Symphytum Officinale: Grow Comfrey for Bruises and Eye Creams

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Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion‘s valuable resources.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is an herbaceous perennial with fuzzy green leaves and bell-shaped flowers.

Comfrey is a useful medicinal herb as well as a beautiful landscape plant.
Photo by H. Zell/Courtesy 
Wikimedia Commons

It is a plant in the borage family native to Europe and the Mediterranean. Common names for comfrey include boneset, blackwort and slippery root. Comfrey has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful to reduce swelling and bruising and to treat scratches and cuts to prevent infection. A poultice made from fresh comfrey leaves and roots soothes and heals bruises as well as sprained and broken bones.

Comfrey is an easy herb to grow in the garden or landscape, although it grows large and is best in the back of borders or planted en masse along a fence or in front of an undesirable view. Keep this in mind when choosing a location to grow comfrey. It grows 2- to 3-feet tall in rich, moist soil and does best in bright light with partial shade. It produces blue, white or pink flowers in spring that attract bees and butterflies.

Comfrey can produce purple, pink or white bell-shaped flowers.
Photo by H. Zell/Courtesy 
Wikimedia Commons

Attractive comfrey varieties include ‘Hidcote Blue’ with green foliage and white stripes, ‘Goldsmith’ and ‘Axminster Gold’ varieties with dark green foliage and cream-colored borders and blue comfrey with blue-green foliage.

Plant comfrey seeds or seedlings in the spring after the ground has warmed up. It sprouts quickly in warm, moist soil. If planting it for the first time, take care not to confuse seedlings with weeds. Once the plants are about 6 inches tall they are strong and grow vigorously. Comfrey can be used as a small shrub and is less expensive than woody shrubs like forsythia or honeysuckle. Variegated comfrey varieties are attractive landscape or display plants, although comfrey seeds can become invasive if left uncontrolled. Clipping off seed heads before they dry and disperse seeds will help control aggressive spreading.

Whether you plant a single comfrey plant or a whole border, it is easy to use comfrey for home first aid and personal care preparations. Make comfrey eye bags by cutting and washing fresh comfrey leaves, blanching them in boiling water and wrapping them in large gauze pads. Place warm or chilled bags on puffy eyes or eyes with dark circles for soothing relief. Make larger warm poultices for sprained toes or fingers. Comfrey poultices are very effective on sprained or broken ribs and shin bruising.

Make a silky eye cream to use under eyes on dark circles and around eyes to smooth wrinkles and dry skin. Cut a small part of the comfrey plant from the crown to the roots and lift it from the garden with stalks and leaves attached. Wash thoroughly to remove all soil, pat dry with a clean towel and slice or shave the root. Cut leaves off stems and place roots and leaves in warmed olive oil, stirring for an hour over low heat. Use another oil like sunflower, almond or safflower oil if preferred. Strain out plant pieces for clear herbal oil to mix with melted beeswax in a food processor or blender. Use 1 pound beeswax with 2 cups herbal oil for large batches and 1/4 pound beeswax with 1/2 cup herbal oil for about five small 4-ounce jars of cream. Add a few drops of essential oil while blending for a fresh scent. I like orange essence best, but spearmint, lemon and almond essences also work well with comfrey eye cream.

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