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Comfrey - Symphytum officinale

Commonly found growing in damp places, the common comfrey is a stout, stiffly haired plant with a ridged stem, hairy leaves and flowers of white, pink or purple.

The folkname of 'knitbone' gives evidence to Comfrey's long traditional use in mending bones. Culpeper stated that "it is said to be so powerful to consolidate and nit together, that if it be boiled with dissevered pieces of flesh in a pot, it will join them together again." Indeed, its botanical name seems to support this long held belief - symphytum being derived from the Greek "to unite" - whilst the name comfrey itself could be considered a corruption of 'con firma' suggesting that the bone would indeed be 'made firm'.

Comfrey is rich in minerals, and provides mucilage to digestive tracts and mucous membrane, supports the nervous system and soothes the urinary tract. It promotes growth or regeneration of skin tissue throughout the body, including that of the connective tissue vital to firm, youthful skin. K'eogh wrote his Irish Herbal [1735 ] that it "heals all inward wounds and ruptures." As well as having an anti-inflammatory action Comfrey contains allantoin, a cell proliferant that helps repair damaged tissue. An infused oil of Comfrey is highly effective in treating sprains and reducing bruising. The leaves, flowers and stems can also be boiled down to a pulp and applied hot, wrapped in a cloth, to a sprain or small fracture.

Comfrey's anti-inflammatory, astringent actions can be used to effectively calm inflamed skin rashes, psoriasis and acne - an infusion can be strained and swabbed over the affected area, or apply Comfrey ointment - not only will it soothe and heal the skin, but also prevent scarring. It is also good for rough and damaged skin. A soothing bath can be prepared using a tablespoon of comfrey to 3 cups of milk, which should be slowly heated up and simmered before being strained into the bath water.

The healing actions of comfrey are so rapid that it should only ever be used on clean wounds, to prevent dirt or pus being trapped and possibly causing abcesses.

A potassium rich water for feeding tomatoes or marrow crops can be made by soaking the comfrey plant in water for a week.

Carried during travels Comfrey is believed to ensure a safe journey [unless customs find it in your luggage and assume it's a different herb!]

! Do not take during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding. Do not use on dirty wounds !


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