Comfrey (Symphytum officinale, Symphytum uplandicum) is just coming into flower here in Amsterdam. It’s easy to identify now due to it’s broad, furry, fast growing leaves, it’s dropping purple or white flowers and it’s standout appearance as it towers over many neighbouring wild plants.
If you keep any plants, outside or in, I urge you to learn how to make the easiest liquid feed from nourishing Comfrey. If you don’t know about it’s deep and rapid healing effects on the body, I urge you to learn about them too and to keep some form of this plant in your herbal first aid kit.
Most of the Comfrey found wild and is gardens, descends from garden escapes of purple flowering, Russian Comfrey (S. uplandicum). It works just as well externally and as plant feed and its leaves don’t contain the toxins found in the roots and all parts of cream flowering, Wild Comfrey (S. officinale). The toxins are harmful when ingested. Because it’s hard to tell the two plants apart when they are not in flower, I suggest you always air on the side of caution and don’t use it internally. Today I photographed a white flowered Comfrey, the colour suggests it is Wild Comfrey but most plants in the park are purple flowering and the two are very interbred, so this may be a white flowering mutation of S. uplandicum. Either way, it is beautiful, useful and I will only use it externally or for my plants.
Comfrey can be applied directly as a poultice (for sprains for instance) made into a heat infused or a cold infused herbal oil which can be used for massage or blended with beeswax to make a healing salve. Worth mentioning, is that sometimes Comfrey may speed healing faster than you’d like, such as when infection is present in a wound. Ensure wounds are clean and healthy looking, not infected, when you begin using this herb. This will help to ensure the wound heals cleanly, a well as quickly. Comfrey also has a reputation as the herb to prevent or remove scars, both internally and externally by please remember my warning about internal use.
To make a superb and cheap liquid plant feed, simply immerse a couple of Comfrey leaves in water, in a bucket or similar. Leave it to ferment for a few weeks. You should see that the water becomes a dark and rich brew. Store this “Comfrey tea”in a suitable container and dilute well before feeding to your plants. A plastic bottle cap full, in a home watering can of water, should suffice. Use regularly, throughout the growing period, for pleasing results.
Here’s a link to an online Permaculture Magazine video article, about why we should all have a Comfrey plant on our patch. Be prepared, the video is ten minutes long and contain lots of info for people with vegetable gardens – If only! I don’t have space for one at home but I know where plenty grow! I hope you’ll have a look around and find some near your home also.
Comfrey is an essential herb to become well acquainted with, your plants will thank you and so will your body, when it needs to heal quickly.