Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Symphytum officinale
A member of the borage family, comfrey has large, hairy broad leaves, black turnip-like roots and bell-shaped pale blue, purple, white or pink flowers.  It grows to a height of 4 feet and a width of 2-3 feet.  It will grow in full sun, but prefers part shade and benefits from a layer of mulch.  The seeds may be planted in spring or divisions or root cuttings made in autumn.  The plants should not be harvested the first years to allow the plants to become established, but mature plants may be harvested 4 or 5 times between April and September.  The best time to harvest is before flowering for the most potent nutrients, and the plants should be cut 2” above the ground.  It is difficult to remove comfrey once established because it has very deep roots and any fragments left in the soil will regrow.

Cultivated since 400 BC as a healing herb, comfrey, also called bruisewort or knitbone, is native to Europe and Asia.   Its name comes from the Latin con firma meaning “with strength” and the gummy root was once used to spread on muslin and wrap around a sprain, torn ligament or set broken bone because it stiffened into a cast.  The root contains allantoin which also increases the healing of wounds.  The leaves may be applied externally as a poultice to reduce inflammation and promote healing.  Comfrey oil and soothing salve can also be used for wounds, inflammations, rashes and just about any skin problem.

Comfrey is also an important herb to the organic gardener, having many fertilizer uses.  It is high in vitamins A, B12, C as well as calcium, phosphorus and potassium and its high moisture content help the leaves break down rapidly to enrich the soil.  The fresh cut leaves may be used as a mulch or as a soil amendment in planting holes, they may be added to the compost pile as an activator, and they may be used to make a liquid tea for a fertilizer or pest preventative.  Seven plants will provide for a continual supply of leaves for garden uses.

Harvest and chop comfrey leaves and fill a container half full. 
Add water to cover the leaves and steep for a few hours or a few weeks,
being sure to stir it every now and then. 
It smells foul, so brew away from sensitive noses! 
Strain and use full strength or diluted to the color of weak tea. 
It’s great for watering stressed plants. 

Other herbs may be added to the “tea” including:
chicory (potassium, calcium, vitamin A)
dandelion (vitamin A & C, calcium, potassium)
nettle (numerous nutrients)
parsley (vitamin A & C, iron, copper, manganese)
perilla (iron, calcium)
watercress (vitamins, calcium, manganese, iron)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters
Psalm 24:1-2

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