True Comfrey (Symphytum officinale var patens) is a hardy perennial shrub native to Europe and Asia, and could be the most valued plant in a permaculture/subsistence garden. As a garden ally, its uses are myriad. Medicinally, its effects border on magical.
Comfrey has an aggressive, deep taproot, and is considered a valuable nutrient cycler. Comfrey’s deep roots mine nutrients from the subsoil, primarily accumulating potassium, but also nitrogen, phosphorus, trace minerals, and micro-nutrients. These nutrients are pulled up by its roots and concentrated in its leaves. The plant can be cut to the ground two to three times a year, and the leaves used in myriad ways: fermented to make a nutrient-rich tea; added to a compost pile as a compost activator; as animal fodder; as a green manure – or nutrient-rich surface mulch. Comfrey is commonly used as an orchard understory plant to suppress weeds, mine nutrients, and provide a surface mulch around the tree by chopping and dropping the leaves in place. Comfrey flowers are also excellent bee forage.
When it comes to wound-healing poultices, comfrey has no equal. The mashed leaf or root, when applied to wounds of the muscles/skin is incredibly healing. It is recommended that a comfrey poultice is only applied to wounds that have been cleaned thoroughly, as it is known to heal the skin too fast, healing the outer layers of a wound and sealing in any deeper infection. Comfrey contains allantoin, a substance that stimulates cell proliferation. Ointments made from Comfrey can be applied to the skin to heal bruises as well as pulled muscles and ligaments, fractures, sprains, strains, and osteoarthritis.
It is generally advised that comfrey not to be taken internally, though some herbalists strongly feel otherwise. Comfrey does contain certain alkaloids that have been found to be harmful to the liver when taken internally. These alkaloids are much more concentrated in the root than in the leaf. In the past, comfrey has been taken internally to heal ulcers and other problems of the stomach. Before using comfrey or any medicinal plant you are not familiar with, we highly recommend consulting a professional herbalist or doing your own research.
Substantial foliage forms approximately 90 days after transplant. Perennial. Grown at Mano Farm in Ojai, California.
Note: Comfrey seeds are highly viable. We do not offer replacements or refunds for failed germination. Please follow the instructions when planting and you should have success. Also, see Richo Cech’s comfrey listing for a bit more context about appropriate comfrey germination.