Written by Cat Green
When you work with plants, some become special friends, called plant allies and I want to introduce you to one of mine: comfrey (Symphytum officinale).
Many people think of arnica for first aid, but that doesn’t grow where I am; so instead my first port of call is comfrey, which grows really well in the subtropics (and other areas).
Comfrey is an incredible, reliable first aid plant. I’ve seen her take away pain in minutes, and she’s great for issues like bruises, sprains, broken bones, joint and connective tissue problems, arthritis, slipped discs, scar reduction and minor cuts. Just keep in mind, when working with her topically, you can’t use comfrey on deep wounds or dirty wounds. She’s so good at healing the top layers of the skin that she can trap bacteria in the wound and lock infection in, creating an abscess. It’s best to use comfrey when the wound has started healing and is sealed.
For this reason, I don’t put comfrey in my go-to cuts and scrapes salve, like many other herbalists do. I want my kids to be fully empowered to use our herbal first aid kit anytime, and quite often we’re out bush and might need to care for dirty cuts. I don’t want to stress us out, wondering if the cut is too deep or too dirty for comfrey, so I keep my balms separate.
That works for us, but I encourage you to find what works for you! If you want to work with comfrey straight from the garden, you can easily make a poultice. Simply harvest a few leaves and blend them to a paste-like consistency using a blender or mortar and pestle. Add a splash of water if needed. You can apply your comfrey poultice straight to the injured area, or wrap in a muslin cloth or tea towel. Depending on the injury, you can also gently heat it or use as is.
There’s so much more to explore about my friend comfrey, so enjoy getting to know her. Just keep in mind that plant relationships go both ways. They’re deeply fulfilling when based on reciprocity and mutuality, so if you work with my pal comfrey, I encourage you to cultivate a respectful, grateful, mutually beneficial relationship too.