Comfrey

(Symphytum officinale

Etymology

The name “Comfrey” is derived from the Latin con ferva, “with strength.”  The genus name Symphytum, derives from the Greek symphytis, “grow together,” and phyton “plant.”

Also known as:  (English) blackwort, gum plant, bruisewort, knitbone, nipbone, slippery root, walwort, woundwort.  

Parts Used:  Roots & Leaves

Comfrey Root has more tonic properties while the leaves have more astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.   

Family:  Boraginaceae (Borage Family)

Description:  A wild plant with large, leaves and clusters of purple flowers.  The flowers appear on tall, arched stalks that hang down over the large green leaves.  A native of Europe and Asia, is a perennial that grows 1 -4 feet tall on an angular stem.  Large oval leaves which are about 12” long with a protruding midvein.  The leaves get smaller as they get higher up on the stem.  Blooms in the early spring to late fall.  Harvesting the roots & leaves begins in May.

Growing Comfrey: 

Comfrey’s huge leaves hold a good bit of moisture so Comfrey will grow anywhere it is not exposed to excessive hot, drying sun.  Make sure to allow a large enough space for growing Comfrey.  Comfrey likes to take up a good bit of room and will come back each year in greater abundance.  When added to a compost bin, Comfrey accelerates the breakdown of organic matter.

Medicinal Ingredients:

Comfrey contains even more mucilage than the famed Marshmallow Root.  It also contains calcium, vitamin B12, iron and silica.  It is said to be more nutritious than soybeans and is ranked as the highest source of protein for the amount of fibre.  It is one of the rare herbs that process Vitamin B12 out of the soil.  Calcium, germanium, potassium, phosphorus, amino acids (tryptophan, lysine, isoleucine, methionine), inulin, alkaloids, tannins. 

Comfrey also includes allantoin (a cell proliferant), alkaloids (CNS activity), tannins, sterols, resins, volatile oils, gums, and triterpenes.  Allantoin causes cell growth, which is why comfrey has such remarkable healing properties.  Comfrey stimulates growth when the system has been traumatized and in times when the system is having trouble regenerating on its own.

Energetics:  sweet, astringent, cooling, sweet

Planet:  Saturn/Neptune/Moon

Element: Air/Water

Tissues:  plasma, blood, muscle, bone, marrow, and nerve

 

Recipes:

             Edible:  steam lightly and flavor with butter, lemon and seasoning (roots can be candied.  Leaves are edible raw, cooked or              juiced)

            Poultice:  use fresh leaves and apply directly to a broken bone, sprain or bruise

Infused Oil:  infuse fresh comfrey leaves in olive oil.  Let sit for 2-4 weeks, strain and use to moisten the skin or relieve muscle spasms & pain

Skin Care/ Toner:  infuse fresh leaves with witch hazel to soothe wrinkles

Bronchial Cough Syrup:  

1 tablespoon of: Irish moss, comfrey, lobelia, wild cherry bark, verbena, and aniseed in 2 cups of water.  Boil down to half the liquid.  Add 2 cups of honey and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of raspberry vinegar before mixing well and storing in the refrigerator.  Take 1 tablespoon as needed for a cough.

Diarrhea Relief:  

Heat 4 cups of milk until hot.  Add 1 tablespoon of comfrey root and steep 15 minutes.  Strain and drink a glass every hour until relief is obtained.

            Stuffy Nose Steamer:

Add 2 tablespoons of chopped comfrey root (or the leaves if the root is unavailable) to 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and inhale the steam to relieve a stuffy nose.  Cover the head and basin with a towel to get the full effect.

            Blood Builder:

Put 1 teaspoon each of dried comfrey, fenugreek seed and dandelion in 2 cups of boiling water.  Steep 10 minutes, strain and add honey as a sweetener.  Drink after meals.

            Arthritis Treatment Capsules:

Mix 1 cup each of buckthorn bark, cayenne pepper, alfalfa, comfrey, white yarrow, yucca root, parsley, and black cohosh root.  Grind all herbs up thoroughly and fill some #00 capsules with the herbal mixture.  The 1st week take 1 capsule daily; the 2nd week take 2 daily; and during the 3rd week take 3 capsules daily.  

                     Infected Wounds:

Place 3 comfrey leaves and several cloves of garlic in a blender.  Add a little honey and blend well.  Spread the mixture on a slice of bread and place it on the infected area.  Bandage and repeat several times a day – cleaning the wound thoroughly each time before applying the fresh poultice

                      Comfrey Smoothie Tonic (Fast Pick Me Up)

Place 2 leaves of comfrey and 2 cups of orange juice in a blender, adding ice and water for consistency.  This is a very refreshing and very high in vitamins.  Use only tender full leaves for full effect.  This is also a great spring or general tonic, and a refreshing cooling drink for the warmer months.

Poison Ivy or Poison Oak / Rash Salve

2 tablespoons of dried chickweed and 2 tablespoons of dried comfrey into 2 cups of olive oil and follow basic salve recipe.  Use on effected area to relieve itch.

                      Comfrey Soup Recipe

This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Gilian Painter published in her A Herb Cookbook.

Serves: 4

·       1 onion, sliced

·       1 tablespoon butter

·       1 large potato, peeled and diced

·       4 cups finely chopped, tender young comfrey leaves

·       2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)

·       ½ cup milk

·       Marmite or soy sauce to taste

·       Salt and pepper to taste

1.    Cook the sliced onion gently in butter in a large saucepan until soft.

2.    Add potato and sauté.

3.    Add comfrey and sauté all together for several minutes.

4.    Add stock, bring to boil and then simmer gently until vegetables are tender.

5.    Mash potatoes with a potato masher or if you prefer a smooth consistency blend in a blender.

6.    Heat the milk and add to the soup.

7.    Season to taste with marmite (or soy sauce), and salt and pepper.

8.    Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with toast.

Brain Booster Tea:

                        2 parts Oat Seed and/or Oatstraw

                        2 parts Rosemary

                        2 parts Yerba Mate’ Leaf

                        1 part Sage Leaf

                        1 part Nettle Leaf

                        ½ part Comfrey Leaf

Tonics:  

Expectorant – combine with hot spices like ginger, cloves and cardamom (when used alone can cause congestion)

Lung Tonic – use with elecampane root, which will help promote new tissue growth

 

System Effects:

Respiratory: Chest infection or congestion of the lungs, bloody discharges from weakened mucosa (lungs), allergies, hay fever, chronic cough, pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis and sinusitis

Digestive:      It is very soothing to the stomach. The mucilage is great for troubles stomachs, ulcers or                                               conditions leading to ulcerations.  Colitis, diarrhea, digestive inflammation, bloody stool.  The root is used to treat loose bowels

Nervous:       Brains injuries or no activity in the brain (comfrey can revive) & Alzheimer’s

Muscular:     Comfrey has a drawing agent and will often draw out stagnant or toxic material out of injured joints, muscles and tendons.  Use for muscle spasms, Rheumatoid arthritis (early onset),

Skeletal:        It increases movement of fluids into the joints and can be regenerative to in healing broken bones and injured joints, spinal injury, back keeps going out of joint

Skin:               Externally can be used for bruises, burns, scars, sunburns, bites, etc.  Can help to treat acne & eczema or dry, rough or wrinkled skin, hemorrhoids, varicosities.  Can be added to shampoo to help treat dandruff and dry scalp.  (Will create callouses on the skin when holding the fresh plant – great for dancers & needle workers). 

Actions:  nutritive tonic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, emollient, vulnerary, astringent, hemostatic, pectoral, pulmonary, yin tonic, anti-inflammatory, alterative, biogenic stimulator, anodyne, styptic, antiseptic, hemostatic

Flower Essence:  Beneficial for head injuries, and can be used to help ”repattern the brain.”

Indications:  Cough, lung infections, coughing blood, lung hemorrhage, gastrointestinal ulcers, blood in urine, diarrhea, dysentery

Precautions:  Edema, malabsorption, obesity, high Ama

Preparation:  Decoction, milk decoction, powder (250 mg to 1 g), paste

Caution:  There have been suspicions of liver damage from consuming high amounts of the herb.  The tea and tincture is safe for use but should be avoided during pregnancy and breast feeding, or for infants.  Use Comfrey no more than 6 weeks.  The root contains more pyrrolizidine alkaloids (toxic) than the leaves.  Prickly comfrey has the highest of all the variations.

 Magickal Lore of Comfrey:

Comfrey’s use today as a Magickal Herb is to place on one’s show to ensure a safe journey.  It is also used in many travel amulets to keep travelers stay safe and alert.  Because comfrey has many “grounding” properties it can be used in any herbal blend to strengthen energy shields and protect the home, business or automobile from theft.  It is a doubly manifesting herb with its combined correspondences to Saturn and Earth.  Comfrey can be added to incense where the intention is physical appearance of spirit.  A small amount of comfrey held under the tongue anchors chaotic thoughts and helps with grounding.  Another source says comfrey was used to restore the hymen and thus “virginity.” 

 Uses on Pets:

·      Salve - can be applied externally for any wound, bite, infection, burn, or any other external skin irritation

·      Poultice – can be applied for sprains, bruises, fractures, and other closed-tissue injuries

·      Colitis / stomach ulcers or any other inflammation of the digestive track – a handful of the fresh leaves or 2-3 ounces of dried leaves can be fed directly to horses and other large herbivores on a daily basis for up to 2 weeks.  For dogs and cats – ½ to 1 teaspoon of the dried herbs for each pound of food fed should be therapeutic

·      Respiratory – Administer 1 tablespoon of comfrey tea per 20 lbs. of the animal’s body weight, twice daily (not to be used as a supplement – take only when needed for respiratory issues)

 The “skinny” on the dangers of Comfrey:

 The recent discover that this medicinal plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids has added warning to its use.  The agents can be harmful to the liver.  Therefore, the plant has been banned in some countries and considered dangerous in most of the rest.  However, the good news is some strains and parts of the plant do not contain the culprit and are still entirely safe for external use, as well as internal use with moderation.

Written by:  Sheryl Burns

 

Sources:  Herbs for Pets; Gregory L Tilford & Mary L. Wulff/Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies; Jude C. Todd/The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook; Karen Harrison/The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine; Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad/The Earthwise Herbal; Matthew Wood/The Master Book of Herbalism; Paul Beyerl/