Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a perennial herbaceous plant native to Europe and parts of Asia. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and as a valuable source of nutrients for both humans and animals. It grows well here in SEQ.
Some key characteristics and uses of the comfrey plant:
Appearance: Comfrey has large, hairy leaves and produces bell-shaped flowers that can be purple, pink, or white. The plant typically grows between 30-90 cm in height and has a thick, deep-rooted rhizome system.
Medicinal uses: Traditionally, comfrey has been used to treat various ailments, such as inflammation, sprains, bruises, and bone fractures. The plant contains allantoin, which promotes cell growth and repair tissue, making it a popular choice for topical applications like poultices and salves. However, it is very important to note that the internal use of comfrey is not recommended because of the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can be toxic to the liver.
Soil conditioner: Comfrey’s deep root system enables it to extract nutrients from the soil that may be inaccessible to other plants. As a result, comfrey is often used as a “dynamic accumulator” in permaculture and organic gardening practices, where its leaves are used as a nutrient-rich mulch or added to compost piles to enhance their nutritional value.
Fertiliser: Comfrey leaves are high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, making them valuable natural fertilisers. Gardeners often create a liquid fertiliser known as “comfrey tea” by soaking the plant’s leaves in water for several weeks and then using the resulting liquid to fertilise their plants. This is a smelly process, so if you do not like the smell, you can use the press method to make Comfrey Juice.
Animal feed: Comfrey has been used as a nutritious feed for livestock, including poultry, rabbits, and pigs. Its high protein content and easily digestible fibres make it an attractive supplement to traditional feed.
Cultivation: Comfrey is a hardy plant that can thrive in various conditions, including full sun or partial shade, and can tolerate a range of soil types. However, it prefers well-draining, fertile soil. The plant can be propagated through root cuttings, crown divisions, or seeds.