Described by a 17th-century English countrywoman as being able to ‘heal all inward wounds and burstings’, comfrey is also known as knitbone. With its hairy leaves and drooping flowers of yellowish cream or purple, the plant’s name is derived from the Latin con firma, alluding to the broken bones it helps to heal. Symphytum is from the Greek, meaning ‘to unite’.
Roots and leaves. A decoction of the root is used to ease coughs.
Comfrey’s roots and leaves contain allantoin, a compound that helps regenerate skin cells. Other constituents are rosmarinic acid and tannins, which also help in the growth of new skin cells. It is also rich in a thick, gluey substance known as mucilage, which can strengthen and repair the mucous membrane.
- Comfrey’s demulcent, astringent and expectorant properties promote healing of bronchial and lung conditions.
- Helps in the treatment of fractures and sprains.
- Promotes wound healing after injury.
- Helps heal stomach and varicose ulcers.
- Is a gentle remedy in cases of dysentery and diarrhoea.
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Domestic & culinary uses
While young leaves were once cooked as a vegetable, comfrey is not known as a culinary ingredient in modern kitchens.
Comfrey is indigenous to Europe and Asia, where it grows in damp soils, and the plants will do well if planted in shady areas, for example under trees. They need little care, except to be kept free of weeds. The plants can be grown from seed or by root propagation. Keep moist.
- Evelyn Simak