    4. MarianneG
      May 9, 2012 at 12:32 am

      Hi ! Love your blogs. Awesome info. How do I get Rosalees’ free book ? I found you at Frugally Sustainables’ Wednesday blog hop.

      • May 9, 2012 at 8:08 am

        Marianne…I am so glad you are enjoying this blog! You can click HERE to go to LearningHerbs.com…on the left side you will find “Free Stuff”…choose the Herbal Ebook! Enjoy!

    5. Susan
      May 9, 2012 at 2:06 am

      Comfrey is sterile?
      I planted comfrey in the front on my house and before I knew it I had comfrey growing on the other side of my property. In fact a good long row of it. It looks like the one in the above picture. After that, it has not spread from those two spots except when I have moved it. And then the spot I took it from grew back also.
      Red Butte gardens has a way to plant the comfrey so that it supports itself. It can get very tall and fall over when planted singly. I have the purple flower variety. I understand there is a white flower one also.
      Also, a friends grandmothers who was over 80 drank comfrey tea for years. I drink it occasionally. I used the leaf before flowering. Others may do differently. I am still learning about it.
      Maybe it was the time of year that I saw the Red Butte garden comfrey but it seemed way shorter than mine.
      One last thing you might like to know is that Bumble Bees love it so I would not plant it close to your house or doorway unless you like Bumble Bees. I like Bumbles but I want them farther away from the house.

      • May 9, 2012 at 8:17 am

        Susan…thanks for sharing your thoughts! Yes, comfrey (symphytum x uplandicum specifically) is sterile meaning it cannot spread/germinate by seed. But it certainly can be easily propagated by even the tiniest piece of root. So I recommend planting it where you’ll want it for a long time, the roots grow deep and are hard to completely remove because of the rapid growth from a small piece of root. Oh, and you are right…my little bee friends are huge fans of my comfrey plant too…thanks for the tip!

    6. May 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Great timing on this post…comfrey is on my ‘want’ list this spring. Am hoping to pick one up next weekend as I haunt some garden centers. I wonder how comfrey would be for back pain. Do you have thoughts on that?

      Thanks!

      • May 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        While comfrey is wonderful for healing acute injuries, I would use castor packs or an herbal blend of arnica, st. john’s wort, cayenne, ginger, peppermint and a small amount of comfrey made into an infused oil or salve for frequent back pain. You can find a similar blend HERE for muscle pain and HERE for arthritic pain. Hope that helps!

    7. May 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      This is so fascinating. I know next to nothing about the healing properties of different herbs! Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday, and come back next time to see if you were featured!

    8. May 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks for linking up to Wildcrafting Wednesday. Your post is one of this week’s featured links- http://www.commonsensehome.com/lambs-quarters/

      I started a patch of comfrey a couple of years ago from a start I received from a friend. It’s finally gotten big enough that I can now harvest is without worrying about the plant. My bees love it, too.

    9. Diane
      August 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      I was blessed to find out that the plant I bought was not ecchinacea like the tag said,but comfrey so I got it accidentally. But I was concerned as I read up on it that it had toxic side effects. I hope the one I have does not have them. But am excited as I am making an infused oil to later turn into salve. Thankyou for your information on this blog.

    10. January 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Hey Jasmine! I found a comfrey plant at my local farmer’s market, and it has been growing happily in my garden since late summer.
      Now as I’m thinking about my upcoming labor and delivery, I’m wondering how to use comfrey in healing a hurting, swollen perineum. Do you have any tips or ideas for how to prepare a poultice (or other method of delivery) to apply to tender areas? It would be best if it were something that could be prepared ahead of time so it’s ready for the big day.
      I have the plant, I’m just not sure what to do next. Thanks for your help!!

    11. Pingback: Using A Comfrey Poultice To Heal Bruises and Injuries Review – Does It Work? | Green Idea Reviews

    12. Steve Lantsberger
      September 21, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Hi been making comfrey ointment the last couple of years. Can I freeze comfrey for a semi fresh use? Steve

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