At least 12 reasons to plant comfrey (Symphytum officinale) in your permaculture garden
Friday, 30th March 2012

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a wonder plant. It is a dynamic accumulator, drawing minerals out of the soil and into the roots and leaves, a compost accelerator, a fine ingredient in liquid manure (comfrey tea), beneficial insect attractor, mulch, weed suppressant (we use it as a border around our veg plot to stop the paths getting overrun with weeds, biomass accumulator, livestock forage, human edible (comfrey fritters), a wound healer and it was traditionally called 'knit bone' by herbalists as it helps heals fractures. It's an ideal permaculture plant!

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Phil Mason |
April 2, 2012 - 1:23pm

I dunno about comfrey tea for people. In the US comfrey for internal use is illegal and on foraging walks I give the official UK advice that it should not be eaten. I do steam a portion of leaves once a year and it tastes like "spinach with muscles".
It's great for grazes and is the absolute best thing to rub on nettle stings. Pick a leaf, spit on it, rub it between the palms till it starts breaking up, then rub on the affected area.

The purple comfrey in the video is Symphytum uplandicus (Russian Comfrey), the most common variety in my part of the UK (East London).

Symphytum officinalis is the white comfrey, which herbalists prefer.

If you want comfrey but don't want it seeding all over the place you can get Bocking 14 a variety of Russian Comfrey, which was developed by the Henry Doubleday Research Centre (now Garden Organic). You can divide it every couple of years to get lots of extra plants for yourself and to share with friends.

If like me you have sensitive skin, use gloves to handle the leaves. The hairs irritate my skin.

I use comfrey juice as a super fertilizer. Big bin; put bricks in the bottom; fill thick bag with leaves; stab holes in the bottom of the bag; stand bag on bricks; put weight on top of bag; put lid on bin. Leave for a couple of weeks and you will start getting comfrey juice to decant into bottles.

It smells foul, but is slightly less foul than when soaked in water. Dilute 10 to 1 for spuds or tomatoes; 20 to 1 for everything else.

Caravel |
April 3, 2012 - 7:49am

It's my understanding that the research that showed comfrey to cause liver damage was in fact done on the extracted pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which by themselves ARE toxic. However, the levels of these alkaloids are much lower in the leaf (particularly those gathered in late summer or autumn) than the root, so I personally don't feel comfrey leaf tea is anything to be concerned about; quite the reverse.
Comfrey's been used traditionally for, well, ever, really, including the root which historically was more prized than the leaves.

Peter Riefenthaler |
April 24, 2012 - 12:23pm
Jayne Walken |
May 1, 2012 - 11:02pm

My Grandmother used it as a poultice when my brother fell off his bike & fractured his skull and it did heal amazingly quickly!

Troublemaker |
March 26, 2013 - 8:13pm

I once tripped over a bulldog which seemed unmoved and accepted my apology. I had a very painful foot, which felt as though I had broken a bone in my foot. I had some Russian Comfrey in my garden, so tore up a couple or three large leaves, put them in a large bowl, infused them in boiling water then soaked my foot for 20 minutes. as soon as it was cool enough to bear. The pain went away and didn't return.

Now I suspect I have broken my ankle, I'd like to get some more.

Gordon Symphytum |
July 15, 2013 - 6:45pm

White flowering comfrey is a designer plant for the gardener very slow growing and bright white flower the common comfrey plant in its true wild form have a creamy yellow flower sometimes pinky and blue, I have dozens of each growing at Hanging Acre, Heysham. just google hanging acre heysham.

Wurzel Gummidge |
May 30, 2014 - 8:33pm

A few years ago I had an S1-L4 spinal fusion which involved packing between the vertebrae with bone shavings taken from my hip and securing them together with a titanium brace which was screwed in to the the vertebrae.

It was intended to remain in situ for a minimum of two years and until new bone regeneration had occurred sufficient to maintain immobility in the affected region.

However, I suffered serious infections,potentially lethal, two weeks and one years after the op. and it was decided to remove the titanium brace, since the bacteria survive in proximity to the metal where the antibiotics (vast intravenous doses) can not reach them.

The surgeon was impressed to find that the bone had regenerated and healed perfectly and in fact the brace, a very substantial piece of engineering has come loose and no longer functioning.

Pravitha Naidu |
September 27, 2015 - 10:10am

HI Wurzel,
how did you use comfrey to achieve such amazing results?

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