‘……given to drinke against the paine of the backe, gtten by violent motion as wrestling or overmuch use of
John Gerard, 1597
I love my comfrey plants.I have three, one in each vegetable garden and one in a flower bed.It wasn’t actually planted there but dropping a piece of root invariably means you have a new plant whether you want it or not. So, before you dig a hole for that tiny little herb, make sure that is where you want it to live forever.Comfrey grows quickly and It is virtually impossible to dig up all of the roots, so moving it at a later date will just give you two plants, and the life-span is about 20 years.
Once it settles it grows quickly giving you stunning large leaves, which are hairy and can itch when touched. The purple flowers grow in a cluster at the top of a stem.They aren’t at the top of the beauty list, but flowers means the plant is happy! Although it prefers some shade it will grow in full sun and isn’t fussy about soil types.
Comfrey is a fabulous fertilizer.The easy way is chop up leaves and place them around the base of plants.Making a liquid fertilizer takes (marginally) more effort but is worth it, especially if you have pot plants.My Bonsais love it and I even give a very diluted dose to my orchids occasionally.A word of warning – don’t close the bucket with a tight lid.I know from experience that it will explode, and keep it far away from your home, it stinks!
Knitbone, knitback, bruisewort and healing herb are some of the well-deserved common names.Fractures, broken bones, bruises, cuts and sores are healed quickly with a poultice or cream. An electrician was doing repairs at my home when he slit his hand open quite badly.I packed it with crushed yarrow to stop the bleeding, cleaned it and wrapped it with a poultice of fresh comfrey leaves.He took a pot of healing salve home with him and two days later called to tell me how amazed he was that the wound had closed and was healing beautifully. On another occasion I fell off a horse and fractured my shoulder.My doctor said it would take a long time to heal because of my age (!) I drank comfrey tea and rubbed on comfrey cream for two weeks and he couldn’t believe the X-rays when he saw them.Please be aware that taking excessive comfrey internally has been linked to liver cancer in rats.It is definitely a medicine and not a daily tisane herb.
It is safe to use externally, and I add it to an eczema cream and a general healing salve to close up wounds. Ensure the wound is totally clean as the speedy healing can allow dirt to be trapped and cause infection
Botanical name: Symphytum officinale