The Question of ComfreysteemCreated with Sketch.

in #gardening4 years ago


Common Comfrey

I often get asked 'Which is the real Comfrey'? Here's an answer...

'True (or Common) Comfrey' (Symphytum officinale) is a common herb in Europe. The other common variety is 'Russian Comfrey' (Symphytum x uplandicum) in many cases. This is, in turn, a hybrid of two varieties - that's what the 'x' in its taxonomic name means.

'True Comfrey' will seed prolifically, while the 'Russian Comfrey' we often buy as Comfrey is a sterile hybrid but is far more vigorous and will only grow from root propagation.

Our 'True' Comfrey has white to pink flowers, while Russian Comfrey has blue to purple flowers. Of course, 'True Comfrey' has a red/purple variety, just to make it all the more confusing.

If you want to know which variety you have, wait until it flowers. That's the easiest way. If you have a chance to hold a flower of True Comfrey next to a flower of Russian Comfrey, the True Comfrey will have the longer lobes on the sepals (they're the little green petals under the true petals in a flower). Otherwise, True Comfrey has white to pink flowers and more of a stem at the bottom of the leaves.

But is it worth all the fuss? Probably not.

Purists will only accept S .officinale for medicinal use and S. x uplandicum for feeding animals and providing biomass, but thats probably because S.x uplandicum is far more vigorous and grows faster.

In reality, there are more than 30 species in Europe that are all called 'Comfrey' and have been used interchangably over many, many years, even before they were introduced to the US in the 1700's.

Whichever you have, there was an Herbalist named Gerard who recommended the juice of comfrey root in ale for 'the paine in the back gotten by wrestling, or overuse of women.'

Use what you've got, I say!


Thank you for sorting this out. We have it growing on our homestead too and was also conflicted with the two types hard to get info on them when they are different. Thanks

Glad it helped. The general guideline is officinale for medicine, uplandicum for fodder and compost. Both work in either role, but the uplandicum is far more vigorous a growrr and thus better in the role of land and stock management

I upvote you. Plz give me upvote and follow me.

Good grief. I grow some comfrey from sees an older neighbor gave me. Now I'm really confused and haven't any idea which one I have, haha. It's ok though. I make good us of it and it has become a cherished plant in the homestead.

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Darn those pains in the back! Must stop wrestling! 😆

yeah...its a curse

Most useful article - I had been wondering about the difference between the two types.

I tried growing some Comfrey from seed this year but it didn't work. I will try again next year and maybe buy in a few plants if I spot them.

Thank you. Yeah, all the comfreys do better by root cuttings

It doesn't make a huge difference for home use. People have been using most of the species for years, all under the name 'Comfrey'

I have ongoing vaccine reactions that can manifest in skin rashes because of the over 100 foods I am now allergic to. Comfrey is my go to healing method, I make a strong tea and repeatedly bathe the affected area and it really makes a difference. Besides that it is a beautiful addition to my yard.

Thats great to hear. Im glad youve found something that works consistently for you. Thats hslf the battle.

Im using comfrey to build my soil and its working well, plus its a food and plus it perennial . Ill have to find out which type i have and revert back :-)

Great post

Great to hear! I like to use comfrey to do a lot of my digging for me. The strong, deep roots really break soil up. Then the leaves which are big and abundant can be chopped and dropped to build up the organic material in the soil.

I joke with people that comfrey is such a great healer that adding it to the soil fixes up all the worms we cut in half while digging

Great plant and will be planting lots on my new property.

once you have it, you'll never be without

Comfrey is so useful. I only started growing them this year but I will be using them for fertilizers in the future. Nice article. Thanks :)

I thought I had the sterile Russian type of comfrey which I started from a cutting someone gave me. It grows vigorously and has pink/purple flowers. I split it a few times and put it a few different places in my garden but now I swear it has spread to new areas I did not plant so I am a little confused as to what it is.

Great article I'll have to take a better look at it next year when it is in flower.

It can be confusing. There's a 'Rough Comfrey' that is very very similar to both Russian and True Comfrey. Las year ours had dark pink flowers too.

When you're splitting comfrey, a piece of root smaller that your little fingernail will grow into a small plant. Thats how it spreads as well. Once you've got it, you'll pretty well have it for ever.

Thanks for the reply. Makes me wonder if maybe some of these plants were just too small to notice last year.

I've been growing Bocking 4 Russian Comfrey for a few years now. I mostly feed it to rabbits as a regular green leafy treat among other things. Also I make a compost tea (yuck!) that I feed to tomatoes in the late spring. I'm a little suspicious of all the medicinal uses... other than healing superficial cuts.

Id support many of the medicinal claims from personal experience. As a matter of fact, Im using it to treat a thumb that I dislocated earlier today.

Otherwise, youre right, it does make great fertilizer.

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