Comfrey is the plant that can knit or close up your wounds and put you back together.
The book, "Back to Eden" by Jethro Koss, introduced me to comfrey, though I think I may have slipped over it's mention in literature before that.
The botanical name: Symphytum officinale. Its common names are Gum plant, healing herb, knitback, and slippery root. It has large dark green leaves with a furry, raspy texture, and had little bundles of white/reddish flowers.
Once rooted, it grows and multiplies and is hard to be rid of. At least, that's what Martha on the next block told me one day as I stopped by her garage sale. I had begun to have a real interest in herbs, so I said, "Oh, I think I've read somewhere that it is good for a lot of things." Martha encouraged me to dig up all I wanted on the east side of their house. I had a look, and decided to go home, and read up on it. In no time I had found a pail and a spade, and I was back at Martha's house to dig up a plant for myself!
In "Back to Eden" I read of its medicinal properties; demulcent, astringent, pectoral, vulanary, mucilaginous, stypic, nutritive. Kloss said it was good for anemia, asthma, and sore, swollen or caked breasts. (tea), boils and carbuncles, coughs, catarrh, tuberculosis, dysentery, Diarrhea (or bowel trouble), female troubles, gangrene, hemorrhages, kidneys, lungs, leucorrhoea or whites, pneumonia, ruptures, swellings, stomach, indigestion and gas, sprains, sores, scrofula, uninary problems, (scalding urine) Ulcers, open wounds. (See this page for definitions of these medicinal terms.)
"Comfrey is a powerful remedy," Kloss wrote, "In coughs, catarrh, ulcerated or inflammation of the lungs, consumption, hemorrhage, excessive expectoration in asthma, and tuberculosis. Very valuable in ulceration of the kidneys, stomach or bowels, or when sore. The best remedy for bloody urine."
A poultice of the fresh leaves is excellent for ruptures, sore breasts, fresh wounds, ulcers, white swellings, burns, bruises and sores. Comfrey tea taken internally is useful in scrofula, anemia, dysentery, diarrhea, leucorrhoea, and female debility. It has an excellent effect on inward bruises and pains. A poultice of the fresh leaves is excellent for gangrenous sours, gangrene, mortifications, and moist ulcers.
How to make the poultice? Mix equal parts of comfrey, ragwort, and woodsage and steep them in boiling water. Apply poultice to external cancers and tumors. They are most benefical and will give excellent results.
Maria Treben in Health Through God's Pharmacy, calls this herb the "knit bone, boneset, consound and bruise wort. She stressed how beneficial this plant is for relieving rheumatism and swelling of some joints. She even tells stories of people who were paralyzed through over exertion, dislocation, sprain or shock, and who recovered fully by applying a tincture of comfrey, or in some cases poultices of the mashed leaves.
I have no experience along these lines myself, but I do plan to harvest from my generous and healthy comfrey plant at my front door, and see. I suspect I have the start of varicose veins, and Maria Treben advises for this to add its leaves to my bath. Sounds easy enough! I'm game to try. Her book has directions for this, and for making an ointment... even a wine!
I don't drink wine. However, having also discovered what Earl Mindell writes below, I think I'll skip that altogether.
Earl Mindell's Herb Bible explains that we know now that comfrey contains allantoin a substance that helps stimulate the growth of new cells. These days it is being added to many cosmetics because of its benefits to all kinds of skin irritations. It also heals damaged tendons or ligaments. However it is not recommended for internal use. It contains as well, pyrroliziidine alkaloids which are compounds known to cause liver cancer. Rats fed comfrey leaves or roots have developed liver cancer. Investigations are still ongoing, but it would seem wise then, not to take this herb too often, or at least not internally.