Organic Emily

Medicinal Herb – Comfrey

Comfrey

Medicinal Herb Post #6 written June 5th, 2018

Comfrey – Symphytum officinale (there’s that officinale word again) and Symphytum uplandicum (Russian… sterile… less invasive species). Also known as knitbone because of its incredible ability to heal bone and other tissue.

Comfrey is probably one of the most powerful vulnerary herbs on this planet! It’s ability to heal tissues in the body is incredible and fast too! Which means it shouldn’t be used for puncture wounds until the risk for infection is gone. It’s also a great demulcent (soothing), great for joint pain, anti-inflammatory, expectorant and anti-ulcer. The leaves and roots are medicinal. Harvest the leaves once the mature and the roots anytime.

So the big question is, is Comfrey safe to take internally? Yes, for the most part it is. It shouldn’t be given to pregnant women, babies, people with liver problems or people on a lot of pharmaceutical drugs. It contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Now PAs have a record of causing liver lesions when taken internally by 6 week old rats. The problem with this study was that they were given a concentrated form (an extract) of the plant… not the whole plant. It was given to the rats as 40% of their diet. Wow, that’s a lot! As humans we aren’t going to take that much on a daily basis or even as an extract. So use caution and if you are worried at all take liver supporting herbs with it like dandelion, burdock, Oregon grape or milk thistle. I don’t know any herbalist that has known anyone who has had a problem with taking Comfrey internally. PAs are also found more so in the root than the leaf, so stick with the leaf if you want. And when you dry the leaves they have even less as well. Comfrey has been used internally for thousands of years. Houndstongue is a relative of comfrey and grows wild here in Utah. It can be used externally but contains much higher levels of PAs and should not be taken internally. In fact horses that eat it usually get sick and die. There was an herbalist named Dr. Christopher years ago who was sent to a farmer’s home who’s horse had eaten houndstongue and was very sick, he gave the horse milk thistle, an incredible liver protective herb and the horse recovered. The best thing one can do is become educated about these plants.

Okay, let’s move in to what Comfrey can do. In the garden it is a wonderful fertilizer. You can chop and drop as a mulch. You can also soak the leaves in a bucket with water for 3 weeks. Dilute and use to water plants. It’s also makes a powerful foliage spray to combat powdery mildew and other pests. Be sure to strain it first before applying. Apply once every 2 weeks for a month.

Comfrey helps heal digestive tissues. Using comfrey, calendula, chamomile and licorice together as a tea, 1 tsp 3x a day will help with ulcers and colitis.

It is one of my main ingredients in the salve I make for all skin issues, especially burns. That recipe can be found in the calendula post 

It’s also great to add to other expectorant herbs for coughs like gumweed, mullein or elacampane.

What do you use comfrey for?

Emily Saddler

Emily is a Master Gardener, wife of a professional landscape contractor, Mom of 4 cute kids, Yoga instructor and very passionate advocate of organic home-grown food! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Suburban Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients and her escapades as the keeper of both backyard chickens and honeybees!

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