Comfrey, Symphytum officinale
DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This sturdy, energetic perennial is determined to never leave your garden once planted! In fact, watch where you wash the roots, you will probably create another comfrey patch there, unless you collect every bit of root, down to the 1/2 inch piece. Take this advise from the woman with ten comfrey patches! Now, I throw the comfrey wash water back in the original patch to continue it’s will to live there. Plant this spirited plant between a rock and a hard spot to encourage it to stay in place. Comfrey grows to two feet tall.
PART USED: root and leaf
FUNCTION: It is extraordinary! When I had a dislocated hip, a comfrey poultice renewed my sense of comfort. When my dog had a four inch hole in her inner thigh from being stuck in barbed wire, comfrey poultice (with other herbs) amazed the veterinarians on how quickly and clean the wound self repaired.
Comfrey contains a component, allantoin, which speeds cell renewal. Most constituents are contained in the roots, but also are in the leaves. The tannins in comfrey help to staunch bleeding and pull tissues together enough to not need stitches and amazingly the calcium like component binds the tissues so well that often there is no scar at all! The mucilaginous quality soothes skin conditions.
Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids,(PA’s) which in theory, can cause liver problems. You would have to consume a lot of leaves to cause damage. I feel comfortable drinking comfrey tea for an acute situation, just not over many months. Because comfrey is very high in protein, 35%, the same as soy beans, it has been used as an animal feed in Africa.
Topical comfrey is completely safe. I feel much of this controversy over the safety of comfrey’s PA’s is because herbalists are very cautious with their beloved healing herbs and err on the side of safety. I do wish the drug companies would be so cautious with their medicines. They kill people every day and there is not much done about it.