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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Herb of the Week - Comfrey

Comfrey - also commonly known as Boneset, Bruise Wort, Knitbone

Comfrey is another wonderful plant to have in your herbal pharmacy. It has remarkable powers of cell rejuvanation to speed healing of wounds and broken bones.


A perennial growing from 60cm to 1.2m in height. Although it prefers a damp soil, it can flourish under almost any condition, provided there is no drought. Once established it is hard to get rid of. It’s a great soil conditioner and stops running grasses in their tracks. Propagate by root division.
 When the flowers appear take a cut. Use a pair of shears and cut about 6 inches from the ground. Comfrey has little hairs on the leaves, which can irritate. Not quite a cactus but near, so wear gloves. It grows back very quickly. Dry the leaves and stalks – store in air tight containers until ready to use.  
Comfrey should be harvested at least 3 times a year. Just cut it down to a little above the ground and collect the stalks and leaves.
If you harvest the root be aware that even the smallest sliver of root left in the ground will grow into a full plant in no time. It can take over, so watch where you plant it as you’ll NEVER get rid of it again.

  Location and Preparation of your Comfrey Bed

Comfrey is a pretty tough plant that will grow from small pieces of root so do choose your location with care. It is easier to kill most weeds than comfrey. If you do need to move a comfrey bed the old bed will need to be killed off. Your best bet will be to use a weedkiller like ammonium sulphamate .

Comfrey will thrive in full sun or in partial to near full shade - there is usually a disused corner that will make a great site for your comfrey bed. It doesn't like thin, chalky soils and the roots go down a fair way so dig deeply and break up the subsoil to get it off to a good start. Light sandy soils will benefit from organic matter. Being a fleshy plant it will need a lot of water and a soggy patch will be a plus.

Turn the soil over and remove any perennial weed roots. Comfrey grows very densely and will be difficult to weed. It does tend to shade out most weeds once established. If you have any manure - even poultry manure - fork this into the top 6 inches of the soil. Comfrey is great for soaking up nutrients and, unlike most plants, will not burn with raw manure.

If you can, plant in March, April, May or September for best results. Start the plants off in pots - just to get them off to a good start - and then plant out.

Block plant around 2 to 3 feet apart and stand back. You will be surprised how quickly they grow.

Come winter, the plants go dormant and a good layer of manure can be applied.

Comfrey is best used the second year of its growth and after.

Medicinal Uses
Externally it decreases the healing time for skin wounds and irritations and has been shown to act as a mild analgesic.

Comfrey root and leaves are used externally in ointments, poultices, compresses, washes and salves.  Avoid deep or infected wounds with this herb, as comfrey speeds healing and can trap dirt, pus and bacteria within the underlying tissue.

Comfrey mends skin and helps bone tissue heal. It speeds the healing of wounds, cuts, lesions, bone breaks, ulcers, acne, and boils. Comfrey contains allantion, a protein which speeds up cell renewal.

 How to Make Comfrey Oil
To make comfrey oil, harvest fresh comfrey which is in flower. Chop coarsly and lightly stuff  in a jar until full.
 Cover with extra virgin olive oil ( organic if possible). Using a chopstick, poke the comfrey/oil mixture to get rid of any air bubbles and to push all the comfey down so it is completely covered by the oil. It is important that none of the herb is exposed to the air as it can rot and grow mold.
 Cover the jar top with a piece of paper towel and use a sealing ring or an elastic band to hold the paper towel on. Every day for a week or so, uncover the jar and stir and poke down the comfrey.
Leave to soak in the oil for another five weeks, keeping it out of direct sunlight.
After the six weeks of soaking , strain the comfrey through cheesecloth to decant the oil and store in a sealed jar. If the smell of the olive oil is too strong for you, you can store the oil with paper towel as a lid until the smell disapates, then cover it with a lid.  
How to Make Comfrey Salve
  It is very easy to make your own salves. Start with 8 ounces of an herbal oil and place in a non-metal pan. Add about 1/4 cup of beeswax. Heat over a very low heat until the beeswax is melted. ( do not boil!! Use a very low heat) To check the firmness of your salve, place a few drops on a plate and place in the freezer. After a minute or two, check the consistency. If it is too soft, add more beeswax; if too hard, add more oil. When you have achieved the desired consistency, pour into clean, glass jars and cool completely. Stored in a cool, dark place, your salves should keep for a couple of years but is best replaced the following year with a fresh batch from your new crop.

 Use as an ointment for burns, wounds,sore muscles, and broken bones.
How to make a Comfrey Poultice
Harvest fresh comfrey and chop coarsly. Fill a blender 3/4's full and cover the plant material with water. Blend until it's completely mushy. Put the mixture into a bowl and add flour a handful at a time until the mixture has thickened enough to stay in place when put on the material.
Using an old sheet or cloth, put about one cup of the mixture into the middle of a piece of sheet. Fold over the sides, then fold over the ends to completely contain the poltice. Pat down until the poltice starts to seep through the material, then place on the body part neededing attention.
You can make more poultices with the leftovers and place them in a sealed baggy with wax paper between each one and place them in the freezer for future use. You can use them cold for burns etc or add a bit of water to one on a plate and reheat in the microwave to use for a broken bone or aching muscles.
Comfrey tincture:
You should plan to start your tinctures on the day of the new moon and let them sit at least 2 weeks until the full moon - this adds a natural drawing power.


Dried or fresh herbs in powdered or finely chopped form.

80 -100 proof vodka or rum (NEVER use rubbing, isopropyl or wood alcohol).

Wide-mouthed glass jars with lids (mason jar or equivalent).

Unbleached cheesecloth or muslin.

Labels and markers.


Pour the amount of herb you desire into the glass jar and slowly pour the alcohol until the herbs are entirely covered. Then add an inch or two of additional liquid.

Seal the jar tightly so that the liquid cannot leak or evaporate. Put the jar in a dark area or inside a paper bag.
Shake the jar every day for 2 weeks.

When ready to bottle, pour the tincture through a cheesecloth into another jar or dark colored tincture bottle. Squeeze the saturated herbs, extracting the remaining liquid until no more drips appear.

Close the storage container with a stopper or cap and label.

 Rub into sore aching muscles and joints for relief of arthritis.


200 grams dried or 300 grams of fresh herbs (chopped) to one liter of liquid is needed.

Tinctures can last up to two years when stored in a tightly closed container.

A wine press or juicer may be used to extract liquid from the herbs.

General Safety Advisory

The information in this document does not replace medical advice.

Before taking an herb or a botanical, consult a doctor or other health care provider -- especially if you have a disease or medical condition, take any medications, are pregnant or nursing, or are planning to have an operation.
Before treating a child with an herb or a botanical, consult with a doctor or other health care provider.

Like drugs, herbal or botanical preparations have chemical and biological activity. They may have side effects. They may interact with certain medications. These interactions can cause problems and can even be dangerous.

If you have any unexpected reactions to an herbal or a botanical preparation, inform your doctor or other health care provider.


  1. Boneset usually refers to eupatorium perfoliatum.

    Otherwise, nice post. Any thoughts on True vs Russian comfrey?

  2. Hi: I love the information:
    I want to make a salve, however, in your recipe where does the comfrey come in and how much, do you put it in the boiling water? Thanks,

  3. Why shouldn't rubbing alcohol be used to make comfrey tincture?


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