Comfrey
The Wonder Plant!

Comfrey surrounding the pond off our Ferrocement Patio

   Comfrey surrounding the pond off our Ferrocement Patio

Ok, so if you haven’t heard of Comfrey you are in for a serious TREAT!

INTRODUCING, the much coveted and sought after…

Russian Comfrey- BOCKING #4

Why Bocking #4, when there are 21 varieties of Comfrey? First off, it’s some of the EASIEST greenery on the planet to grow- You can’t really kill it (which is why you DON”T want the varieties that propagate from seed!) But honestly, why would you want to get rid of a plant that is a Beautiful Landscaper (complete with pretty purple flowers mid-season), is the first to leaf out after winter and the last to fade at summer’s end, is EXTREMELY hardy, UNBELIEVABLY USEFUL, can be harvested over and over again throughout the season and will quickly replenish itself, is drought resistant and can be planted from any piece of root or crown cutting!? Also, unlike wild and common Comfrey, Bocking #4 is a domesticated, non-invasive variety. But what you REALLY need to know is what this plant can DO FOR YOU!

*Right about here I’m obligated to tell you that… I’m NOT a Medical Doctor (..as IF you thought I WAS) no, I’m just the mother of 8 healthy kids. I am *required by law to tell you that my statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease for you, but rather, to inform you of the common uses and applications of Comfrey so that when YOU diagnose a problem, with or without the help of a physician (you’re actually NOT required by law, to take your ailments to a physician for diagnosis or treatment, but IF you determine it would be helpful, you may procure their expertise to assist you in the pursuit of your physical well being) YOU can treat, cure and prevent many physical issues.

Don’t mistake the “slow action” of herbs for “no action” (when you consider that herbal treatments are HEALING your body- not just masking symptoms, it’s easy to understand that they are MUCH FASTER ACTING UPON YOUR HEALTH THAN DRUGS) and consult a Naturopath, Midwife, Chiropractor, Herbal Guru, Physician or… Your Creator (since He’s got a pretty good idea of what you need). *This is an FDA required disclaimer.

FIRST, SOME FACTS:

  • It’s an excellent landscaping plant (if you harvest when mature and allow it to re-grow), can be helpful with erosion control, is EXTREMELY drought resistant, even more than Bocking #14 because it has deeper roots (8-10′ deep as opposed to 6-8′)
  • This natural hybrid is an extremely low-maintenance crop, resistant to rust and has very few problems with pests or disease.
  • Perennial in USDA Zones 2-9. Originating in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, it is cold hardy to -40, and can survive up to 120 degrees.
  • Seeds are sterile and it does not send out invasive runners. (It will eventually widen and propagate new plants around an established plant- which can be divided to replant elsewhere.)
  • You can replicate and divide from any single, 1″ piece of root or crown (crown pieces will leaf out faster than root pieces) and it can be planted ANY TIME the ground is not frozen! (For real- just stick a piece in the ground a couple inches below the surface and it will grow!). 1 caveat- it can take full sun, and is shade tolerant, but needs at least partial sun to thrive.

ON TO THE FUN STUFF!

FODDER

  • Bocking #4 has larger leaves, more yield of leaves (up to 100-120 tons/ acre), deeper root systems, and higher protein than Bocking #14 (the only other non-invasive option for production, fodder & medicinal use.)
  • It’s actually the fastest protein builder on earth (22-36% protein), and acre for acre can yield 20 times the protein of soy beans.
  • Makes GREAT animal fodder. Has a high allantoin content (a hormone-like substance found in the roots, stems, and leaves that encourages healthy cells to grow,) and has been widely cultivated throughout the world for centuries as fodder for: goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, ducks, chickens & horses (with Bocking #4 being the preferred variety.)
  • The only land plant known to derive and store Vitamin B-12 from the soil!
  • Can be used fresh and cut up in feed, dried for hay or crumbles, pelletized, and also used for silage.
  • Also nourishes earthworms, fish and birds.
  • Was historically consumed as food in times of famine (which may have eventually caused problems with excessive amounts of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids- which, conceivably was preferable to starvation).

FERTILIZER/ COMPOSTING

  • Bocking 4 Comfrey is a desirable cultivar for making a tea or compost to fertilize your garden, with an NPK ratio 1.8 / 0.5 /5.3.
  • A dynamic accumulator of nutrients from deep in the soil (which means it’s long roots harvest minerals 8′-10′ down and bring them up, making them available in the leaves), most notably iron, silicon, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and many trace minerals!
  • Provides extremely high biomass for potential methane gas and alcohol fuel.
  • Can be harvested many times throughout the year.

MEDICINAL

  • Bocking #4 is the only variety I would personally use for medicinal purposes (as well as forage) because of the low to nearly non-existent level of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in the leaves.
  • Has been used for centuries to treat a variety of pain and inflammation related issues including muscle, joint, ligament & tendon problems, inflammation, bruises, skin ulcerations, wounds, burns, eczema, psoriasis, bees stings, spider bites (including brown recluse) staph infections, bedsores, tumors, shingles, athlete’s foot, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, varicose veins, gout, sprains, strains, and bone fractures.
  • According to the US National Institute of Health in the National Library of Medicine, “…Several randomized controlled trials have demonstrated the efficacy and safety (of Comfrey root). Comfrey root extract has been used for the topical treatment of painful muscle and joint complaints. It is clinically proven to relieve pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in the case of degenerative arthritis, acute myalgia in the back, sprains, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents” .More on that article…
  • Historically comfrey has been used internally to treat GI ulcers, stomach and intestinal ulcers, inflammation, cough, internal hemorrhages.
  • The most common benefit associated with drinking comfrey tea is helping the digestive system to function better. It is used for upset stomach, ulcers, heavy menstrual periods, bloody urine, persistent cough, painful breathing (pleurisy), bronchitis, cancer, chest pain (angina). It is also used as a gargle for gum disease and sore throat.
  • Drinking comfrey tea may help expel mucous from your respiratory system that could be causing bronchial inflammation, pharyngitis or tonsillitis and it is said to calm spasms in the respiratory system, thus easing asthma attacks.
  • The multitude of vitamins and minerals found in this tea are said to be a great help to those who need to lower bad cholesterol levels and keep blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control. The antioxidant effect of such a rich comfrey infusion may help lower the risk of heart disease.

Comfrey- The Legendary Herb of Life

Symphytum Peregrinum

Also known as Quaker Comfrey, Russian Comfrey, Healing Herb, Knit Bone, Bruisewort, Knit Bond and Gum Plant. It is scientifically known as Symphytum Peregrinum Ledeb, which is the same as Symphytum asperum x officinale or Symphytum x uplandicum, of the Boraginaceae family.

SO WHAT MAKES THIS BABY FLY?

Comfrey contains a special substance called allantoin, which is a cell proliferative. In other words, it makes cells grow faster. This is one of the reasons why comfrey-treated bones knit so fast, wounds mend so quickly and burns heal with such little scarring. Additionally, it is rich in calcium salts and mucopolysacharrides which also encourage rapid growth of cells and tissue repair. The qualities of these elements that regenerate cells also serve to neutralize the cell-inhibiting action of the Pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Allantoin, the same substance that helps to regenerate cells, is found in the placenta of a pregnant mother which helps the baby grow rapidly. After the baby is born, allantoin is also found in the mother’s milk — abundantly at first and less so as the child grows.

Comfry is also rich in a number of other components such as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C and E and minerals like chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, germanium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc. It contains proteins, mucilage, phytosterols, saponins, tannins and inulin. All these components work together to make comfrey a potentially powerful healer.

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids…

The biggest issue with comfrey is the possible presence of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PA’s) which are toxic to the liver: These alkaloids have been found to be mutagenic and carcinogenic and because varying levels of them have been found in comfrey, it has been label unsafe for internal use by the Federal Drug Administration (hmm, since when did they become the Federal Herb Administration?). Most of the PA’s however, are found in the roots of the comfrey plant and the leaves of the Bocking #4 variety contain very little, it any of these alkaloids. Additionally, we need to put the actual toxicity level into perspective. Extrapolating from the HERP index (a scale that classifies cancer-causing potentials of various substances), former U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist James Duke, Ph.D., calculates that less than one fifth an ounce of brown mustard is twice as cancer-causing as comfrey tea, which has roughly the same cancer-causing potential as a peanut butter sandwich… EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! Wine is actually 144 times more cancer causing than an equal amount of comfrey tea… maybe the FDA didn’t realize? Also, grape skins contain high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and these skins are not removed to make wine (the FDA hasn’t even recommended it yet!?)

It’s also interesting to note that when the FDA did their studies on comfrey, they did not use Bocking #4 or #14, the strains cultivated for fodder & medicinal use and since the concentration of PA’s are in the roots, of course, they used extremely concentrated root extracts for their applications. Additionally, they did not allow the participating rats (volunteers, I’m sure…) to eat the comfrey as one might expect, but injected it under the skin so as to create an artificial irritation that surely would gain the desired result… yep, there we have it folks… TOXICITY! Surprise! Get more info.

Then the FDA trumped up some case studies to prove the harmful effects of comfrey, and of course, liberally reported them out of context, and now in spite of the fact that the entire world has been using comfrey medicinally for millennia, WITHOUT KNOWN SIDE EFFECTS, we have herbal paranoia because the FDA says so. Check out this article…. The truth is, that comfrey is such a threat to drug companies with it’s AMAZING healing power, that they had to do SOMETHING to curb it’s use. (What about the side effects of the drugs they endorse?)

Now granted, because the amount of PA’s in the leaves and roots can vary GREATLY especially from strain to strain, I wouldn’t eat or drink comfrey I got from anyone else (I’m never really interested in trusting other peoples identification of potentially harmful plants.) I would only ingest what I have grown and know is actually Comfrey… and the Bocking #4 variety.

RECOMMENDATIONS & TIPS

  • Topical application of comfrey can actually cause a wound or puncture to heal so quickly on the outside, that you have to be careful that it was well cleaned or debris and bacteria could be trapped inside causing infection.
  • Internal use of comfrey tea should be guaranteed pyrrolizidine-free.
  • The root contains 10-1000 times more Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids than the leaves (depending on the strain). PA’s can be toxic to the liver in high enough amounts. Do your own research before taking it internally (both root & leaf of comfrey is banned by FDA for internal use- whether they have PA’s or not). You should be especially cautious if you are a heavy alcohol drinker or have known liver issues.
  • I am personally limiting my intake of Comfrey to Medicinal rather than food substance (as of this writing), although there are definitely people who advocate it’s use as an inexpensive and beneficial green protein for human consumption.
  • Do your own research. Medicinal use of any product should governed by your need, balanced with understanding. The reason anybody ever uses ANY drug is because the need outweighs the side effects listed plainly on the bottle. When your condition is adverse, you must be the judge of whether the possible benefits are worth the possible costs.
  • Be careful not to till a patch of comfrey unless you are looking to exponentially increase propagation!

SO HOW DO YOU APPLY THIS THING?

EXTERNALLY

Here’s the short answer: smash some leaves up (preferably in a blender since we’re in the 21st Century- we usually start with 6 or more), add just enough water to get it to blend well, and a bit of flour to soak up the water and make a thick paste. Now… APPLY! Our favorite method of application has become: Spoon onto a doubled paper towel, slap it on the affected area, and generally, because you need something to hold it on, there’s nothing like a couple rounds of saran wrap over and around your leg (or mid-section, etc) to keep it in place. If you want to sound like an herbalist, we can call this a “poultice”, but really, there’s nothing complicated about it- except the herb itself!

My husband went through a REALLY painful episode recently, when he was diagnosed with pleurisy and/ or a blot clot on his lungs, and we wrapped him constantly with our saran device with AWESOME results.

INTERNALLY

Four medium sized Bocking #4 (PA free) leaves (chopped or shredded) in about a quart of water will make 4 cups of tea. We drink up to 1 cup, 3 times per day for a week or so depending on the reason. I think it’s a good idea to stop for a week and then repeat for 1 week if your condition permits it.

    

CONCLUSION

It is interesting to note that both the English word “comfrey” and the ancient Greek/Latin roots of “Symphytum” “comfort” “confer” and “confirm” are connected; to bring together, to unite, as in a symphony or harmony. Thus we have Comfrey – the Healer through the Ages!

Comfrey has been written about and referred to by many herbalists (Paracelsus, Pliny, Gerard, Dioscorides, Culpepper) over the last several centuries and has been very highly esteemed for its healing properties, and continues to be an incredible remedy.

 

WHERE TO GET LIVE BOCKING # 4 COMFREY ROOT?

RIGHT HERE! (includes shipping & money back guarantee to leaf out)

SMALL ROOT CUTTINGS- 10/ $20.00, about 2″- 3″ long and thinner than a pencil, these take the longest to sprout but are the best buy. Best planted in spring and summer.

LARGE ROOT CUTTINGS- 6/$18.00, about 3″- 4″ inches long each and about as thick as a pencil and thicker. These will start faster than the small cuttings. These can be planted in spring, summer and early fall. We may substitute crown cuttings for large roots.

CROWNS DIVISIONS- 3/$18.00. These are part of the plant when divided, and will sometimes have green sprouts out of the top. The green sprouts may die when planted but will grow back. These are your best bet if you are looking for comfrey ASAP. You can plant these spring summer and fall.

  • Planting stock is shipped via U.S. Mail.
  • ALL of our plants are always non-GMO & pesticide and herbicide free!
  • RISK FREE: All Comfrey roots come with our money back guarantee to leaf out.
  • Tip: If you’re trying to propagate new roots, one awesome way to do it is put a comfrey plant in a milk crate container, set it on the ground until the plant is established, then pull it off the ground, leaving lots of new little roots in the row.