Chickweed in a pestle & mortar

Hawthorn Basket



Symphytum officinale

Borage family

Description: A lush, hairy, fast-growing plant with yellowish- cream or dull purple flowers, and a winged stem.

Habitat: Moist, marshy places.

Common in the southern UK, but absent from parts of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Native through Europe to Siberia. Introduced to North America and other temperate regions.

Related species: There are a number of species found in the British Isles, both natives and garden escapes. They can all be used externally, but only Symphytum officinale (and then only the leaf) should be taken internally. Russian comfrey (S. x uplandicum) is common on drier ground, and is a hybrid between common comfrey (S. officinale) and rough comfrey (S. asperum). Tuberous comfrey (S. tuberosum) is native, with pale yellowish-cream flowers. White comfrey (S. orientale) has pure white flowers, while creeping comfrey (S. grandiflorum) has reddish flowers, which fade to yellowish-cream. Because comfreys hybridise, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

Comfrey’s old name of knitbone refers to its strong healing action for broken bones. It will also knit flesh together, speeding the healing of wounds. Applied as a poultice or ointment, it can be used to treat bruises, dislocations and sprains.