It was because of comfrey’s reputation as a healing herb that we scrunched up its leaves and made a poultice to wrap on our daughter’s suspected broken leg. She was only two and had been playing on the trampoline.
We were staying on an island with only a day-ferry, and the last ferry had long gone. We kept the poultice on all night and in the morning took the ferry and went for an x-ray in Hobart.
The leg was indeed broken and had to be in a cast for five weeks. And whether it was the fast-healing properties of comfrey or the fast-healing ability of children we’ll never know, but she was walking on her cast within 5 days, as though she had already completely forgotten it was broken.
Chances are you have your own comfrey story. And chances are you already have comfrey growing in your permaculture garden. If not, there’s no better time to start than now.
Easy to grow (find a friend with a crop, separate out some of the roots, plant them, and water in) comfrey is highly valued as a healing herb. It is said to speed up cell growth, and so is used to heal broken bones, wounds and burns.
People have also used it to heal skin conditions, sunburn, insect bites, arthritis and rheumatism.
To use comfrey for wounds, sprains, skin conditions or broken bones you can simply crush the leaves to make a poultice and wrap it on the wound.
Alternatively, you could make a comfrey soak:
1. Bring one litre of water to boil in a pot.
2. Take off the heat and add a bunch of comfrey leaves.
3. Cover the pot and let it steep for 20 minutes.
4. Let it cool and soak the affected area for 20 minutes, 3 times a day.
But it doesn’t end there. Comfrey is also known as a ‘dynamic accumulator’, which means it’s good at ‘cycling’ minerals and other nutrients out of the soil, including compacted soils.
This makes comfrey an excellent fertilizer. You can throw the leaves onto your compost pile and get the extra nutrients into your soil that way. Or you can cut and throw comfrey leaves around other plants as a mulch.
If you’d like to make a liquid comfrey tea, the recipe goes something like this:
1. Fill a large bucket with water and add a bunch of comfrey leaves
2. Place a rock or something heavy on the leaves to keep them submerged
3. Let the brew sit for a few weeks
4. Strain and dilute with water to fertilize
So if you don’t already have this perennial, multi-purpose, fast-growing herb in your garden, then don’t delay. You’re bound to find a use for this most useful plant within no time.
Photo by Kathleen Hosking.