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Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has always been thought to be a great healer. It’s also been used as a food. I’ve sauteed and steamed it (it has a hairy and somewhat tough leaf that I don’t care for in salad). It’s also used in soups and stews. These days, scientific studies suggest that comfrey might be carcinogenic, so it’s fallen out of favor. But I eschew the hysterics that explode periodically about herbs and herbal remedies, so use them anyway, as always in moderation. The debate is far from over, so maybe best to ignore it!

The ancient Greeks used comfrey in poultices to stop heavy bleeding and treat bronchial problems. Dioscordies, a Greek physician, used it to mend broken bones. Symphytum in Greek means “coming together” and the Latin conferta, from which the word comfrey is derived, means “grow together.” Some people still swear by it as a compress to help knit broken bones and to reduce the inflamation of arthritis. It’s a source of Vitamin B-12, although you have to eat pounds of it to get the benefit.

The mucilage in comfrey sooths and softens the skin. Add it to lotions and creams or soak in a warm comfrey bath. Recipes abound online.

Comfrey will grow anywhere in my garden and can even be somewhat aggressive, so I cut it back ferociously and within weeks I once again have the pretty, curved, bell-like flowers and gigantic deep green ovate leaves towering over all the rest.

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