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Medicinal Herb: Symphytum officinale


Biological Name:
(Symphytum officinale, S. officinale)


Other Names:
Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Bruisewort, Consolidae Radix, Consound, Consoude, Consuelda, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Herbe aux Charpentiers, Herbe à la Coupure, Knitback, Knitbone, Langue-de-Vache, Oreille d’Âne, Salsify, Slippery Root or Wallwort.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Introduction to Symphytum officinale:

Symphytum officinalis, is a herbaceous plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its potential healing properties. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale/S. officinale) is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the Boraginaceae family. It is known scientifically as Symphytum officinale. S. officinale is native to Europe and parts of Asia, but it has been naturalised in various regions around the world.

The plant has a robust, hairy stem that can reach a height of 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimeters). It features large, rough leaves that are often covered in coarse hairs. The leaves are lance-shaped and alternate along the stem. Symphytum produces bell-shaped flowers that come in colors ranging from white to pink, purple, or blue. These flowers are arranged in clusters and bloom during the summer.

S. officinale is highly valued for its medicinal properties and has been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicine. The plant contains various beneficial compounds, including allantoin, rosmarinic acid, and tannins. These constituents are believed to contribute to its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and wound-healing effects.

Due to its healing properties, comfrey has been used topically as a poultice or salve to treat bruises, sprains, strains, wounds, and skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis. However, it’s important to note that internal use of S. officinale, such as consuming its leaves or extracts, has been associated with liver toxicity and should be avoided.

In addition to its medicinal uses, S. officinale has been utilised as a natural fertilizer and compost activator due to its high nutrient content. It has deep taproots that help draw up nutrients from the soil, making it a valuable plant for improving soil quality.

Comfrey has traditionally been used to treat wounds and reduce inflammation associated with sprains and broken bones. The roots and leaves of comfrey contain allantoin, a substance that promotes wound healing and tissue regeneration.

Traditional Applications of S. officinale in Herbal Medicine:

Therapeutic actions of Comfrey:
Vulnerary, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has traditionally been used to treat wounds and reduce inflammation associated with sprains and broken bones. The roots and leaves of comfrey contain allantoin, a substance that promotes wound healing and tissue regeneration.

S. officinale was once used in treating fractures and hence the alternative name ‘Knitbone’. The pounded root forms a mucilaginous mass, which can be bound around a fracture and which, when dry, holds the bone in place.

Symphytum is an excellent wound-healer. This is partially due to the presence of allantoin. This chemical stimulates cell proliferation and so aids wound-healing both internally and externally.

The root, used internally, is useful in the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers, and diarrhoea
. The leaf is used in pleurisy and bronchitis.

For wounds, bruising, ulceration and dermatological complaints, the leaves or macerated root may be applied as a poultice, lotion or decoction.

S. officinale is considered of benefit in neuralgia and rheumatism, applied externally.

The whole plant, beaten to a cataplasm and applied hot as a poultice, has always been deemed excellent for soothing pain in any tender, inflamed or suppurating part. It was formerly applied to raw, indolent ulcers as a glutinous astringent. It is useful in any kind of inflammatory swelling.

Comfrey should always be used together with an anti-septic, for example Echinacea purpurea, Calendula, or other anti-septic herb.

Other indications include:

  • Supportive of cell regeneration and normal tissue replacement.
  • Used externally for skin problems and infections (extract).
  • For bruises: crushed leaves applied directly.
  • Poultice form is used for cuts, boils and abrasions.
  • Used in ointment or salve form for abrasions, wounds, burns, swollen breasts and skin problems.
  • A fomentation (roots and leaves) is used for sprains, swellings, bruises.
  • For bruises, inflammations, ulcers, and sores, dampen the root powder with water until it’s a wet, gummy mash; place in a clean cloth and apply.
  • A hot decoction of the root is used for styes.
  • Used as a “cast” for broken bones by pounding the root then binding the mash around a break; the mixture will set when dry.
  • Tea was traditionally used for colds.


The TGA (Therapeutic Goods and Administration) approves the use of comfrey for external use only.


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Page last updated: 26th June 2020

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