Botanical Name: Symphytum officinale, uplandicum* Family: Boraginaceae

Common name(s): Comfrey, Knitbone


  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 3-9 | 3-4 feet tall | Flowers late spring thru summer
  • Prefers well-drained, moist soil | Full sun to partial shade


Harvest the roots in spring or fall. Harvest the leaves at any time. (They are also good to use for composting.)


Decoction: Use 1 -3 teaspoons in a cup of water, bring to a boil, and simmer 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup** 3x/day.

Tincture: Take 2-4ml 3x/day.

External: Make a liniment or infused oil. Apply directly or use oil as a base for an ointment, salve, or cream.

Cautions: too much taken internally could cause liver damage.


Constituents: Allantoin, mucilage***, tannins, starch, inulin, volatile oil, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (liver toxin), steroidal saponins in the roots

Actions: Astringent, demulcent, expectorant, tonic, vulnerary

Uses: Wounds, hemorrhage and bleeding, cough, lungs

Combinations: For external applications, combine with Echinacea to add an antimicrobial to wound healing

CHINESE MEDICINE: Bitter, sweet, cool


*according to Homegrown Herbs, most of the comfrey in herbal products is uplandicum, not officinale. The author, Tammi Hartung, notes that officinale has higher levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloid, which can be toxic to the liver. But she also says that Comfrey is sterile and must be propagated by division and I’ve planted comfrey seeds and read other information that says it’s a vigorous self-seeder.

**I could not find an official amount of decoction to drink. A Modern Herbal said a wine-glass size. Since it was written long ago, I’m assuming about 4 ounces.

***According to The Way of Herbs, comfrey root has the highest amount of mucilage of all the herbs

Let me just say that doing materia medica is TIME CONSUMING! There is conflicting information in source books, which then sends me off googling to try and figure out what is right. And who knows if I’ve gotten it right. Which brings me to the thought that we can take the information we learn from books and websites, but then we really have to have our own experience with the plants. Even though this materia medica supports internal preparations, I personally would not chose to use it internally, but would choose other respiratory herbs.