The common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a perennial herb of the family Boraginaceae. It grows on river meadow, dikes, in damp and grassy places. The plant grows from a black rhizome and blooms during the whole summer. Its spear leaves and stem are covered with hair. The flowers are first purple and then become blue. This perennial plant grows up to 50-80 cm, its finger-thick, outside black inside yellow, slimy roots go a few meters deep into the ground.
It propagates by itself or it is propagated by root cuttings.
Traditionally it is also called: knitbone, boneset or comfrey root.
The drug from its root contains allantoin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, 8-10% tannins and mucilage. The leaves contain a significant quantity of tannins, alkaloids, as well as proteins, glicozide and choline.
The drug is contained in the roots of the plant, picked from the end of autumn (when the leaves dried off) till early spring (when first leaves appear). Sometimes the leaves are also used; they need to be collected before bloom. Wildcrafting comfrey must happen in dry weather. Pay attention to gather only healthy leaves and roots, separated the two different kinds of drugs. Use a basket, paper bag, paper box or a net.
Wash the roots in clear water in order to remove soil and impurities.
It is recommended to dry the drug in a warm but airy space, without piling up several layers in order to dry it as fast as possible, especially the root drug. The roots stay be white inside, but the leaves a lighter nuance of green, if dried properly.
It is used for treating poorly healing wounds, as well as for arthritis and rheumatic pains.
The roots –fresh or dried- might be used externally as a powder, in unguents, tinctures or for poultice. The unguent made of comfrey contains allantoin and helps the cell regeneration process, i.e. cell division, cell growth, epidermis formation, as well as generates lymph if joints lose liquid.
Having an anti-inflammatory effect, the unguent, poultice and tincture helps healing fractures, sprains, contusions, rheumatics, as well as purulent wounds or other injuries.
The leaves are used fresh or dried for tea, bath or hip-bath. The tea alone or mixed with marigold can be used as a treatment of duodenum and gastric ulcer. The tea made of the roots has similar effects. The main ingredients of calming and wound-healing tea are comfrey and marigold. Since it leads to liver failure (due to its large quantity of pyrrolizidine alkaloid) and contains carcinogenic substances, consult your doctor before using it. Its long-term ingestion is not recommended at all.
It is recommended as a bath for rheumatic pains, gout, vertebral disk injuries and as a hip-bath for varicose vein, as well as an aftercare in case of fractures.
We also use it in mixtures for bronchial problems, since it has cough sedative effects. The strong extract of the root is recommended for rinsing the mouth or inflamed throat.
From my own experience: my younger son had AD (atopic dermatitis). It means the inflammation of a large surface of skin that causes dry and itching spots. The marigold unguent tempered the inflammation, but did not help regenerating the skin and the dry spots. Then I prepared an unguent from pork fat and comfrey which grows in our garden. I dag out in winter 4 roots, washed and chopped it into small pieces. I melted 200 g of pork fat and put the root pieces in warm fat for 5-6 minutes, then let it cool. On the following day I heated up the mixture again and strained the fat. I keep the unguent in the fridge.
I creamed the skin of my child every morning with homemade marigold unguent, then with comfrey unguent. In two weeks the recovery was visible, the spots withdrew. I apply the unguent in the evening on the spots left.
Beside this my son got a homeopathic treatment, as well as gemmotherapy, but those did not remedy the dry skin spots. The comfrey unguent was the only curative balm.