Comfrey

(Symphytum officinale)

Other Names:
Knitbone

Range:

Family:
Boraginaceae - Forget-Me-Not Family

Growth Type:
Perennial Herbaceous

Height:
1' - 3' tall

Leaves:
Large, rough-hairy, broadly oval to lance shaped leaves

Stem/Trunk:
Herbaceous branched stem

Root:
Black turnip-like roots

Flower Season:
May - September

Flower Appearance:
Bell-like flowers in furled clusters ranging in color from white or cream colored to pink or light purple

Seed/Fruit:
N/A

Miscellaneous characteristics:
This is a non-native plant which has enjoyed localized native status in various places throughout the United States. Typically this herb is purchased from a health food purveyor.

Habitat:
Native to Europe, this alien has escaped cultivation, and can be found in and around old homesteads. While it has escaped cultivation, I have yet to ever find it growing wild. Most often cultivated, or found in health food stores. I grow my own in an herb garden, so it is readily available.

Parts Used:
Leaves, Root

Uses:
Wild Food Uses:
None Known

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
Like Plantain, Comfrey contains Allantoin, a natural cell proliferant, which has been shown to speed up the natural replacement of cells. Historically a poultice of leaves and root has been used to knit bones. This has led to one of it's common names, "knitbone". I have used an ointment made from leaves and root to repair a torn tendon 4 times sooner than the doctor said I would heal. I have also used the ointment to heal cuts and skin abrasions.

I made an ointment using comfrey, plantain, and chickweed. I compared this head to head with a commercially available name brand antibiotic ointment. The comfrey ointment healed the area in 2 days, where the area treated with the antibiotic ointment was still not healed in 5 days. There is also some evidence that comfrey applied externally has eased back pain, but I cannot attest to this, and I have not tried it.

It should be noted that Comfrey contains hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA's). These have been shown to increase the incidents of liver failure. Rats given injections of pure PA's developed cancer. It is therefore not recommended that you take comfrey internally. There are even those who advocate banning it's use altogether because they say the PA's can be absorbed through the skin. While I suppose this is possible, the amount you would have to submerge yourself in would be ridiculous. I use comfrey ointment all the time, and I have suffered no adverse effects.

Here are pictures of how well this stuff works.

Medicinal Actions:
Anticatarrhial, Antidiarrheal, Antimitotic, Antitussive, Astringent, Expectorant, Vulnerary

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