Comfrey – Grow your own treatment for back pain, sprains and strains
Hello Herb Lovers,
Recently a good friend of mine sprained her ankle very badly. To help ease her discomfort and speed healing I made some comfrey poultices she could apply to the affected area. Comfrey – Symphytum officinale L.- is a brilliantly useful herb to have in your garden. And yes, it can take over so watch where you plant it as you’ll NEVER get rid of it again.
Here is an excerpt from the Herbology Home Herbal – Practical A-Z Guide to Medicinal and Culinary Herbs for the Home….(dont look for it in the shops – it’s a work in progress)….
Comfrey is known for its unparalleled healing properties. Traditionally used to aid in the healing of wounds, fractures, as well as ulcers.
Comfrey has been known to have been used medicinally since at least the Middle Ages. In the past it was freely used externally to speed healing of wounds and internally to aid cell production and recovery from illness and surgery.In the early 1900’s it was proven to contain a cell-proliferant substance known to promote healing of bone and tissue. However in the 1980’s some scientists reported that contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (in the root more so than the leaves) shown to cause liver damage in lab animals which were injected with large quantities.
Some sources now caution against the INTERNAL use of comfrey. There are many other sources that argue the wisdom behind this caution, as comfrey is usually consumed in much smaller doses and they suggest that perhaps only people with a predisposition to liver problems should stay away from internal use. I personally continue to use comfrey but I limit my use to the leaves, not the root.
A perennial growing from 60cm to 1.2m in height. Although it prefers a damp soil, it can flourish under almost any condition.
Provided there is no drought. Once established it is hard to get rid of. It’s a great soil conditioner and stops running grasses in their tracks. Propagate by root division.
Harvesting and Storage
Comfrey should be harvested at least 3 times a year. Just cut it down to a little above the ground and collect the stalks and leaves (wear gloves). Harvesting can take place when the plant reaches a height of 2 foot and before it flowers. It grows back very quickly. Dry the leaves and stalks – store in air tight containers until ready to use.
If you harvest the root be aware that even the smallest sliver of root left in the ground will grow into a full plant in no time.
Current Standard Precaution
Young children, pregnant women and people suffering from liver problems should avoid INTERNAL use. (see History above).
For EXTERNAL use care should be taken with very deep wounds as Comfrey may cause them to close up on the surface before they are healed further down. Do not use on dirty wounds as rapid healing may trap dirt.
Consult a qualified Herbalist for more advice if you are concerned.
Roots have similar properties to the leaves. May contain more pyrrolizidine alkaloids than leaves. More nourishing than leaves.
Leaves are mainly used externally in oils and salves for the treatment of sprains, sore joints and other injuries. Contain large amounts of allantoin.
Vulnerary, demulcent, astringent, expectorant, emollient, pectoral, tonic
Mucilage, gum, allantoin, tannin, alkaloids, resin, volatile oil
A poultice of pureed leaves can be applied to speed the healing of minor broken bones e.g. toes, ribs etc. Ointments of comfrey (and often in combination of other herbs) can be used for muscle damage and many skin disorders.
When combined with Marshmallow and Meadowsweet it is useful when treating Gastric inflammations & ulcers. For chest and bronchial troubles use it with Coltsfoot, White Horehound or Elecampane