Comfrey (Symphytum officinale ) Herbal Monograph

Posted by Nathan on 9th Oct 2017

Symphytum officinale

Latin Name: Symphytum officinale

Common name(s): Comfrey, Knitbone

Family: Boraginaceae

Botany: Comfrey is a fast growing, perennial herb with large leaves and small, various colored, bell shaped flowers.

Habitat: It’s native to Europe and prefers growing in damp, grassy places, but can also grow elsewhere.

History/Folklore: Comfrey has a long history of use in Europe. In Ireland, the herb was commonly applied topically to cuts and wounds, and used for colds. In addition, folk herbalists there used Comfrey to treat the following: toothaches (County Kilkenny), kidney issues (County Tipperary), warts and other skin issues (County Limerick). There are also records of Irish use of Comfrey juice topically to improve general skin complexion.

Parts used: leaf, root

Actions: tonic, demulcent, expectorant, vulnerary, astringent, anti-inflammatory

Medicinal use: Comfrey is a premier first aid herb. It rebuilds tissues, stops hemorrhaging, and helps heal wounds, sprains, fractures, bruises and stomach ulcers. The chemical allantoin in Comfrey increases cell proliferation, shortening (sometimes significantly) recovery time after injuries and surgeries. Comfrey is a general aid to digestion as well, and helps the pancreas regulate blood sugar levels. The demulcent properties are soothing to the lungs and help control coughs.

Common preparation: salve, poultice, tea (leaf infusion), tincture

Contraindications: There is some controversy about taking Comfrey internally, especially root preparations. Comfrey root contains pyrilizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage.

Notes: The young leaves can be eaten in moderation. Due to their heavy nitrogen content, Comfrey leaves are often added to compost piles to help stimulate composting. They’re also used by organic farmers and gardeners to make a compost tea that is highly beneficial as a fertilizer for young seedlings.


Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. 1990, Pocket Books, New York.

Chevallier, Andrew. Herbal Remedies. 2007, Metro Books, New York.

Allen, David and Gabrielle Hatfield. Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition: An Ethnobotany of Britain and Ireland. Timber Press: Portland, Oregon, 2012.