Symphytum Officinale

Comfrey is a great healer among plants. True, there is medicine in a lot of plants, but comfrey is especially known for it. It’s even in the name: according to A Modern Herbal, comfrey comes from Latin con firma because it was thought to strengthen broken bones. Its official name comes from ancient Greek symphio, which means ‘to unite’. The Dutch name of this plant is smeerwortel, which in English means as much as “a root to rub [in]”. This is literally what comfrey is used for, among other things.

Comfrey grows in Europe and parts of Asia, and can be found anywhere, but especially in watery areas – along riversides, streams and the like. It’s quite an elegant sight: the thick stems and pointy leaves (both can be quite prickly) and the bell-shaped flowers that are usually purple or cream-white, but can also be blue and even pink (The Modern Herbal tells us the shape of these flowers is also known as ‘scorpoid’, which makes sense if you look at the shape of the flowers and how they are positioned). The plant springs up around April, and blooms throughout summer into early autumn.

The working parts of comfrey can be found in its roots and leaves, although the roots are considered more effectual. They can be used internally as well as externally. Internally, comfrey helps against ailments such as diarrhea by making, for example, a tea or tincture of the roots. Externally, it helps healing wounds faster, by  applying a salve made of the powedered plant. As I also said in my piece about St. John’s wort; I’m not a herbalist and I will not randomly throw recipes online, but I have some good experiences with comfrey salves that help soothe an irritated skin. The recipes I know (that were made by other people who told me their ingredients) are usually quite simple. The simplest recipe is to make a mixture of sunflower oil and beeswax as a base and then add a macerate of comfrey (a macerate contains the parts of the plant that are soluble in oil). Salves like these help healing dry and irritated skins.


Mrs. M. Grieve. A Modern Herbal.