What is comfrey and why should every homestead and gardener grow it?
In my opinion, comfrey is a miracle plant. It is easy to grow, lives for decades, makes some of the best plant-based fertilizer known to man, has been traditionally used to heal wounds and broken bones, mines hard to get minerals, creates heaps of organic material, and the list goes on and on. If there was ever a plant that does it all, comfrey is it.
Comfrey will grow in all kinds of conditions. It grows best in USDA zones 3-9 but can be grown successfully almost anywhere. It can survive temperatures down to -40º F and grows great in Africa in 120º F heat. This is a survivor plant for sure.
Is Comfrey Invasive?
That depends on who you talk to, what your definition of invasive is, and what variety of comfrey you have. Comfrey is a fast-growing perennial that is hard to kill. It reproduces amazingly from root cuttings so digging it up isn’t really an option if you want to get rid of it because the tiniest root will come back as a plant.
Wild comfrey (Symphytum Officianale) will reproduce from seed. Most other common varieties of comfrey are sterile and will not due to hybridization. Although most comfrey hybrids are sterile, they can still get out of hand, so don’t put a comfrey plant somewhere unless you want it there for a long time. Like forever.
As far as I’m concerned, what makes comfrey “invasive” makes it amazing! Comfrey will grow where other plants won’t and it gives back in a big way. It’s a plant that I want growing everywhere on my property. I’ve currently got it planted under fruit trees to be used as chop-n-drop nutrients and along my driveway to help reduce erosion, increase organic matter, and bring in pollinators.
How Does Comfrey Help My Garden?
The deep taproot on comfrey (grows 8 to 10 feet deep) allows it to dig into the soil and draw up nutrients that other plants can’t. Many of these nutrients end up in the large comfrey leaves. This makes it an excellent plant for chop-n-drop, compost, fodder, Liquid Fertilizer, and mulch.
As a dynamic accumulator, comfrey leaves break down quickly releasing the accumulated nutrients back into the soil in a form that other plants can take up. Putting it simply, adding comfrey to your garden soil will increase the nutritional density of your fruits and vegetables.
Is Comfrey Safe To Use Medicinally?
In light of all the great benefits of comfrey, it has been maliciously attacked by the FDA and FTC in recent years. For thousands of years, comfrey has been used as a part of the human diet with no record of anyone falling over dead from its use. It is true that studies have been done where rats received liver damage from being injected with concentrated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) that are found in comfrey.
Let’s put the study in perspective. In order to consume the same amount of PAs as given in the study, one would have to eat 66,000 leaves in one sitting for 10 days (more than the person’s body weight) or over 800 leaves per day for 3 weeks. Since this is clearly a ridiculous study, it’s hard to take its claims seriously.
Here’s what the FDA said about the studies on their website just after explaining how dangerous it is.
“However, while information is generally lacking to establish a cause-effect relationship between comfrey ingestion and observed adverse effects humans, the adverse effects that have been seen are entirely consistent with the known effects of comfrey ingestion that have been described in the scientific literature.”
Can I Eat Comfrey?
While I believe that the safety police have gone way overboard on comfrey, there ARE real dangers to the PAs found in the plant. Making comfrey a large part of your daily diet would be foolish. With that said, many people eat a limited amount of comfrey and have no adverse effects. Due to the FDA’s findings, you will not find any commercially prepared comfrey for ingestion, as this would be illegal in the US. I cannot recommend that you take comfrey internally, but even if you leave that part out, comfrey offers so many benefits that its hard to see why it’s not in every yard, garden, and food forest.
Due to the FDA’s findings, you will not find any commercially prepared comfrey for ingestion, as this would be illegal in the US. I cannot recommend that you take comfrey internally, but even if you leave that part out, comfrey offers so many benefits that its hard to see why it’s not in every yard, garden, and food forest.
If you are in the Tyler, TX area and would like some comfrey cuttings, let me know below in the comment section. All I ask is that you share this post with your friends and family. I’d be happy to give a cutting (while supplies last) to those who get the word out. If you’re not in Tyler, Shop online at Coe’s Comfrey.
So What Is Comfrey In A Nutshell?
Comfrey is one of the most versatile and beneficial plants you can grow. If you’re interested in propagating your own comfrey from root cuttings, check out the video below along with my post: Save Money Propagating Comfrey Cuttings. In addition, check out our article on building a raised comfrey bed.