Bone Deep Beauty: Notes on Comfrey

Bone Deep Beauty: Notes on Comfrey

Name: Comfrey, Knit-bone, Bruisewort
Botanical Name: Symphytum spp. (usually x uplandicum, but sometimes officinale)
Energetics: Cool, moist

That Comfrey, she’s just too charming. Such pretty bell shaped flowers, and intricately detailed leaves. And what attitude! The plant that proliferates from one tiny, itty bitty crumb of root and grows into an explosion of new life. This particular talent speaks to the action of the plant on our body as well. This plant is a folk legend in European based herbalism and deserves its reputation.

Comfrey is one of those “no-brainers” when it comes to appropriate application of its talents. Broken bone, pulled muscle, sprained ankle, busted knee? Somebody get the Comfrey!

I’ve seen old breaks that just wouldn’t heal recover in record time (sometimes in less than a week) with use of Comfrey (internal or external). I’ve seen skin I thought would never find its way back together (pressure sores) neatly knit itself whole with a simple salve. I’ve used it for large sections of abraded, raw skin and on a severely injured knee (from a powerful contusion that resulted in massive bruising and some internal damage), all with great success. For a recent anecdote illustrating Comfrey’s prowess, check out Shawna’s new post on her son’s broken toe.

There have been numerous cases of infections being sealed in by using Comfrey inappropriately. ONLY use Comfrey on a wound once you’re sure any infection has been taken care of. And don’t use it for broken bones that need to be set either, or you could end up having to rebreak the limb in question. I’ve also heard about (Matt Wood), but not experienced, Comfrey’s tendency to heal some fractures or wounds too quickly, leaving a kind of callous or overgrowth on the area. One of the reasons I may not have seen this is that I tend to pair Comfrey up with a complementary regenerative herb like Plantain or Evening Primrose.

I’m not going into the PA controversy here, I don’t even want to have that war in my comments. If you want my straight up opinion on PAs you can head on over to the Herbwifery Forum and check out the Borage and Comfrey posts until I write a more extensive post about it here. Long story short, I don’t use it too much internally anymore. Yeah, I know, it’s a traditional food. And yeah, I’ve read Susun Weed. But I’ve also read what Paul Bergner, Henriette Kress, David Bunting and other have to say about it. And it aint all about tumors either folks, it’s a lot deeper than that and there are human cases, so do yourself some research and make up your own mind.

One great thing about Comfrey is that it works really really well from the outside. Poultices, fomentations and salves all work great, so often there’s no need for internal application. The hairs can be pretty irritating, so if you’re using a poultice be sure to smush it up into a nice moist wad before dampening (with spit, water, tea, tincture etc) and applying.

Because I don’t use it much internally, I’ve been accused of being a Comfrey hater, but it’s just not true, I adore this gorgeous plant. In fact, it’s been one of consistent favorites since childhood when I first read of the magic “knit-bone” in some of my favorite stories. I wouldn’t think of having a garden without its enthusiastic grace and abundant healing. It’s not native here, but it’s made iself right at home. Some people have to worry about it going invasive and spreading too far but here it’s so dry that it can only thrive where I water it. And indeed, it is a royal water sucker, requiring me to bring it bowls or buckets of water at least three times a day. Every year it gets bigger and every year it needs more water, but it is certainly a worthy investment in my eyes.

Did I mention it’s pretty? It’s so pretty! Every day I just sit and look at it for a little while. I feel the same way about Borage and Chiming Bells too, there’s just something enchantingly sweet and alluring about them.

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Comfrey Pics (c) 2008 Kiva Rose

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the comfrey post Kiva! I was just gazing at my new-this-year comfrey plant today, marveling at how it can wilt so fast, and wondering exactly where that water is going! Good to know I’m not an inept gardener after all! Thank you as always, for sharing your wisdom!

  2. Cathi Marsh
    Jul 10, 2008

    I would love to know how to make a comfrey poltice. I broke my heel :( , and was told it will take at least 6 wks before I can put weight on it. Can you supply a recipe?

    Thanks!

  3. Kiva Rose
    Jul 10, 2008

    Hi Cathi, here’s a post on a more elaborate poultice recipe http://bearmedicineherbals.com/?p=320

    But a poultice can be as simple as fresh mashed up herb applied directly to the affected area. If it irritates you skin, then toss it in a muslin bag or wrap it up in cheese cloth.

  4. TracyJayne
    Aug 21, 2008

    Oh thank you sooo much, I just stumbled across your post, and I have comfrey in my yard and for the life of my could not figure out what is was, untill I saw your photo of comfrey. I too love the looks of this wonder, and yes it will grow from a tiny, tiny root, and become a large a beautiful plant. We are in Eastern WA and it is dry here, any thing that will grow is a blessing! Thank you for your knowleadge!

  5. Suzi Walker
    Jun 26, 2009

    I to adore comfrey, I just bought it last month and it seems to have taken off it is growing so well and as for watering, Since I live in Magnolia texas and the rain seems to have deserted us I water it every other day or so and unlike the rest of my herbs I have not seen any wilting of it. So far it seems to be thriving on they way I water. But I have already cut off some leaves and made a infused oil out of it to use on a bruised foot and it is great. I became fond of comfrey cause of it’s ability to heal bruises and breaks and sores too. But I make sure that my injury is well on the way to healing before I use it. Although I do not take it internally and have no desire to I still think it is a wonderful plant. Thanks for all the info

  6. Gabriela
    Nov 2, 2011

    What is something wonderful I can do with a pound dried comfrey leaves? I thought to take infusions, but after reading Henriette’s posts I think I’ll hold off.

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