There’s a good reason that comfrey features in all our medicinal products. Comfrey’s healing powers are second to none. In The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies, the authors note that comfrey is “a valuable remedy that accelerates healing of the skin and wounds.”
It also helps prevent infections, reduce inflammation, minimize scarring, and alleviate pain.
Those are only its medicinal qualities, however. Comfrey can also be used around the garden and in the treatment and feeding of livestock.
What Is Comfrey and Why Is It Called Knitbone?
Comfrey’s official name is Symphytum officinale, which comes from the Greek word symphis, which refers to the growing together of bones. As a result, it’s also been called knitbone and boneset over the years.
Comfrey grows abundantly when there is plenty of water available. A hardy perennial, it dies back during the winter, but reliably produces new growth each spring.
With its long roots, comfrey can access groundwater and nutrients that aren’t available to other plants. This makes it robust and drought-resistant.
Comfrey grows well in both full sun and shade. It also grows in almost any soil and can be found throughout the Eastern Cape, thriving in coastal areas, as well as the colder, more mountainous regions around Hogsback.
5 Benefits Of Growing Comfrey (Aside From Its Medicinal Qualities)
#1 Comfrey Is An Excellent Companion Plant
As it can be invasive, comfrey needs space to grow to prevent it from impinging on its neighbours. It nevertheless makes a good companion plant, luring slugs and snails away from your leafy greens.
For fruit trees, comfrey is the ideal companion plant. It grows fast, so can out-compete weeds. It catches moisture on the fine hairs that cover its leaves and stems, providing a water source for your fruit tree even during the dry winter season.
When you want to fertilize your tree, simply chop down the comfrey plant and let it naturally decompose. As it rots, it will release critical nutrients into the soil, feeding your hungry fruit tree in the process.
#2 Boost Your Soil with Comfrey Roots and Leaves
Comfrey has a long taproot, not unlike those found on dandelion plants. As this digs down into the soil in search of water and nutrients, it helps to break up heavy soil, thereby improving water absorption and airflow.
Burying a few comfrey leaves before planting any fruiting vegetable seedlings will give them a nutritional boost. As the leaves decompose, they provide essential nutrients to your seedlings and help keep pests and diseases at bay
#3 Improve Your Chickens’ Diet With Comfrey
Comfrey is high in protein and low in fibre, making it an ideal food supplement for chickens. The allantoin present in the leaves promotes good health, and the presence of Vitamins A and B12 improves egg quality, giving the yolks a brighter, richer appearance.
In the past, the use of comfrey as a fodder crop was widespread, with farmers using it to bulk up cows and pigs during the lean winter months.
We get a type of comfrey that has tough hairs on its leaves and stalks. These make it unpalatable to most animals. Chickens will happily peck away at the leaves, but our horses and pigs will consider it only once wilted.
If you want to grow comfrey as a fodder crop, the hairless variety, Symphytum peregrinum, or Russian Comfrey, is a better choice than the more common Symphytum officinale.
#4 How To Make and Use Comfrey Fertilizer
Comfrey is a permaculturalist’s wet dream. As a dynamic accumulator, comfrey can draw nutrients and minerals up from the depths of the soil. It then makes those nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, available in its leaves. As a result, it is an excellent mulch and fertilizer.
The ideal NPK ratio for any fertilizer is 3-1-2. That represents 3% Nitrogen, 1% phosphorus & 2% potassium. Although some now query comfrey’s NPK ratio, permaculturalists have long celebrated its efficiency as a dynamic accumulator and its resultant NPK ratio of 0.014%, 0,0059%, and 0.034%. While these values are much lower than you’d find manure-based fertilizers, as they’re in liquid form, those “nutrients are immediately available to the plants.”
To make a comfrey fertilizer or tea, half-fill a container with chopped up comfrey leaf. Fill with water, cover, and leave to steep for 3 to 6 weeks. You’ll know it’s ready to use once its starts emitting stench not dissimilar to rotten eggs!
Dilute the comfrey tea with water before applying. If you’re using it as a foliar spray, aim for around 1:15 comfrey tea to water. If using it on the soil or roots you can make a slightly stronger dilution of 1:10.
#5 Comfrey Activates and Accelerates Decomposition
With its high nitrogen content, when added to compost, comfrey will stimulate the process of decomposition. Throw a few torn-up comfrey leaves into your compost to activate the decomposition or speed it up.
No self-respecting small-holding should be without a comfrey plant or two. Also known as knitbone, this versatile plant is a medicine, a food source, a companion plant, a soil regenerator, and a natural fertilizer.
Having a few comfrey plants in your vegetable garden means you have the start of a complete first aid kit and the capacity to give both your livestock and plants a new lease of life.
Get in touch with Colin via our contact us page, and find out more about the types of comfrey and comfrey products we currently have available.