Tuesday

Comfrey in the Garden

Photo of Growing ComfreyAs a medicinal herb, comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was so prized that it was called "knitbone" and "bruisewort" as a tribute to its miraculous healing powers.

Although there are modern concerns about taking comfrey internally, it is still recommended as an external preparation for skin problems, cuts, sprains, burns, and to reduce swelling. Comfrey's leaves and root can contain a cornucopia of useful substances like allantoin, which encourages cell regeneration, vitamin B12, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, along with vitamins A and C, and in many countries it is used to supplement livestock feed.

Growing Comfrey

Comfrey needs full sun and nitrogen rich soil. It can send out a taproot many feet long and be very invasive if not contained. Comfrey also needs room to spread out, so place young plants at least three feet apart, and fertilize with quality manure in spring and again in late summer.

Propagating Comfrey

Propagate comfrey from sections of root that contain a growing tip or from seeds that have been chilled to approximate winter conditions.

Harvesting Comfrey

Dry leaves and flowering tops in summer and dig up comfrey roots at the end of the growing season in the fall.

Uses for Comfrey

A comfrey poultice can help speed healing, relieve aching joints, reduce swelling and inflammation, and treat skin conditions like eczema. Its high potassium content makes it a good addition to fertilizer, and it can be used to make a natural brown fabric dye.

Comfrey makes a unique and interesting fill in plant for a barren spot in the garden. It may well be the king of historical medicinal herbs, and has uses today as a home remedy. Even its appearance has nostalgic appeal. Its lavender flowers are bell shaped and delicate, contrasting well with comfrey's hairy leaves.

Give comfrey a try if you can find it at your nursery or online herb supplier; it’s a great conversation piece. Oh, and the next time you sprain your ankle maneuvering your way around your flowerbeds, grab some comfrey for the swelling and discomfort. It's the gardener's secret friend.

11 comments:

  1. As a fellow herbalist, gardener, etc. I love your blog. That snail is sooooo icky the photo so fantastic it totally creeps me out. I'd love your comments on my blog - mysteryranch.blogspot.com
    I think I need to start doing more than one blog. Too many interests..
    Please review my website as well, especially the Herbalist page.
    I'm adding you to my list of herbal blogs

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  2. Thank you. This site is very nice.

    Regarding B12, it does not come from plants (unless they have manure on them :-)

    Thanks again for a nice site.

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  3. Hey Rose,

    Thanks for visiting. I was surprised to learn about the B12 component in comfrey when researching this post. It's there, but in trace amounts.

    For more information, and to check my sources, take a look at the comfrey page at the University of Wisconsin's cooperative extension site: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/comfrey.html

    Cheers, :)

    Sara

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  4. Anonymous5:39:00 PM

    Be careful with this Plant I have it all over my yard, My Grandmother planted it here years ago and there is a big patch growing down the bank towards the road which is fine, especially since I wouldnt recomend taking it internally inless advised by a certifyed Herbalist. But it is also comming up all over the yard now. It is invasive. If you're gonna put it in the middle of your garden i would put some thing around it under the soil to stop the roots. Also if left unatended, It grows up falls over and rots killing what was beside it then preping that soil for invasion. This really is a great herb but just be careful.

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  5. Anonymous10:34:00 AM

    My dad had this growing on the side of our house and it became invasive. I had no idea of the uses or the benefits of this plant until now and wish I had been more interested in it then. After many years of eradicating the root and plant from our soil I can tell you it is not an easy plant to get rid of.

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  6. Anonymous8:08:00 AM

    I grow comfrey as a boarder plant and love watching the bees flock to it. The leaves are especially beneficial as a mulch. I layer the leaves around my potatoe, tomatoe and especially the cucumber plants. I fertilize with a liquid kelp but don't have to use as often during the season because the comfrey releases so many nttrients.
    As I'm working in the garden, I rub the gel from the leaves on my skin (for me it's very cooling) and on any insect bites which almost instantly relieves the itching and pain. I love this plant!!
    Peace to all.

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  7. What wonderful suggestions! Thanks for sharing.

    Sara

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  8. Anonymous10:20:00 PM

    I read some that Comfrey is in the Borage Family of flowers and there's the Russian(more therapeutic,and expensive!)with one color I think they're lavendar and the other one is like
    (the more available)w/ white flowers! I bought one from a farmer(herbs at the farmer's market!) and just tried too hard to contain it. You will find them in yards where it is some always at least some shade,(but they do love sunlight) to help w/ the manufacturing of it's valuable nutrients! I found one in a front yard right up the street! And it does roam!-Aloe

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  9. Please tell me how to eradicate this herb. I transplanted it from a house I was renting, where I never had a problem with it, to my newly purchased property where we built our house. Now it has become a real problem. I dug it up several times and everyplace I tossed it, it has started growing...now I've got it all over my property and I can't get rid of it. I mistakenly planted it the first place because I thought it was borage! Which, by the way I'm still looking for.
    Thank you,
    Tessa

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  10. Tessa,

    Comfrey is invasive, and removing it is a challenge. Even small portions of root left in the soil can start new plants. Using a product like Roundup may work (after plants sprout), but could require multiple applications. Digging up plants regularly over a number of seasons can be successful, too, but be sure to dig during the hottest -- or coldest -- part of the year in your area. This is the time when the roots (or plants) are most vulnerable. For added benefit, put a sheet of dark plastic over excavated areas to discourage regrowth. Good luck.

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  11. I have applied comfrey as a poultice to myself, my wife, and all of my children when surface infection arose. It is almost miraculous. In fact, we have had two bites in my family from hobo spiders. The first ate most of the pad of my wife's thumb away before doctors could effectively get it in check. The next bite was on my daughter's abdomen. We caught it early and placed a comfrey poultice on it. It seriously drew the necrosis out of the wound. I swear by comfrey for infection. Also, my HVAC provider raised horses while growing up. His family had a field full of comfrey and once put a horse with an infected abcess in the jaw in there to graze. Within a week, the abcess had completely healed. He also used to drink comfrey in smoothies regularly with no negative side effect, but I understand that internal use is now frowned upon.

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