Comfrey’s Latin name symphytum comes from the Greek sympho meaning ‘to unite’. Comfrey is from the Latin confirmare meaning ‘to join together’. This gives a good idea of comfrey’s healing abilities. Culpeper wildly claimed that ‘the roots being applied outwardly, cure fresh wounds or cuts immediately, being bruised and laid thereto; and is specially good for ruptures and broken bones, so powerful to consolidate and knit together that if they be boiled with dissevered pieces of flesh in a pot, it will join them together again.’ Although comfrey is not as magical a healer as Culpeper believed, it does contain allantoin, a compound that speeds cell renewal in muscles, connective tissue and bones. For over 2 000 years herbalists have used ‘knitbone’, as it was commonly called, to speed the healing of broken bones, fractures, bruises and burns. It is also effective for slow-healing wounds, painful joints and various skin conditions.
It is excellent for longer-term muscle or bone damage, such as osteoarthritis. Apply to slow-healing wounds, burns, dry skin and varicose veins. Will reduce scarring and prevent stretch marks.
Although it has been taken internally for centuries, recent studies show that comfrey contains potentially toxic alkaloids, so avoid internal use. Be careful when working with comfrey as its leaves are prickly and can cause a rash. Make sure wounds are well cleaned before applying comfrey, as rapidly healing skin might close an infection inside the wound.