Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Comfrey is a plant which you might recognise if you’re a gardener.  Many people on our wild foods and herbal remedies courses tell us that they use it as a fertiliser.  You simply put the plant into a bucket of water for a month or so to produce a dark brown sludge which can be diluted and poured onto the ground.

It is a common plant in the UK and grows in damp places.  It has bell shaped flowers, often purple or cream in colour.  You might also come across  a hybrid of S. officinale and Symphutum asperum, known as Russian comfrey.

Property : Mucilaginous, Astringent, Bitter,  Alkaloid containing herb

Constituent : Mucilage, Tannin, Alkaloids, Phenolic acid, Allantoin

Action : Vulnerary, Ant-inflammatory, Astringent, Demulcent, Antirheumatic

Indication : Topically for arthritis and rheumatism, Muscle and tendon injury, Injured joints and ligaments, Wounds, Chronic varicose ulcers, Fractures,

It has long been used for its healing and anti-inflammatory effects on bone fractures, arthritis, inflamed joints, cuts and wounds and other injuries.  This is due to the allantoin which encourages cell growth and softens the skin.

As an oil or ointment it can be applied to treat arthritis, rheumatism, tendonitis, pulled muscles, injured joints, back injuries, tendons and ligaments.

Be aware that comfrey contains pyrolizidine alkaloids that can obstruct small veins in the liver causing liver failure, so it shouldn’t be ingested; in fact oral products containing comfrey are banned in the UK.  Some experts only recommend minimal usage externally.

Remember, you should always seek advice from a qualified medical professional.

If you’re interested in wild plants, take a look at our Herbal Remedies course. You can see photos from previous courses on our Facebook page.

About Gary

Lead Instructor at Jack Raven Bushcraft, teaching bushcraft, wilderness and survival skills to groups and individuals.

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