Helpful Herbs: Comfrey

August 9, 2016

The hardiness of Comfrey makes it a great addition to your herb garden, and its many medicinal uses mean it can be a valuable herb in your home as well.  With delicate purple flowers, comfrey is both beautiful and useful.

 

To add Comfrey to the garden, plant seedlings or root cuttings in full sun with rich soil.  The plant is a hardy, fast grower but it prefers high levels of pH.  The roots of the Comfrey plant shoot deep, making it very drought tolerant.  Within just four or five weeks of planting, Comfrey seedlings will have grown to be a large, fully leafed out plants ready to bloom.  

 

You can start Comfrey in early spring and take leaves from the plant for tinctures throughout the year.  With heavy mulching over the winter, it will continue to grow back year after year.  Trimming the leaves back also helps the plants to thrive, as does regular fertilization.  

 

To harvest your Comfrey, take leaves from the bottom section of the plant and set them out to dry in a cool, dark place.  Because their leaves are full of moisture, they may take a few weeks to fully dry out.  Once the leaves are crumbly, they are ready to be stored or turned into various poultices.  Crushed Comfrey leaves can be used directly, or you can mix the dried leaves into tinctures and poultices.  Comfrey is NOT edible and should not be ingested.

 

A Comfrey poultice can be applied to inflammations, sores, and rashes.  It is especially effective in treating poison ivy blisters.  You can steep Comfrey leaves in hot water and wrap them in a clean cloth to apply to an open wound.  Comfrey leaves applied to areas that experience arthritic pain will help to soothe the inflammation, and rubbing the ointment on sprains will help them to heal quickly.  

 

The Ancient Greeks would use Comfrey leaves to stop bleeding, and in poultices applied to broken bones.  Used for healing wounds and rashes through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the leaves were popular for treating bone fractures in the Middle Ages, when it was said they would not only help to heal the affected limb but also keep the cast strong and solid.

 

Comfrey has also been used by Native Americans to treat diarrhea, bronchitis, and menstrual cramps.  During the Irish potato famine, Englishman Henry Doubleday promoted Comfrey as a possible way to end world hunger.  Teas made from Comfrey leaves remained popular through the 19th Century.  

 

This herb is a valuable one to grow for its use in your medicine cabinet.  Its abilities to relieve wounds and bruises mean it is a first aid go to, and its healthy growth and bright flowers make it a delight in the garden.   

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