Gardening with Laurie: Comfrey has many medicinal properties

By Laurie Garretson
Aug. 30, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby, and in my case, it's a wonderful occupation. As in many occupations, or hobbies, there are sometimes accidents. I couldn't begin to count how many times over the years that I've been stung, cut, scraped, bruised, sunburned or pulled a muscle. Accidents of all types naturally come with the territory.

As I was growing up, my mom always had an aloe vera plant growing. This plant was the first thing we would grab when anyone got any kind of a burn. Aloe plants are great to have around for all kinds of accidents. Years ago, I found a plant that I find to be far superior to any other plant for healing.

The plant is comfrey. I don't really remember exactly when or how I first learned about this wonderful plant. It was probably from one of my dear friends I met when I first got involved in growing herbs.

Comfrey plants have been grown and used as a healing herb since before Christ. Comfrey is native to Asia and Europe. For centuries, comfrey was used for a food crop and as a medicinal plant. During the past 20 years scientific studies have shown comfrey to possibly be carcinogenic and not to be ingested. I have only used comfrey topically and would not recommend taking it for any other purpose.

Comfrey is also good for your garden. Because comfrey has a thick deep and expansive root system this plant draws many of the wonderful nutrients up from the soil. This makes it a good source of nutrients for any compost mix. The large hairy nutrient-rich leaves can make a wonderful mulch or ground cover. I have known gardeners who make a comfrey tea from the plant. These same gardeners warn me about the very strong and not so pleasant smell from this mixture, but they say it does wonders for all they apply it to.

My comfrey has grown in a well-drained soil in my herb garden for many years. It gets mostly midday to afternoon sun. I do find that during the hottest months its leaves will droop in the afternoon, but quickly perk up again once watered. Comfrey seems to grow best in ground vs. in a container from what other gardeners tell me. Usually it's the potted comfrey plants that I hear gardeners have trouble with. I think because the plant does have such a big tap root it usually is happier in the ground.

Comfrey is a perennial herb that can grow to three or 4-feet tall and 3 to 5 feet in width. It produces a stalk with pink and lavender flowers during late spring to early summer. I have found this herb to be one of the most used of all the plants in any of my gardens.

Comfrey makes a beautiful plant and doesn't require much care other than an occasional drink. For years, I've used comfrey to help heal cuts, scrapes, bites, stings, rashes, swelling, bruises and lots of other skin issues. Move over aloe, the garden has room for another wonderful herb.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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