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.
Comfrey Pics (c) 2008 Kiva Rose