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Symphytum officinale - Comfrey

Symphytum officinale - Comfrey

An iconic permaculture plant, comfrey has several functions throughout the garden as a soil builder, living mulch, compost activator, shelter plant for beneficial insects, and nectary for pollinators. 

Common Name: Comfrey

Scientific Name: Symphytum officinale

Plant Family: Boraginaceae

Etymology: Comfrey– Gr. confervere, “to heal”; Symphytum, Gr. derivative Symphyto, “to unite”; officinalis, L. “of the dispensary.” 

Primary Uses 


Edible Parts: Comfrey is more frequently utilized for its medicinal qualities. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has issued a ban on comfrey products marketed for internal use (Corciova et al 2017). 

Historic Medicinal Uses: Antidiarrheal, infusions taken as gastrointestinal and gynecological aids, laxative (Cherokee). Also used to treat bruises and sprains, and an infusion of comfrey roots in water used to treat gonorrhea (Cherokee). 

Documented Medicinal Uses: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic. Used as a treatment for abscesses, injuries, diarrhea, and mastitis in ruminants. Proven to treat inflammation in arthritis, sprains and strains, bruises, and acute back pain. 


Designing with this Plant


USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9. 

Forest Garden Layer:  Herbaceous groundcover

Sources and More Information 


Corciova et al. “Medicinal herbs as possible sources of anti-inflammatory products.” University of Medicine and Pharmacy Iasi, 1 Faculty of Pharmacy, 2 Faculty of Biomedical Engineering.December 2017. Spring 2018. Web. Link

Jurcau et al. Influence of moderate physical exertion on subacute low back pain, after Symphytum officinale ointment treatment Influența efortului fizic moderat asupra durerii lombare subacute, după tratamentul cu un unguent conținând Symphytum officinale.” Palestrica of the third millennium ‒ Civilization and Sport. 2013. Spring 2018. Web. Link

Lans et al. “Ethnoveterinary medicines used for ruminants in British Columbia, Canada.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2007. Spring 2018. Web. Link 

“Symphytum officinalis.” Native American Ethnobotanical Database. Link


“Comfrey.” Ask About Ireland. Link