Latin Name: Symphytum officinal
Description: Comfrey is a perennial plant that grows to 3-4 feet. It has lilac-rose, purple, or violet flowers It prefers a moist soil with dappled sunlight. Comfrey has tastes of sweet and salty.
Parts Used: Leaves, roots. Roots and leaves are harvested anytime during the growth cycle, but preferably not when in full flower. The plant material can be used fresh or dried. After the plants flowers, it should be cut back, mulched with its own stems, leaves and flowers, and allowed to grow back through the green mulch.
Plant Properties: Cell growth, nutritive, demulcent, expectorant, vulnerary
Uses: Comfrey is used externally to heal clean wounds, broken bones, sprains, varicose veins, burns, eczema, psoriasis and hernias. Its high amount of mucilage makes it a great herb for topical use on the skin.
It can be used internally (with consideration to cautions covered below) for coughs, ulcers, internal bleeding, and hemorrhoids. It is also used to strengthen teeth or to increase bone density. Many herbalists caution against internal use of comfrey.
A very popular use of comfrey is as a garden (compost) amendment.
Infused Oil– Loosely pack a 1 quart mason jar with 2 cups of dried, crushed comfrey leave. Fill the jar with about 2 cups of olive oil, until the plant material is fully covered. Allow to infuse for 30 days in a warm area. This should yield about 1 ½ cups of infused oil.
Cream – Place 1 ½ cup of infused comfrey oil in the top of double boiler which has been brought to a boil. Turn down the heat to low simmer. Slowly add 5 ounces of beeswax pastilles. Blend in 2 ounces of shea butter or lanolin until melted. Add 2000 mg of vitamin E. Add 5-6 drops of essential oil (optional). Pour the melted mixture into containers with lids. Allow to solidy and cool before capping with lids. Label and date.
Poultice – Put fresh leaves or roots in a blender with hot water. Add water to get a pasty slurry. Apply this plant material to the affected area. Wrap in bandage to hold in place. Repeat as needed.
Compost Tea – Harvest comfrey leaves from established plants. Fill container ¾ full with comfrey leaves. Place a brick on top of leaves to press them down. Fill the container with water, put lid on container. The water will turn into a dark, foul-smelling manure tea in 20 days. To use, dilute tea by at least 50% and add as a side-dressing every 10-14 days.
Contraindication – Comfrey has been shown to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) which are substances that we know are potentially toxic to humans by causing liver damage. There is a higher concentration of PAs in the root than in the leaves. Comfrey root extract or comfrey leaf tea should not be taken longer than 3 weeks. There is little danger of absorption of toxic levels of PAs through the skin from comfrey salves, creams, and poultices.
Symphytum x uplandicum has considerably lower levels of PA than Symphytum officinale.
Pregnant or nursing women should not use comfrey internally.
Do not use comfrey externally on new puncture wounds or deep cuts. An Epsom salt soaks with calendula or chamomile should be used first, until the swelling and pain have subsided and the wound is clean and healing normally.