I have to admit I’ve put off writing an article about this herb because it has a little bit of controversy surrounding it but the herb is such a miraculous medicinal herb that I just couldn’t “NOT” write about it.
Comfrey, also known as Symphytum offinale is indigenious to Europe and naturalized in the United States. It is a very hardy plant with lush thick leaves and blue or purple flowers. The plant grows from 30 to 120 cm high and will spread quite well if not properly contained. For those that are interested in Permaculture it is very high in nitrogen and wonderful to plant around fruit trees or other trees that could use some extra nitrogen since it is so easy to grow.
Comfrey has some interesting history and due to its very impressive healing properties on the connective tissues, bones and wounds it is often times called “knitbone” for literally knitting bone back to together. In fact the herb is so good at quickly healing a wound that it is not recommended to use on anything that has infection as it will heal the skin over so quickly trapping the infection inside and could make this situation worse. Only apply to a sterile clean wound with no infection.
How does it heal?
Comfrey exerts an anti-inflammatory action on the skin and also contains something called allantoins which stimulates tissue repair and wound healing through cellular regeneration and multiplication. The anti-inflammatory action is said to occur because it suppresses leukocyte infiltration during the inflammation process. Because of the way it helps with inflammation it’s very good to apply to a variety of things that cause inflammation on the skin such as bug bites, cuts or skin irritation. But there is much more that makes comfrey such an amazing herb! When I was studying for my family herbalist certification I read several accounts from the well known herbalist Dr. Christopher and his work with Comfrey. There are several cases that Dr. Christopher witnessed in which comfrey grew back parts of fingers that were SEVERED as far as the first knuckle! Whoa! Pretty impressive! There are several accounts of how the herb has helped so many including this one about a man healing the end of his finger cut nearly off with a saw.
So what’s the controversy about then?
Because comfrey contains Allantoins which is one of the main ingredients that bring about such fast healing it can also cause damage to the liver if ingested on a regular basis or in individuals that have previous liver or kidney disease or consume alcohol. There are some herbalists that only use comfrey externally and then some that use it for only a 2-4 weeks at a time and no more. I find that it works so well externally that I’ve never found reason to use it internally. I had a badly sprained ankle and it healed remarkably fast with the salve recipe below. It is definitely worth giving it a try on the next sprain, bruise or broken bone.
Comfrey Salve Recipe:
1/2 cup dry comfrey leaf
1/2 cup Calendula flowers
1 1/2 cups olive oil
4 tsp. beeswax pastilles
First infuse the dried herbs in the olive oil. You may do this a couple of ways. You can place the herbs and olive oil in a glass mason jar and place in a sunny spot for two weeks to allow the medicinal properties of the herbs to transfer to the oil OR for a quicker method you may place the oil and herbs in a crock pot for 3 hours and cook.
Strain the herbs out of the oil through a sieve or cheesecloth.
Place oil in a pint sized jar and stir in beeswax until thoroughly dissolved. Add 20 drops of your chosen essential oil and stir. If you would like to place into tins you must work quickly as the beeswax will make the mixture thick although this is not a hard salve. If you would like a harder salve you may add more beeswax. Use for strains, bruises, broken bones, insect bites or wounds that are not infected.