Herb: Prickly Comfrey


Latin name: Symphytum asperum


Family: Boraginaceae (Borage Family)



Medicinal use of Prickly Comfrey:

The leaves are anodyne, mildly astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, haemostatic, refrigerant and vulnerary. They are used as an external poultice in the treatment of cuts, bruises and sprains. Internally, they are used as a tea in the treatment of chest complaints. The plant contains a substance called "allantoin", a cell proliferant that speeds up the healing process. The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be used fresh or dried.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
150 cm
(5 feet)

Flovering:
May to
June

Habitat of the herb:

Waste places in Britain.

Edible parts of Prickly Comfrey:

The following reports are for S. officinale, they are said to also apply to this species. Young leaves - cooked or raw. The leaf is hairy and the texture is mucilaginous. It may be full of minerals but it is not pleasant eating for most tastes. It can be chopped up finely and added to salads, in this way the hairiness is not so obvious. Young shoots can be used as an asparagus substitute. The blanched stalks are used. Older leaves can be dried and used as a tea. The peeled roots are cut up and added to soups. A tea is made from the dried leaves and roots. The roasted roots are used with dandelion and chicory roots for making coffee.

Other uses of the herb:

The following reports are for S. officinale, they are said to also apply to this species. The plant grows very quickly, producing a lot of bulk. It is tolerant of being cut several times a year and can be used to provide "instant compost" for crops such as potatoes. Simply layer the wilted leaves at the bottom of the potato trench or apply them as a mulch in no-dig gardens. A liquid feed can be obtained by soaking the leaves in a small amount of water for a week, excellent for potassium demanding crops such as tomatoes. The leaves are also a very valuable addition to the compost heap. A gum obtained from the roots was at one time used in the treatment of wool before it was spun.

Propagation of Prickly Comfrey:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed you can try an outdoor sowing in situ in the spring. Division succeeds at almost any time of the year. Simply use a spade to chop off the top 7cm of root just below the soil level. The original root will regrow and you will have a number of root tops, each of which will make a new plant. These can either be potted up or planted out straight into their permanent positions.

Cultivation of the herb:

Waste places in Britain.

Known hazards of Symphytum asperum:

No reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, but the following reports have been seen for S. officinale. This plant contains small quantities of a toxic alkaloid which can have a cumulative effect upon the liver. Largest concentrations are found in the roots, leaves contain higher quantities of the alkaloid as they grow older and young leaves contain almost none. Most people would have to consume very large quantities of the plant in order to do any harm, though anyone with liver problems should obviously be more cautious. In general, the health-promoting properties of the plant probably far outweigh any possible disbenefits, especially if only the younger leaves are used.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.