Growing and Using Comfrey Leaves

Grow comfrey – a strong-growing perennial of the borage family – and it’ll help activate compost in your garden and could be used therapeutically.

  • Comfrey Plant
    There are many uses for comfrey, but it should not be taken internally because it is toxic to the liver.

  • Comfrey Plant

Four years ago — mostly from curiosity, because we'd heard so much about the plant's virtues — we set aside a small rectangular spot on our acre for a bed of 30 comfrey cuttings. They grew like mad. We harvested comfrey leaves all summer, and found so many uses for comfrey that, at the end of the season, we ordered 150 additional roots and expanded our little patch to a plantation of 200.

In case you're not familiar with comfrey (Symphytum officinale), it's a member of the borage family, a strong-growing perennial with somewhat hairy leaves 12 to 18 inches long, rising on short stems from a central crown. The flower is a pretty blue bell, fading to pink. We don't wait to see the blossoms, however, because the foliage is at its best if cut before blooming time. The plant reaches a height of over two feet and spreads to more than a yard across, but — since comfrey doesn't throw out creeping roots and hardly ever sets seed — it's remarkably non-invasive for such a sturdy being.

Comfrey leaves have a high moisture content and dry more slowly than some of the herbs you may be used to working with. Just give them a little extra time. Make sure the leaves are crumbly before you store them, though, since any remaining dampness will cause mold. Then pack the foliage into jars and close the containers tightly.

Medicinal Uses for Comfrey

Comfrey has long been used as a cure by Gypsies and peasant peoples, and has an ancient reputation as a mender of broken bones. In her marvelous book Herbal Healing for Farm and Stable, Juliette de Bairacli also recommends it for uterine and other internal hemorrhages and for the healing of wounds. British Gypsies, she writes, feed the roots to their animals as a spring tonic. (Please Note: Comfrey is toxic to the liver for both humans and livestock and should not be taken orally or used on open wounds. —MOTHER.) 

Comfrey contains allantoin, a substance known to aid granulation and cell formation . . . which is what the healing process is all about. The effectiveness of this valuable plant can now be accounted for, and is therefore more widely accepted. (Funny how pinning a name on the curative property makes it possible for us to acknowledge it!) Here on our acre, we follow Mrs. Levy's advice and treat both people and animal hurts with comfrey. Generally we use an infusion (strong tea) of fresh or dried leaves, either to soak a part such as a sore finger or to dab on a cut with cotton. Crushed foliage can be applied externally, or a raw leaf rubbed on skin lesions such as rashes and poison ivy blisters. (Scratch and heal in one operation!) Comfrey should not be applied to open wounds or broken skin.

The most common medicinal use of comfrey are in poultices to help heal swellings, inflammations and sores. To make such a dressing, let the leaves mush up in hot water, squeeze out the excess liquid and wrap several handfuls of the hot, softened foliage in a clean cloth. Apply the pad to the affected part—comfortably hot, but not scalding—and cover the area with a thick folded towel to keep the heat in. The moist warmth enhances the healing effect of the allantoin.

11/27/2021 8:13:44 AM

For Hera and Dog Friend - I wish you safe and well. There are many accounts where Comfrey leaves were used as a poultice with great effect. Personally I would continue the course of action with the poultice on the outside of the would. The boosting of the immunity should clear the inside. Will the dog drink a tea made with a little milk to attract parasites, to further cleanse? Just an additional thought. But what you are doing seems to work well thus far. Additionally - Here in Europe we have yellow flowered Confrey, wild. I've been transplanting it into my garden and harvesting it, all top parts, leaves and flowers, for teas. No ill effects. I only ever seem to get side effects from : 1. Staying up late on computer 2. Not having herb teas every day 3. Eating a large portion of 'bad foods' containing sugar or grains.

4/19/2019 10:01:55 AM

From what I've learned, the moment someone says not to take it internally...'take it internally with limits' . From a Russian friend, he told me: COMFREY Syphytum Officinale for FIBROMYALGIA Symphytum officinale root or leaf extract not more than half a tea spoon in 500ml water a day, abstain from overburdening the liver because it will be activated to do it's thing. So...with much discretion and 'small' amounts is quite beneficial. I am not a doctor, so you are take my words with a lot more research. 1/2 tsp in 500 ml about 1 3/4 cups of water. Teeny weeny amounts. Use at your own risk.

3/19/2019 1:47:55 AM

Since the FDA banned the sale of comfrey in 2001, you can hardly blame MOTHER for it.

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