Symphytum officinale. (Family: Boraginaceae)
The common great comfrey hath divers very large hairy green leaves, lying on the ground, so hairy or prickly, that if they touch any tender part of the hands, face, or body, it will cause it to itch: the stalks that riseth up from among them, being two or three feet high, hollowed and cornered; as also very hairy, having many such like leaves as grow below, but less and less up to the top. At the joints of the stalks it is divided into many branches, with some leaves thereon; and at the ends stand many flowers in order one above another, which are somewhat long and hollow, like the finger of a glove, of a pale whitish colour, after which come small black seed. The roots are great and long, spreading great thick branches under ground, black on the outside and whitish within, short and easy to break, and full of a glutinous or clammy juice, of little or no taste.
There is another sort in all things like this, save only it is somewhat less, and beareth flowers of a pale purple colour.
They grow by ditches and water sides, and in divers fields that are moist, for therein they chiefly delight to grow: the first generally through all the land, and the other not quite so common.
They flower in June and July, and give their seed in August.
Government and virtues.
This is an herb of Saturn, and I suppose under the sign Capricorn, cold, dry, and earthy in quality. What was spoken of clown’s wound wort may be said of this; the great comfrey helpeth those that spit blood, or make a bloody urine: the root boiled in water or wine, and the decoction drunk, helpeth all inward hurts, bruises, and wounds, and the ulcers of the lungs, causing the phlegm that oppresseth them to be easily spit forth; it stayeth the defluxions of rheum from the head upon the lungs, the fluxes of blood or humours by the belly, women’s immoderate courses, as well the reds as the whites; and the running of the reins, happening by what cause soever. A syrup made thereof is very effectual for all those inward griefs and hurts; and the distilled water for the same purpose also, and for outward wounds and sores in the fleshy or sinewy part of the body wheresoever; as also to take away the fits of agues, and to allay the sharpness of humours. A decoction of the leaves hereof is available to all the purposes, though not so effectual as of the roots. The root, being outwardly applied, helpeth fresh wounds or cuts immediately, being bruised and laid thereunto; and is especial good for ruptures and broken bones; yea, it is said to be so powerful to consolidate and knit together, that, if they are boiled with dissevered pieces of flesh in a pot, it will join them together again. It is good to be applied to women’s breasts that grow sore by the abundance of milk coming into them; as also to repress the over much bleeding of the hemorrhoids, to cool the inflammation of the parts thereabout, and to give ease of pains. The roots of comfrey taken fresh, beaten small, and spread upon leather, and laid upon any place troubled with the gout, do presently give ease of the pains; and applied in the same manner, give ease to pained joints, and profit very much for running and moist ulcers, gangrenes, mortifications, and the like, for which it hath by often experience been found helpful.