Common Name: Comfrey
Botanical Name: Symphytum officinale
Place of origin: There are 40 types of comfrey, and the different varieties can be found natively in Europe, Asia, and North America. In the wild it grows along riverbanks and in wildflower meadows. The most common type of comfrey is Russian Comfrey, which was brought to Great Britain in the year 1800. From here, it was popularized and is now grown in many North American and European gardens.
Ideal growing conditions: Comfrey requires very little maintenance and is a hardy herb. It prefers full sun, but will also do well in part-shade as long as it gets three hours of sunlight a day. Plant comfrey in loamy well-drained soil for best results. Ideally, the healthy soil should be deep because comfrey has a deep tap root, but this is preferable — not a dealbreaker. When your comfrey is young be sure to water it consistently so that the young plant is frequently damp. As it gets older, it will become more drought resistant and require less care. Comfrey is a perineal and will survive in hot and colder climates, and will naturally winterize itself by dying back in the fall, and reappearing in the spring.
Parts of the Plant to use: Starting around mid-spring, you can harvest the leaves of your comfrey. To do so, simply cut off any leaves that are roughly the size of your hand. This plant grows quickly, so you can harvest the leaves around four times a year. For some people the leaves can irritate their skin, so I recommend wearing gloves if you find that this is a problem for you.
Benefits/Properties: Comfrey is a toxic plant that damages the liver so it is very important to note that for both humans and animals, it should not be taken orally or used on open wounds. The primary use for comfrey is for medicinal topical remedies.
Culinary: DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT!
Medicinal: To make a poultice (a soft, moist mass of material, applied to the body to relieve soreness and inflammation and kept in place with a cloth), you will need comfrey leaves, hot water, and a wet cloth. Macerate a few comfrey leaves and mush them up with a little bit of hot water. You only need to add enough hot water to make a paste. Put the paste directly on any topical wounds like bruises, closed sores, or inflamed areas of the skin. Then cover the paste with a damp cloth and let it sit for 10-15 mins. This poultice should help heal swellings, inflammations and sores. Comfrey also has tissue regenerative abilities and is helpful in destroying harmful bacteria.
Any cautions: This plant is toxic to ingest.