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Comfrey, Symphytum officinale

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, and I have known each other for a long time. We have had many adventures together. Like that time when Yeka and I dug out a beautiful specimen in the middle of the night and we apparently had such a tousle that the next morning a large part of the house turned out to be covered in mud. Yes, I have many fond memories of this plant.

Medicinal properties of comfrey, Symphytum officinale

Comfrey is a plant with many interesting medicinal properties. It is a plant that is good to have at your side with children in the house. Comfrey can treat just about any wound and contusion, from minor to severe. This plant helps well against sore throats to boot.
In the past, comfrey root was used internally for quite a few ailments as well. However, animal studies have shown that liver damage can occur in high doses. Although there is much to be said about the methodology of the studies involved and scientifically speaking the jury is still in deliberation, for the sake of caution internal use is discouraged at the moment.

Magical workings with this plant

In terms of magical properties, comfrey is best known for its protective effect during travel. Both traveller and luggage benefit from this property. It is regularly used in magical work to attract money. And if you have a broken bone, you can speed up the healing process by asking comfrey for help.

Botanical description Comfrey, Symphytum officinale

Comfrey grows on a succulent, black taproot that can grow up to 50 cm long. The root is white on the inside. The plant itself is usually around one metre high, but can reach a height of 1.5 metres.
The stem is square, hollow and branched; the leaves are deep green, ovate to lanceolate. Both are hirsute, so much so that they can feel spinose. The leaves are petiolate at the bottom of the plant – these are the radical rosette leaves – and higher up they are sessile. They are large, pinnate and coarsely veined on the underside.
From May to September, the plants bear bell-shaped flowers in nodding racemes. The flowers can show up in white, pink and various shades of purple. They are 2 to 4 cm in size. After flowering, the quadrilocular ovary appears, in which four black seeds will develop.

Interesting facts

The healing power of comfrey was already known in ancient times. It appears in written sources from that time.
Comfrey poultices were used to set and heal bone fractures before we had plaster casts.
Comfrey is famous for its soil-improving properties. Anyone who has done a thorough permaculture course is familiar with comfrey fertiliser and the horrible smell it can emanate.
Unfortunately, common comfrey – the plant we discuss in this monograph – is becoming rarer these days. Russian comfrey seems to be taking over, partly due to the hype that has arisen about its extra fertilising and growth-promoting properties in organic and permaculture circles. Since this plant contains many of the liver-damaging toxins I will discuss in the Medicinal properties section, this is not a good development for the medicinal use of comfrey.

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