I muse admit that I was inspired to write about this herb by Baroness Moira’s Bruise Cream. Our Barony’s very own Lady Moira dabbles a bit in herbs and has come up with a salve for putting on bruises that contains comfrey. I had known of this herb as one that is used for skin irritations. This is quite useful, especially for those who fight or who have fighters in the household.
Comfrey is often referred to as a “miracle worker”. The Greek term symphuo means “I hold together, I unite”. It was believed that Comfrey could mend broken bones and close open wounds. It is true that the roots contain allantoin (and the leaves to a lesser degree), a protein that encourages cell division. This speeds up the healing of wounds, and is used today by dermatologists.
This plant is filled with beneficial substances, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, as well as vitamins A, C and B12, but not in amounts large enough to meet our daily requirements. It also has more protein in its leaves than any other plant so it is often used as feed for animals. The German common name is Gemeiner Beinwell.
Comfrey is a hardy perennial that can be difficult to get rid of once you plant it. It grows 3-4 feet (60 cm) tall. The mauve-colored, bell-shaped flowers grow in clusters that bloom starting in late spring. The leaves are rough and dark green, they have an oval base and taper to a point.
This plant grows wild in almost all mild climates, but prefers full sun and damp soil. Plant carefully as comfrey grows like a weed and can be difficult to get rid of once you plant it. Comfrey can be grown from root offsets (root section with growing tip) at any time of year except midwinter. Pick the leaves in summer and dig up roots in autumn or winter. If you want to dry comfrey, it is best to harvest it in the fall.
The roots must be cleaned of all soil and allowed to dry in the sun. Slice them vertically and store them in glass jars. Flowers and leaves can be stored in light linen bags in a shady, airy place.
Young leaves can be chopped into salads or cooked as spinach.
The stem can be blanched like asparagus.
The leaves, which are high in potash, can be used as an ideal fertilizer for tomato and potato plants - soak the leaves in water for four weeks.
To make a mulch, pick the leaves and let them wilt for 48 hours.
Fresh leaves can be boiled to make a golden-brown dye for fabrics.
The leaves and roots can be used to make an infusion and used in baths and lotions to soften the skin. The leaves can be turned into an oil-like substance that should be used on skin inflammations. To make: pick clean, dry leaves and cut into one-inch squares. Pack into a clean jar with a screw-on lid. Store for two years in the dark. Do not open this jar. A viscous, amber liquid will form in which will be some sediment. This can be applied to eczema or other skin problems.
Fresh leaves can be made into a poultrice and placed on rough or itchy skin, aching joints, sores, burns, cuts, sprains and to reduce swelling around fractures.
A paste can be made from the roots (10 g per 1 dl water) and used in a poultrice. The roots can be ground and mixed with boiling water and used on pinched or swollen areas.
Note: It is recommended that gloves be worn when collecting Comfrey as the fuzz on the stems can irritate skin.
Note: Some authorities say that comfrey should not be taken internally.
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