Comfrey is a hardy perennial herb. This upright leafy plant flowers from May through the first fall frost with blue, yellow or white flowers. Each winter the comfrey plant dies down to the roots only to reappear in the spring. Comfrey grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet. Comfrey's natural habitat is along stream banks and in moist meadows. The Greeks discovered this herb's healing properties around 400 B.C.E. It has been a main component in natural medicine for centuries.
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Grind up fresh comfrey leaves in a blender to create a compress. Apply this mixture on bruises, external wounds and sores. Comfrey contains allantoin that promotes cell and tissue growth. Wounds heal quicker when compounds containing allantoin are applied. Comfrey destroys bacteria-causing infections. Steep dried comfrey leaves or ground up comfrey roots in hot water. Do not boil comfrey, since high temperatures destroy the allantoin. This mixture can be used to benefit athlete's foot, bedsores, burns, insect bites, eczema, psoriasis and sprains. Comfrey oils and creams should only be used for less than 10 days.
Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are toxic to the liver. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are linked to veno-occlusive liver disease, which is contracted through oral digestion. These alkaloids can cause death. Do not take comfrey and other herbs that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids orally.
Comfrey was used historically as a treatment for gastrointestinal illness. Due to its pyrrolizidine alkaloids, however, the FDA banned its sale for internal use in 2001.
Add comfrey to lotions and creams to promote new cell growth that benefits skin health. Add comfrey to a warm bath to sooth and soften dry skin.
Propagate comfrey by seed, root division or cuttings. Choose the plant location wisely. Comfrey is hard to get rid of once it is established. Plant root divisions about 3 feet apart in rich soil. Comfrey enjoys growing in full sun.
Harvest new leaves during the spring and the roots during the winter months. Both the leaves and the roots can be dried, then stored in an airtight container. Keep the container out of the sunlight in order to lengthen the shelf life of the dried comfrey.
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