COMFREY

Symphytum officinale 

Common Name: Comfrey, Boneknit, Boneset, Knitbone, Bruisewort
Family: Boraginaceae 
Part/s Used:  Roots + Leaves
Energetics:  Cooling, moistening, secondary drying, demulcent
Taste:Sweet, bland, bitter, acrid, astringent 
Actions: Astringent, demulcent, expectorant, immune modulating, hemostatic
Tissue state: Dry/atrophy
Organ system affinity: Mucosal membranes
Element: Water 
Planet: Saturn
Folklore: Protective magic for the traveler

Medicinal Preparations:

Tincture: Fresh root 1:2 to 95% secondary cutting of the fresh leaf 1:2 or 1:3+ 95%   Dry (ratio & % alcohol): Leaf 1:5 60%
Drops: 5-60   Times a day: 3x
  

Tea: Standard infusion of the leaves: 4-8 oz   
Times a day: 3x
Decoction: Root 4-8 oz     
Times a day: 3x

Honey: Root 1:4; consume 1 tsp 3x a day

Topical Preparations: Prepare the leaf oil using the alcohol intermediary oil method or infuse the leaves or the root using a double boiler method. Use the root or the leaves in topical applications such as poultice, fomentation, cream, salve, ointment, balm, paste, wash, bath, mouth wash, douche, or enema.

Habitat and Botanical Description:

Comfrey is native to Europe and temperate Asia and was brought to the U.S by European settlers. It is a perennial that is easily cultivated and once established grows prolifically. Gardeners may consider it an invasive, because once planted it is almost impossible to eradicate.  The root can grow up to ten feet and will sprout when even the smallest root chunk is left in the soil.  Comfrey has an angular, hairy stem with bristly, oblong shaped leaves that grow low on comfreys stem which can reach up to three feet tall. Its purple bell-shaped flowers have five lobes and grow in forked, scorpiod recemes that appear from May through August.  It has a black skinned tap root with a fleshy white inside.

Medicinal Uses:

Comfrey is a formula in and of itself. It is a cooling demulcent and a tonic astringent. Cooling the heat of irritated tissues, strengthening the connective tissues and a powerful vulnerary. Comfrey is rich in silica, calcium, protein, minerals and nutrient dense. Known as "knitbone" comfrey has a affinity for the musculoskeletal system. It can mend broken bones rather quickly, and should only be used once the bone is properly set in place. It contains the constituent allantoin which is responsible for stimulating cell proliferation and tissue regeneration. Useful for sprains, strains, bruises, cuts, and abrasions. It works so well, in fact, that it is contraindicated for deep wounds or a puncture wound as it works from the top to the bottom and can seal the wound too fast.  Calendula would be good here to start and after the deep wound has had some time to heal from the inside a bit it would be safe use comfrey.

Comfrey is the best remedy for ulcers. Just like it is good for wounds on the outside, it works too for abrasions on the inside. Its hemostatic properties staunch bleeding and its demulcent properties soothe irritated tissues.  It reduces passive bleeding in the digestive tract resulting from the stomach and work well for ulcerative colitis and hemorrhoids as well.

Comfrey root shares the same properties as the leaf, however it contains much high qualities of mucilage. Water based preparations have demulcent and anti-inflammatory properties. The root tea is highly beneficial to reduce inflammation and stimulate healing of the mucous membranes. Topical applications of the root, such as poultices and fomentations have emollient properties. Try comfrey leaf oil for topical use for tendonitis, arthritis, gout, joint pain and back injuries. For broken bones and fractures comfrey can consumed internally and applied topically to accelerate healing.

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves of comfrey before the flowering buds appear. To delay harvest pinch off any flowering buds before they bloom. Once comfrey blooms the nutrient value of the plant fades. The flowers can be harvested for poultices. Within 10 days to two weeks more flowering buds will appear, cut these as well to help the plant grow and encourage an extensive root system with more and larger leaves. In the fall, harvest the roots. Take your garden fork and unearth. Shake and wash. Comfrey is also a great self-mulching system in the garden. Chickens and turkeys love the high protein low fiber content that comfrey provides and will increase egg production and make the yolks a deeper orange color.

Contraindications:

Young children, pregnant, lactating women, elderly and individuals with compromised liver function should avoid the internal use of comfrey. Topical use is acceptable. Individuals taking prescriptions or occur the counter medications that induce liver damage or compromise liver function in any way should avoid the internal use of comfrey. Use caution when harvesting the leaves, has been known to cause contact dermatitis. Wear gloves.  Comfrey should not be consumed internally in high doses for long periods of time due the cumulative effects of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The root concentrates pyrrolizidine alkaloids a lot more than the leaf. When used in moderation for shorts periods of time it is unlikely to cause problems in healthy individuals. While it is important to be mindful of this it is also important to not isolate a single constituent in a plant and overlook all the potential protective benefits of nutrients found in the whole plant. Although S.asperum and S.x.uplandicum contain higher alkaloids that should not be consumed internally.

 

Sources:

Northwest School for Botanical Studies by Christa Sinadinos 
Evolutionary Herbalism by Sajah Popham
A Modern Herbal by Grieve Madam 
The Honest Herbal by Tyler E. Varro