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Comfrey as an Herb

Comfrey as an herb

Symphytum officinale

Other Names: Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Boneset, Bruisewort, Consound, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Knitback, Knitbone, Salsify, Slippery Root, Wallwort, Consolida, Boneset

Comfrey is a native of Europe and temperate Asia and is common throughout England on the banks of rivers and ditches, and in watery places generally. The plant is is naturalized in the U.S.

The root is slimy and horn-like when dried.

Comfrey as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

A poultice of Comfrey heals wounds, burns, sores, and bruises. It is a powerful remedy for coughs and ulcers. The root is more effectual than the leaves and is the part usually used in cases of coughs.

Comfrey is most often used for healing broken bones and sprains. It also is used in treating asthma. Large amounts taken over a period of time can cause liver damage, but there are no indications of problems with using it externally. Used internally, it is best and safest to use a tea, rather than capsules.

As the plant abounds in mucilage, it is frequently given whenever a mucilaginous medicine is required and has been used like marshmallow for intestinal troubles. It is very similar in its emollient action to marshmallow, but in many cases is even preferred to it and is an ingredient in a large number of herbal preparations. It forms a gentle remedy in cases of diarrhea and dysentery. A decoction is made by boiling 1/2 to 1-ounce of crushed comfrey leaf in 1 quart of water or milk, which is taken in wine glassful doses, frequently.

Comfrey Leaves Dried

A strong decoction, or tea, is recommended in cases of internal hemorrhage, whether from the lungs, stomach, bowels or from bleeding piles. It is to be taken every two hours until the hemorrhage ceases. In severe cases, a teaspoonful of Witch Hazel extract is added to the Comfrey root tea. Alternatively, the powdered root moistened with a bit of vegetable oil and applied as a paste can be used for hemorrhoid treatment. A decoction of the root has been used as a mouthwash for sore throat, hoarseness, bleeding gums.

A modern medicinal tincture, employed by homoeopaths, is made from the root with spirits of wine, 10 drops in a tablespoonful of water being administered several times a day.

Comfrey leaves are of much value as an external remedy, both in the form of fomentations and as a poultice. The whole plant, beaten to a cataplasm and applied hot as a poultice, has always been deemed excellent for soothing pain in any tender or inflamed body part. It is useful in any kind of inflammatory swelling.

Internally, the leaves are taken in the form of an infusion, 1 ounce of the leaves to 1 pint of boiling water.

Comfrey has also been used for post-menopausal vaginal dryness: Combine an egg white with the contents of a vitamin E capsule and a couple drops of comfrey extract. Has also been used in combination with other herbs as a douche for yeast infection.

A wash has been used for blisters and a salve cold sores. Comfrey has also been used in the bath for hives and rashes.

For dandruff a couple of drops of the tincture has been added to regular shampoo.

Comfrey was used in Southern Appalachian folk medicine as a treatment for coughs and sprains (Cavender 2003). Folk practitioners used comfrey ointments to treat bruises and sprains (Fleming 2000; Maiscott 2000). Wichtl (2004) reported folk use of comfrey for rheumatism, bronchitis, and pleurisy. Comfrey has been assumed to heal bone, hence the name knitbone.

Comfrey Poultices

Combine fresh chopped root in a little hot water to make a thick mash; spread on cloth and apply; renew every 2 to 4 hours. OR, place chopped leaves or root in a muslin bag then place in a shallow bowl; pour boiling water over the bag to soak; allow to set until cooled enough to handle comfortably; shake off excess water and apply; this produces a good amount of mucilage which should be left to dry on the skin; (bag needs to be boiled before using again so it is advisable to have a spare ready to use); leaves can also be pureed.

Alternate comfrey poultice: Use a poultice made of fresh comfrey root or leaf to help heal cuts, abrasions and other injuries to the skin. Place comfrey in a blender with enough calendula tincture to make the blades function. Blend into a wet mass. Place the comfrey directly against the skin if there are no deep lacerations. Otherwise spread onto a muslin pad, thin cheesecloth or gauze bandage so debris won't penetrate the wound. Leave on about 30 minutes. Use the comfrey poultice several times per day for an initial injury. Poultices last several days in the refrigerator. Although comfrey helps knit many minor wounds, serious injuries should be examined by a physician.

Hand Treatment

Moisturizes and softens chapped hands.

3 tablespoons almond meal
2 tablespoons dried comfrey root
1 tablespoon copped parsley
1 egg
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon glycerin

Mix the almond meal, comfrey root, and parsley in a mall bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine the egg, honey and glycerin. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the almond mixture. Dip your hands in the concoction and gently massage it in, giving special attention to the area around the nails. Let it penetrate for about 30 minutes; rinse off with warm water. Will keep 5 days refrigerated.

Cradle Cap Remedy

For baby's irritated scalp.

2 ounces dried comfrey root, cut up
1 quart water

Place the comfrey root in the water in a medium-size saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and discard the comfrey root. Let the remaining liquid cool until tepid. With a washcloth, gently work the rinse into the baby's scalp or use after a shampoo. Let it dry naturally on the scalp. Repeat the process nightly until the irritated area clears up. Will keep 4 days refrigerated; heat to skin temperature before using. Yield: 4 rinses. Caution: If condition persists more than 7 days, call your doctor.

Other Uses for Comfrey

A strong decoction has been used on the Continent for tanning leather, and in Angora a sort of glue is got from the common Comfrey, which is used for spinning the famous fleeces of that country.

Culinary Uses of Comfrey

Comfrey Leaf Comfrey is no longer considered safe for consumption; however, it has been used - and in some cases still is used - in interesting ways:

"In cookery, the leaves gathered young may be used as a substitute for spinach; the young shoots have been eaten after blanching by forcing them to grow through heaps of earth." Source: A Plain Plantain

The young leaves form a good green vegetable, and are not infrequently eaten by country people. When fully grown however, they become coarse and unpleasant in taste. They have been used to flavor cakes and other food. They were also cooked like spinach and mixed with white sauce and grated cheese. Other uses - comfrey leaf fritters (leaves dipped in batter and fried); sprinkle dry crushed leaves over food as a seasoner.

In some parts of Ireland Comfrey is eaten as a cure for defective circulation and poverty of blood, being regarded as a perfectly safe and harmless remedy.

Comfrey roots, together with Chichory and Dandelion roots, are used to make a well known vegetation 'Coffee,' that tastes practically the same as ordinary coffee.

Wine was once made from the roots of comfrey.

Folklore

An old belief was for a woman to bathe in a comfrey bath before marriage in order to restore her hymen, thus restoring her virginity (yes, it had a 100 percent failure rate). A leaf was once placed in the shoe to insure a safe journey.

In Chinese Traditional Medicine the dry roasted root is said to increase 'yang'.

Cautions

Comfrey consumed in excessive amounts may damage the liver. Comfrey has the ability to aid in the healing of tissues but can cause severe or even fatal liver damage in rare instances.

Comfrey is contraindicated in pregnancy and in nursing mothers.

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