Symphytum officinale, better and more commonly known as comfrey, is a perennial herb that is a member of the genus Symphytum. It can be known by many other names as well such as Bruisewort, Knitback, Knitbone, Blackwort, Slippery Root and Boneset. The genus name Symphytum, actually means “to unite or knit together.” The word comfrey comes from the word com-firma, literally meaning “knitting of bones.” While comfrey is native to Asia and Europe, it can also be found across North America. Comfrey roots and leaves have actually been used for medicinal purposes for over 2,000 years in both Western and Eastern traditional medicine. Did you know that comfrey root was considered the “guardian of travelers”? It was thought to protect anyone who journeyed away from their home lands to foreign places.
Comfrey plants can grow to heights of over two feet, and can spread more than a yard across. Its roots are large and black, growing in the shape of a turnip. The leaves of the comfrey plant can grow up to anywhere from 12 to 18 inches long, are green in color, and are actually somewhat hairy. These leaves will grow on short stems, from the central crown of the plant. The flowers that grow on the comfrey plant can vary in color from cream to purple to blue or even striped and grow in a bell shape.
Comfrey root and comfrey leaf can both be used in many different products and industries. They can be used for medicinal purposes, skin care, soap making, hair care, and bath and body products. Common products that can include comfrey are lotions, bath teas, ointments, creams, salves, soaps, facial masks, scrubs, bath bombs, massage oils, and hair conditioner. Did you know that some folklore gives comfrey the ability to ward off evil from any unknown strangers?
This plant is very adaptable to many different environments. It can be planted any time of the year, just as long as the soil is workable. Comfrey can survive in temperatures of as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and still thrives in temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. While it can thrive basically anywhere, comfrey does prefer a soil that is sweet, moist, and rich. It also prefers full sun exposure, but grows just as well in areas with only partial exposure. Besides soil, comfrey can also grow well in clays, loams, and even light sands no matter if the areas are dry or wet. It can even survive in areas of drought.
Because of its adaptability, comfrey can be planted pretty much any time of the year. Preferably, it should be planted during the spring, however if planted during the winter, it can stay dormant and will begin to grow the next spring. Comfrey does have a very large root system, so each plant should be planted at least three feet apart so the roots have room to grow. Its shoots will begin to grow early in the spring, and the plant will flourish throughout the spring and fall.
There are not many pests or diseases that will affect comfrey. However, there is the possibility that stressed or weak plants can develop mildew or other fungal diseases. There is also a comfrey rust that can possibly infect the roots, decreasing yield and vigor, but this rust is not common in most places.
Uses in Industries
Bath and Body Products
Comfrey leaf and comfrey root can both be used in many different products and industries. They can be used for medicinal purposes, hair care, bath and body products, soap making, and skin care. When used for the soap making process, comfrey root powder works to regenerate new cell growth, heal wounds, and soothe skin. Comfrey leaf provides the soap with many healing skin properties as well bringing the soap a beautiful natural green color.
Common bath and body products that can include comfrey are massage oils, hair conditioner, bath teas, ointments, creams, lotions, lip balms, bath bombs, salves, scrubs, and facial masks.
When comfrey leaf is used for its skin care benefits, it is great for healing wounds and ulcers. It also contains allantoin, a substance that works to promote new cell growth. Allantoin also helps to reduce and heal diabetic sores. Comfrey root powder works to promote cell regeneration as well, soothes the skin, helps to speed up the healing of wounds and protects the wounds from infections. It also helps to heal rashes, sunburns, or other skin irritations. Comfrey root powder and comfrey leaf can both be added to lip balms to help protect and heal chapped lips.
Comfrey has many hair care benefits as well. Comfrey leaf can actually be added to hair conditioners to help repair any over-processed or damaged hair. It can also help to control and possibly reverse hair loss, and it brings the hair volume and shine. Comfrey is also a great way to naturally nourish your hair, as well as fight dandruff.
There are many wonderful medicinal benefits to using comfrey leaf and comfrey root as well. In contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential to the body. Comfrey contains Vitamin B12, zinc, protein, alkaloids, tannin, silica, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, allantoin and many more. This herb also has many vulnerary, astringent, antioxidant, emollient, demulcent, and expectorant properties. Comfrey has been in use in Eastern and Western medicine for over 2,000 years. Comfrey baths were very popular, as it was known as “one of nature’s greatest medicinal herbs.”
For any bruising or sprains, applying comfrey directly to them will help to reduce the pain. It can also help to heal skin ulcers and wounds, as well as helping to heal broken bones.
It is not recommended for pregnant women or nursing mothers.
For people that suffer from joint pain, comfrey helps to reduce pain in the joint, and also treats inflammation, arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Comfrey can also be used to treat burns, muscle, and back pain.
Up until the mid-1980s, comfrey was actually used for culinary purposes as well. However, comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and other toxic effects. Comfrey should not ever be ingested due to these possibilities.
Because of the many wonderful nutrients that comfrey offers, the leaves of the plant make a great addition to compost or being used as mulch. The plant itself also works as a great conditioner for soils and a weed barrier.
Nature’s Garden sells comfrey root powder and comfrey leaf for external use only. We do not sell it as a food item. The information above talks about how great comfrey is for many industries, however we only sell it for external use. We provide this data for educational purposes only. Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using this product or any of this information for treatment purposes.
Wondering what project to include comfrey in right this second? Well then make sure to our free recipe for our Soothing Facial Mask! Be sure to check out all the rest of our free recipes and classes as well!