Comfrey





The Comfrey of our river banks, and moist watery places, is the

Consound, or Knit-back, or Bone-set, and Blackwort of country

folk; and the old Symphytum of Dioscorides. It has derived

these names from the consolidating and vulnerary qualities

attributed to the plant, from confirmo, to strengthen together, or

the French, comfrie. This herb is of the Borage tribe, and is

conspicuous by its height of from one to two feet, its large rough

leaves, which provoke itching when handled, and its drooping

white or purple flowers growing on short stalks. Chemically, the

most important part of the plant is its mucilage. This contains

tannin, asparagin, sugar, and starch granules. The roots are sweet,

sticky, and without any odour. Quia tanta proestantia est, says

Pliny, ut si carnes duroe coquuntur conglutinet addita; unde

nomen!--and the roots be so glutinative that they will solder or

glew together meat that is chopt in pieces, seething in a pot, and

make it into one lump: the same bruysed, and lay'd in the manner

of a plaister, doth heale all fresh and green wounds. These roots

are very brittle, and the least bit of them will start growing afresh.



[121] The whole plant, beaten to a cataplasm, and applied hot as a

poultice, has always been deemed excellent for soothing pain in

any tender, inflamed or suppurating part. It was formerly applied

to raw indolent ulcers as a glutinous astringent, and most useful

vulnerary. Pauli recommended it for broken bones, and externally

for wounds of the nerves, tendons, and arteries. More recently

surgeons have declared that the powdered root (which, when

broken, is white within, and full of a slimy juice), if dissolved in

water to a mucilage, is far from contemptible for bleedings,

fractures, and luxations, whilst it hastens the callus of bones under

repair. Its strong decoction has been found very useful in Germany

for tanning leather. The leaves were formerly employed for giving

a flavour to cakes and panada.



A modern medicinal tincture (H.) is made from the root-stock with

spirit of wine; and ten drops of this should be taken three or four

times a day with a tablespoonful of cold water. French nurses treat

cracked nipples by applying a hollow section of the fresh root over

the sore caruncle; and a decoction of the root made by boiling

from two to four drachms in a pint of water, is given for bleedings

from the lungs or bladder.



The name Consound, owned by the Common Comfrey, was given

likewise to the daisy and the bugle, in the middle ages. It

joyeth, says Gerard, in watery ditches, in fat and fruitful

meadows. A solve concocted from the fresh herb will certainly

tend to promote the healing of bruised and broken parts,

suggesting as an appropriate motto for the salve box: Behold how

good and pleasant a thing it is to dwell together in unity! It is

like the precious ointment which ran down Aaron's beard. Some

foreknowledge [122] of the Comfrey perhaps inspired the Prophet

Isaiah to predict that after a time the heart should rejoice and the

bones flourish like a herb. The Poet Laureate tells of



This, the Consound,

Whereby the lungs are eased of their grief.



About a century ago, the Prickly Comfrey--a variety of our

Consound--was naturalised in this country from the Caucasus, and

has since proved itself amazingly productive to farmers, as, when

cultivated, it will grow six crops in the year; and the plant is both

preventive and curative of foot and mouth disease in cattle. It

bears flowers of a rich blue colour.



From our Common Comfrey a sort of glue is got in Angora, which

is used for spinning the famous fleeces of that country. Mr.

Cockayne relates that the locksman at Teddington informed him

how the bone of his little finger being broken, was grinding and

grunching so sadly for two months, that sometimes he felt quite

wrong in his head. One day he saw a doctor go by, and told him

about the distress. The doctor said: You see that Comfrey

growing there? Take a piece of its root, and champ it, and put it

about your finger, and wrap it up. The man did so, and in four

days his finger was well.





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