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Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) the Medicinal Garden

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Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been seen as a wonderful healing drug throughout history, but in more recent years, a new light has been shown on it.  Although it does have some healing properties, science has proven this plant to be toxic and warn that it should be used under strict supervision.  Taking it orally has been banned in the United States as well as several other countries.  It is still a wonderful addition to any flower garden.


• A hardy, upright, leafy perennial.

• The rhizomes are black outside and white inside and are about an inch thick that contain a fleshy, slippery substance.

• Leaves are entire, lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, join stem at bases, are deep green and hairy, with lower leaves up to 10 inches long.



• Flowers are produced from May through frost.

• tubular corolla with 5 lobes; 5 lobed calyx; 5 stamens and are ½ inch long.

• blue, yellow or near white.



• Native to Europe and Asia.



• Grows in rich soils in moist meadows and along streams.



• Used medicinally since around 400 BCE.

• The Greeks used it to stop heavy bleeding, for bronchial problems, to heal wounds and broken bones.

• In the 1840s, Henry Doubleday began an organization to research the use of Comfrey to stop the world’s hunger.

• In 1978 scientific studies found that rats fed a diet containing dried comfrey developed liver tumors after 6 months, causing science to question the safety of comfrey.


Uses Today

• Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is not recommended for internal use.  It has a toxic substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that damage the liver and can lead to death.

• Comfrey is no longer sold in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Germany  except for in creams and ointments for bruising. Use caution when using on the skin as it can be absorbed, and never use on broken skin.

• Do not use comfrey if you have liver disease, alcoholism or cancer.

Source:Various sources including University of Maryland Medical Center, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. and WebMD


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand historical and medicinal uses of this plant. In no way are we suggesting or telling readers to use this plant as mentioned above.

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