Anyone for Comfrey Tea?

Wild Comfrey at The Sustainable Living ProjectThis is one of my favourite canal side plants.  I like it not so much for prettiness although it’s not an ugly plant by any means, but for its sheer power.  It is a magic plant.

Symphytum Officinale, also known as comfrey and knitbone, was originally from Eastern Europe but has naturalised in the UK.  It is said King Richard brought it back from the crusades, so it’s been living here happily for some time.  It definitely likes our damp moist soil.

Comfrey has exceptional healing qualities and is rich in a substance called allantoin which stimulates skin cell renewal, literally knitting tissue back together.  Allantoin is often an ingredient you’ll see listed in face creams. Grind a few leaves or even some of the root into your next homemade face pack.  It is best not to ingest comfrey as it does contain alkaloids toxic to the liver. 

Chemists have never sucessfully been able to separate  the useful properties of the plant from the more harmful ones, nor have they been able to synthesize the plant’s miraculous healing qualities. For this reason it has never been commercially viable for pharmaceutical purposes.  It remains a true folk plant, but no less the powerful for that.

Comfrey is rich in potash, nitrogen and phosphorous.  In other words a good all round organic  fertiliser.  Your beans, potatoes and tomatoes will be particularly grateful if you treat them to some comfrey tea. 

To make your comfrey tea, simply stuff a bucket half full of the plant.  Fill with water to the top.  Give it a good stir and cover.  Stir it every day or so for two to three weeks and you should end up with a truly evil smelling brew.  Strain the ’tea’ into another container, we use a home brew beer barrel with a tap for ease of use. 

You can use the tea diluted,  one part tea to three parts water, for established plants, either watering into soil or as a foliar spray.  For younger tender plants, such as tomatoes dilute one part tea to ten parts water and only water into the surrounding soil or you will scorch your plants.

Some people prefer to simply squash the plant in a container under a heavy weight, it is said to smell less. (I don’t believe it!)  After about six weeks the resulting brown sludge can be diluted and used as above.  You can also put comfrey leaves directly into your potato and bean trenches and use the leaves as a surface mulch.  

Comfrey is a nutritious treat for your compost bin, not only adding precious nutrients, but also it has an activating effect.  You should be able to get at least two to three harvests from your comfrey plants in a season.  Don’t worry you won’t destroy them, comfrey is a fantastic sustainable resource that will just keep on coming.  In fact if you tried to get rid of it you’d struggle. 

If you don’t have wild comfrey available near by, you can buy a variety called Bocking 14 which has the advantage of not propagating itself by seed. It will stay where you put it.

Here’s a picture of another canal side wonder plant just beginning to come into flower, meadowsweet or Filipendula Ulmaria.  It has played an important role throughout history, and was considered sacred by druids.  It is a plant that has revolutionised the modern world, this is where we first got aspirin from.  The salicytes present in the plant are now synthesized for this purpose, so I can simply enjoy its creamy, fluffy flowers as they flank the canal later this summer.  It’s a regular pharmacy around here!  

Meadow Sweet


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2 comments to Anyone for Comfrey Tea?

  • charlie cunningham

    how do you make comfrey tea for drinking.

  • goo

    You should NEVER ingest concoctions made from comfrey Charlie it is highly toxic and will destroy your liver! It was once taken internally and while it may have cured one ill it will over time have caused countless others. It is safe to make oils and salves for topical use.

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