What would you expect an herb called “knitbone” or “gum plant” to do? If you guessed that it can knit or gum things back together, you would be correct! Commonly known as comfrey, this is one miraculous healing herb you need to know about.
Anytime you need some bone, flesh, or cartilage knitted back together, comfrey is your herb. For 2000 years it has held the distinguished honor of being the healing herb of choice for civilizations around the world.
It has been a part of folk medicine since 400 BC, and soldiers would always carry this herb with them to war, knowing it would heal broken bones and wounds. That is why the Greeks called this herb symphytum, or “to make grow together.” Smarties, those Greeks. The Romans also didn’t miss a trick, calling comfrey confera, or “knitting together.” Are you starting to see a pattern here? In AD 50 an ancient Greek botanic physician, Dioscorides, wrote about the invaluable medicinal properties of comfrey. You might not have heard of Discorides, but surely you’ve heard of his travel companion, Alexander the Great, who used comfrey to help heal his army’s wounds.
The reason comfrey knits better than your great grandmother is because it is a cell proliferant, meaning it heals at the cellular level, rebuilding cells from the ground up with its main constituent allantoin. This is a substance that helps create new cells and heals wounds like magic. Try this magic on a bruise, sprain, burn, cut, or broken bone and be amazed. For even better results, add a great antibacterial herb like goldenseal and be the beneficiary of the best natural healing available.
Comfrey can be used in many forms. If you’re looking for fast healing, drink the dried leaf or root in a tea several times a day, rub comfrey ointment on your skin, and make a comfrey poultice or fomentation for the area needed. Some of the afflictions comfrey will help are: sciatica, boils, rheumatism, neuralgia, varicose veins, bed sores, wounds, ulcers, insect bites, tumors, muscular pain, pulled tendons, gangrene, shingles and skin problems. You can add it bath water and give your skin a special treat.
Do you want to learn some new vocabulary? Comfrey is a demulcent, which soothes mucus membranes, a pectoral, which relieves chest and lung problems, an alterative, which cleanses the blood, a vulnerary, which heals fresh wounds, and a styptic, which arrests bleeding. It’s also an astringent, nutritive, tonic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and mucilage.
Ok, in layman’s terms…comfrey will help indigestion, stomach and bowel problems, excessive menstrual flow, hoarseness, bleeding gums, thyroid disorders, diarrhea, ulcers, hernia, coughs, lung conditions, hemorrhaging, cancer, anemia, sinusitis, lupus, and lowering blood pressure. If you see it growing wild, you can use the fresh leaves on wounds, bruises or sprains, as nature’s first aid gift to you. Thanks, Mother Nature.
In recent times, comfrey has received a bad rap because of some irresponsible studies done on rats, with the intention of discrediting this amazing herb. For 600 straight days (about the lifespan of a rat), the rats were injected with a dosage of only certain constituents of comfrey which had an equivalent dosage of 29 pounds of comfrey for humans. The results showed the rats developing liver toxicity, but that will happen when isolated alkaloids in comfrey are injected in such huge amounts directly into the bloodstream every day of your life! The point is, unless you know how to isolate alkaloids in comfrey and plan on injecting 29 pounds of them into your arm every single day, all ages are absolutely safe to use this herb internally and externally.
Comfrey is so full of vitamins, minerals and protein, it has been popular fodder for livestock, on the dinner table in salads, and as a fantastic and beloved organic fertilizer. Its roots reach far down into the soil picking up all kinds of wonderful nutrients that will be a boon to your garden, especially nitrogen and potassium. Add comfrey leaves to a barrel of water, cover, and let sit for 3-5 weeks and you will end up with a rich liquid fertilizer that your garden will love.
Growing comfrey is very easy. Just make sure you keep it well fertilized, weeded, and that it has lots of space to grow. Don’t harvest it in the first season since it needs to get established, but do remove any flowering stems in the first year so they won’t weaken the plant.
When about 2 feet high, you can harvest it, which happens 4-5 times between spring and fall since it will grow so quickly. Harvest it about 2 inches above the ground, and it’s best to wear gloves since its hairs irritate the skin. When drying, be careful with the comfrey leaves since they bruise easily, and keep them from touching each other. You can either hang them or lay them on screens until they are dry. Store in amber jars away from light for 3-5 years.
No self- respecting herb kit would be complete without comfrey