Comfrey Medicinal Uses
Comfrey has several medicinal actions. It is known as a vulnerary and as an astringent. These properties make it useful in the healing of minor wounds, both internal and external. Comfrey can be used for minor injuries of the skin, where it will work to increase cell production, causing wounds to heal over rapidly. It can be used internally for stomach and duodenal ulcers, where it will have the same effect. Comfrey is also demulcent, producing a mucilage that coats and soothes irritated tissues. It will help reduce inflammation, and at the same time lessen scarring.
Comfrey also has expectorant properties and has a relaxing effect on the respiratory membranes. Since it helps relax and soothe membranes, it is useful in coughs, asthma, and bronchitis. As an astringent, comfrey can also help control slow bleeding, as in the case of ulcers.
Comfrey is a tall, rough-leaved plant found growing in waste places and old fields. It can become a nuisance since it reproduces rapidly—even from just a tiny bit of root.
Comfrey roots grow deep in the soil and are covered with a dark brown bark that reveals a white inner core when cut. The stems and leaves are covered with coarse, bristly hairs. Leaves are large near the bottom of the plants, up to 12 inches long, and get smaller toward the top. The stalks of lower leaves are long, and when torn, they produce tough and rubbery fibers that stretch before tearing. The leaves are lance- or oval-shaped, with softly pointed tips. They occur alternately along the stem and have simple, smooth margins. Generally, the leaves, stems, and roots all produce a extremely mucilaginous juice when broken. Plant height is up to 3 or 4 feet.
Comfrey flowers are generally purplish-blue, but may vary widely, ranging from white to pink with occasional yellowish tinges. The blossoms are bell-shaped and occur in a raceme at the tip of curved stem throughout the summer season. Flowers are 1/2 to 1 inch long, and die back to produce a cup-like capsule containing four seeds.
Both leaves and root are used medicinally, with the root being a bit more potent and mucilaginous than the leaves. Leaves are gathered from the healthy plant any time during its growing season, although the best time for a leaf harvest is during flowering. Bundle the leaves in very small hatches, and hang upside down out of the sun in a spot where there is good air circulation. Check the bundles daily to make sure that the leaves are not blackening or moldy.