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Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is not advisable as a food for humans even though the young leaves are considered edible. This is because the plant itself actually has toxic characteristics. Its leaves arise from the ground as a rosette and are covered with tiny rigid hairs. It is used as a healing agent for wounds and also as an expectorant in rural medicine.
Because of its healing capabilities, the leaves of Comfrey can be used to make a healing oil by filling a glass jar with chopped leaves and covering them with organic carrier oil such as jojoba, olive, and almond oil.
History and Origin
Comfrey, is an herb that is also known as slippery root or blackwort, and it originated in Europe and Asia. However, it is also cultivated in North America. For more than 2,000 years, Comfrey has been cultivated in China to be used as an herbal medicine and as a green vegetable. The leaves and roots of Comfrey are crushed in order to release acids and tannins that are helpful in speeding up the healing of wounds. It is generally advised to be used for external purposes only to avoid being contaminated with the toxic alkaloids, a substance that can do damage to the body.
Today, Comfrey can be taken internally, but is still subject to legal restrictions in certain countries because it can cause liver toxicity when taken in large amount.
Traditionally, Comfrey was used for fractures, ulcers, bruises, diarrhea, bronchitis, cough, and gum diseases. The leaves are very valuable as an external remedy. Actually, the entire plant was used in soothing pain within any inflamed or tender part of the body. Comfrey is best for inflammatory swelling.
Comfrey was also used in making a cast from cloths that were soaked in a boiled paste of Comfrey, which would then hardened like plaster. The cast was then used on a broken bone as the people believed that the Comfrey would promote quick healing. This is the reason that Comfrey was called “knitbone”.
The modern use of Comfrey is not that much different from how it was used in earlier times. Comfrey’s greatest attribute is its healing power. Today, Comfrey is still being used to heal wounds, conditioning the skin, help in knitting and repairing bones after a break, healing insect bites, easing inflamed bunions, soothing sunburns, and regulating nose bleeding.
Comfrey can also be used as a herbal tea, herbal infusion, poultice, and liniment. External uses include healing of broken bones and sprains; heal burns, swelling and other inflammatory disorders such as gout, thrombophlebitis, and arthritis.
Comfrey is now also being used as a type of fertilizer, especially as a fertilizer for potatoes. It is also good as mulch and as a compost activator. As mulch, it is very useful in providing extra potassium to tomatoes, currants, and gooseberries.
Since Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage if taken internally in large amounts for a long period, it is safe to limit the use of it for external use only. Comfrey tea should be used to rinse out wounds or bruises and not for drinking.