Comfrey has a deep taproot; oval, pointed, rough-textured leaves; and blue-mauve, tubular flowers in late spring. It contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and allantoin, which speeds cell renewal in damage muscles and broken bones. Leaf tea treats inflamed, ulcerated digestive tracts and coughs. A leaf poultice reduces swelling and bruising around sprains and arthritic joints and speeds healing of cuts, burns, open sores and eczema. The leaves make excellent manure and fertilizer. Concentrated root alkaloids fed to rats have been linked to liver cancer so use of Comfrey is restricted in some countries. Further research suggests, however, that the whole plant may have anti-cancer properties. Internal use of roots and large amounts of leaves should be avoided.
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale is a perennial herb of the family Boraginaceae. It is native to Europe and temperate Asia. It can be found growing in damp, grassy places, and is widespread throughout Ireland and Britain on river banks and ditches.
The genus name Symphytum was used by Dioscorides. It is taken from the Greek sympho or symphein, meaning “to grow together,” and phyton, the word for ‘plant’. It refers to the joining or growing together of the base of the leaf and the stem on which the leaf is borne.
The species name officinalis means that it was officially recognised as a medicinal herb. The word is derived from the Latin means literally ‘of or belonging in an officina,’ a storeroom (of a monastery) for medicines and necessaries’. It conjures up images of a storeroom where apothecaries and herbalists stored their herbs.
It is commonly known as Common Comfrey, Boneset, Knitbone and Slippery-root.