How to Grow and Use Comfrey

Overview

Comfrey (Symphytum spp.) is a European and Asian native plant cultivated for hundreds of years as a forage crop and for its medicinal uses. Comfrey was often eaten as a high-mineral spring green, but physicians now recommend against ingesting comfrey, citing potential carcinogenicity. The Latin name for comfrey means "growing together" and refers not to the plant's growing characteristics but rather to its healing properties, particularly in healing wounds. Use comfrey as an external salve as well as in your compost as a potent bio-activator.

Step 1

Dig a hole 2 feet wide by 2 feet deep with a pointed shovel. Refill the hole half way with fresh manure, then refill the hole to the top with top soil removed in digging.

Step 2

Plant comfrey plants in the freshly dug area by scooping a small area of dirt aside with your hands, about the size of the root ball of the plant, inserting the plant roots just to the beginning of the leaves, and backfilling around the plant with the scooped-aside dirt. Water thoroughly using the hose.

Step 3

Water comfrey daily for the first week after planting, then weekly for three weeks thereafter. Water only occasionally when there has been severe dry weather thereafter; comfrey develops long tap roots drawing water and nutrients from deep in the soil.

Step 4

In the early spring or summer following the initial planting, place 2 oz. of beeswax and 2 cups of vegetable oil in heavy saucepan on the stove and warm at the lowest setting. Pick fresh young comfrey leaves of sufficient quantity to fill the saucepan. Warm leaves in oil and beeswax for 1 hour. Turn off heat and immediately pour mixture through mesh kitchen strainer into half-cup glass canning jars. Put lids on the jars, allow mixture to cool, then store in the refrigerator until needed. Use this comfrey salve externally on wounds, cuts, burns and bruises.

Step 5

When comfrey flower stems fall over midsummer, cut the whole plant back to the ground with utility shears and place the leaves in the compost pile, turning them into the compost. Repeat this process when the leaves start to die back in the fall. Top-dress the comfrey plant with aged compost in late fall.

Things You'll Need

  • Comfrey plants
  • Fresh livestock manure
  • Pointed shovel
  • Hose and water
  • Beeswax
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 heavy saucepan
  • Compost pile
  • Compost
  • Mesh kitchen strainer
  • Utility shears
  • Half-cup canning jars with lids

References

  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Alternative Field Crops Manual--Comfrey
  • University of Arkansas-The Dirt: Comfrey Salve
  • Bountiful Backyards: Elderberry, Comfrey, Planting 101

Who Can Help

  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Conquering Comfrey
Keywords: grow comfrey, use comfrey, comfrey herb

About this Author

Cindy Hill has practiced law since 1987 and maintained a career in freelance writing since 1978. Hill has won numerous fiction and poetry awards and has published widely in the field of law and politics. She is an adjunct instructor of ethics and communications.