July 2013
The Herb Lady

Comfrey

In the early 1970s, a popular monthly magazine printed a short article about comfrey (Symphytum officinale) as well as a picture of the herb. I had never heard of this plant. In fact, I had no interest in the culture and use of herbs at that time. However, I clipped the comfrey article and still have it with a large collection of herb-related literature.

In the 1980s, I developed a profound interest in herbs. Naturally I obtained a comfrey plant. One supplier advertised comfrey with these words: "A poultice made of crushed leaves from this herb is thought to heal cuts and sores. Plants grow to about four feet with large purplish foliage. Easy to grow. Likes full sun. Ornamental enough for flower beds."

A health-related monthly publication printed these words in February 1976: "Comfrey has so many medicinal uses that people tend to forget what a nice addition to salads it makes. A perennial that takes little work once it’s established, it yields some of the first greens in spring and the last greens of the fall.

"Comfrey leaves contain vitamins A, C, E and the B vitamins – not only the usual B complex found in green plants but B-12, the anti-anemia vitamin usually found in meat products. Because its roots go deep it is full of trace minerals. And, if all this were not enough, the protein content is high.

"One or two comfrey plants will supply an average family. Animals understandably love this green. For human use, it can be drunk as tea, used in stews, or the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked."

Once an elderly member of the Herb Society of America wrote, "I have used comfrey like spinach for years and I am as healthy as a horse."

She advised using leaves, but not the roots.

I have collected much evidence of the wonders performed by the use of comfrey. Much of this evidence comes from personal use. Much more has been given to me by others who learned of my interest in herbs.

A young girl could not regain her natural, healthy coloring following a bout of bleeding ulcers. (Bleeding was controlled by her doctor’s prescriptions.) Someone suggested she drink comfrey leaf tea. After drinking three or four cups of this tea daily for several weeks, she became a bright-eyed, vibrant young lady with glowing cheeks. This beautiful, apparently healthy, young woman told me her story several years after the related event.

An elderly gentleman reported he drinks this tea regularly and has done so for a good many years to control arthritic-type pain. He has experienced no negative reactions to comfrey.

Another elderly gentlemen’s lower leg was amputated. Time went by, but his "stump" just would not heal properly, so he could not begin to wear his artificial limb. Finally, comfrey poultices were applied to the wound. He healed. Now he enjoys walking with his brand-new lower leg.

My son sprained his ankle. The next morning his injury was painfully swollen. I applied a comfrey poultice and elastic bandage. That night he reported that all swelling and discomfort had subsided. In fact, he had forgotten about his sprained ankle.

My husband was bitten on his lower body and legs by approximately 100 fire ants. He immediately applied the fresh sap of comfrey leaves. For several days, the tiny red spots were visible. However, he didn’t experience itching or other discomforts usually associated with fire ant bites.

Occasionally I have an ulcer in my mouth. I chew a small piece of comfrey leaf, hold it in place on the affected area, and eventually swallow the herb. My ulcer usually disappears with only one treatment of this sort.

I could write a book about the wonders of comfrey, but now I must tell you about its negative side. In other words, I must warn you of possible dangers of using this great gift of nature. There are confirmed reports that excessive use of comfrey can be bad for your health. I am forced to accept this fact even though not one of the many people I have interviewed has ever reported any health complications due to their use of comfrey.

It has been determined that some comfrey contains a substance which can cause severe health problems. The reports I have received state these health problems are more common in Jamaica, Africa and India.

I continue to use comfrey in ointments and poultices. I don’t hesitate to have a cup of comfrey tea whenever I desire. I never consume a large amount at one time.

(As always, I advise you to check with your doctor before taking herbal products.)

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..