Gavez - Symphytum Officinalis
Naziv: Gavez Drugi nazivi: crni gavez, kilnjak, konjski rep, veliki gavez Latinski naziv: symphytum officinale Engleski naziv: Comfrey Opis biljke: gavez ima socnu, grubo dlakavu stabljiku visine 20 do 100 cm. Vi egod i nji koren gaveza raste vrlo duboko u zemlji. Debeo je, razgranat, vretenast i so can. Izvana je tamnosmedje do crnkaste boje, a iznutra bele do svetlo ute boje. Do nji listovi su veliki s peteljkom, dugoljasti i grubo dlakavi. Listovi na stablj ici su naizmjenicno poredani i grubo dlakavi po celoj povr ini. Cvetovi izbijaju t okom leta iz pazuha gornjih listova, a okrenuti su prema dole u jednostrano povi jenim cvatovima. Imaju oblik uskog zvona, a boja im je prljavobela do ru icaste il i ljubicaste. Stani te: gavez raste po citavoj srednjoj Evropi. Nalazi se na vla nim mestima, jarc ima, uz vode i na vla nim livadama. Za poljoprivrednika predstavlja korov to se te ko iskorenjuje (zbog du ine korena). Lekoviti delovi biljke: za lek se skupljaju lis tovi i koren. Koren se skuplja u prolece i kasnu jesen. Nakon to se iskopa, opere se i, da ne izgubi od sluzavog soka, najpre se osu i, re e na komadice i do kraja s u i na toplom mestu. Postoji oko dvadesetak vrsta gaveza, neke od njih uzgajaju ka o stocnu hranu. Vi egodi nji gavez pu ta korijen duboko u zemlju Lekoviti deo biljke: za lek se skupljaju listovi i koren. Koren se skuplja u pro lece i kasnu jesen. Nakon to se iskopa, opere se i, da ne izgubi od sluzavog soka , najpre se osu i, re e na komadice i do kraja su i na toplom mestu Lekovito delovanje: od svih domacih lekovitih biljaka gavez sadr i alantoin, mater iju to najvi e deluje u stvaranju novih celija - zbog cega se gavez koristi u lecen ju rana, cak i zapu tenih gnojnih rana. Njme se lece sve vrsti ozleda: ispucanost , posekline, lom kostiju, izev krvi i sl. Za vanjsku upotrebu protiv gihta i kos tobolje nema boljeg leka od sve eg nastruganoga gaveza sa kojim obla emo mesta obolj ela od gihta. Kad nemamo na raspolaganju sve u biljku, upotrebljavamo tinkturu gaveza. Ona takod je povoljno deluje protiv neuralgicnih bolova, posebno protiv nesnosnih bolova l ica. Buduci da gavez sna no deluje na centralni ivcani sistem, valja ga uzimati samo u m alim dozama. Gavezovu tinkturu treba lagano utrljavati, jer pri te kom gihtu ne sm emo upotrebljavati jake masa e. Tinktura se izvrsno pokazala i kod lecenja upale iv aca; gde god su na telu nastala bolna mesta, osetljiva na pritisak, to se odrazi na perifernim ivcima, a tinktura je jednostavan, prirodan i prikladan lek. Odlik a je tinkture i da preporadja ko u.; ostarelu, naboranu, pogotovo sa borama oko oc iju, to su nastale zbog razlicitih kozmetickih sredstava, posle du e upotrebe tinkt ure, ko a ce se regenerisati. Protiv upale vena tinktura se dobro pokazala u kombi naciji sa gospinom travom kantarionovo ulje ili jo bolje takodje tinktura od kant ariona. Koren gaveza delotvoran je u lecenju raznih pote koca organa za varenje, protiv ka tara eluca (sa prolivom ili bez njega), srdobolje, bolesti bubrega i kod prejake menstruacije. Upotrebljava se kod krvarenja eluca, bronhialnog katara, upale pluc a, krvavog ka lja i ispljuvka, upale porebrice i dr. Caj protiv bronhijalne astme priprema se na sledeci nacin : 5 g korena gaveza ku vati pola sata u pola litre vode, ostavi da odstoji dvadeset minuta i zatim proc
edi. Pije se jedna oljica ujutro nata te, zatim svakih pola sata dve velike kasikei pre spavanja opet jedna oljica. Caj protiv cira na zelucu i dvanaestercu priprema se na sledeci nacin: me avina od 50 g gaveza, semena dunje, i lanenog semena (Semen lini) i po 20 g slatkog kore na (Glycirrhiza glabra), i lista stolisnika, popari sa litrom kipuce vode, i nak on est sati stajanja procedi. Pije se tokom dana umesto vode. Ako treba podstaknuti znojenje ili mokrenje, priprema se caj od li ca i cveta gave za. Jedna velika kasika li ca i cveta gaveza prelije se sa pola litre kipuce vode, poklopi i ostavi da stoji 15 minuta. procedi se i pije se dvaput dnevno; ujutro nata te i uvece pre spavanja, po 1 ca ica. Ujedno, ovaj caj uklanja i grceve u trbu hu. Napomena: svi preparati od gaveza ne smeju se praviti ni dr ati u gvozdenom ni lim enom posudju ! Takodje, kod su enja korena treba paziti da se koren ne uplesnivi, jer je opasan! Sok od sve eg korena zaustavlja krvarenja iz sve ih rana. Ako se koren gaveza kuva u mleku ili pivu dok se ne zgusne u ka u, dobija se sreds tvo sa kojim se obla u mesta preloma ruke ili noge; preko toga se stave da cice i cv rsto se pove e. nakon 8 dana povoj se obnovi. U slucaju da ko a pobeli, na to mesto stavljati zgnjeceno li ce trpuca, a kasnije posuti prahom od zdrobljenog li ca kupin e. Manje je poznato da gavez mo emo koristiti kao tecno djubrivo u povrtlarstvu; boga t je kalijumom, pa je podesan za djubrenje korenastog povrca, narocito paradajza . Priprema : u pocetku cvatnje pokosi se gavez i cele biljke stavljaju u burad i li posude od plastike , ali ne sasvim do vrha. Zatim se dolije voda dok biljke ne pokrije voda, posuda se pokrije i ostavi tako 3 nedelje. Kada masa provrije, tecnost se odlije i razredjenom vodom u promeru 1:10 upotrebljava za zalevanje povrca. Najbolje je ovu tecnost pome ati sa tecnim djubrivom od koprive, koje se spravlja na isti nacin, u promeru 1:1. Zalevanje b iljaka ovim tekucim prirodnim djubrivom ubrzava rast biljaka i jaca njihovu otpo rnost prema bolestima. =========================================================================
Species of the Month: Comfrey by Douglas Barnes Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). What better plant to feature as Species of the Month than this herbaceous member of the Boraginaceae family? Description It grows up to 150 cm tall and 60 cm in diameter in warm climates. The optimum growth is in climates where day and night are equal (i.e. the tropics). There, production of 100 to 200 tons per acre (roughly 250 to 500 metric tons per hectare) is possible! However, it will grow in temperate regions. It prefers full sun and soils rich in nitrogen and humus, so interplanting with nitrogen fixers and mulching is a good idea. You can expect to get at least 10 years out of one plant, and a well-attended plant might outlive you! Animal Fodder
It is protein rich with reportedly 20 times the protein content of soy beans. It is used as a pig fodder successfully in amounts up to 80 to 90% of the diet! For poultry, it can reduce the need for other feed (be that your concoction or processed feed) by 50%. Egg quality will improve with yolks being brighter. Cows don't bloat when eating comfrey like they do with clover. And too much clover can taint the milk not a problem with comfrey. Also, mastitis is reduced in cows fed comfrey. Wilted comfrey mixed with straw fed to sheep at a ratio of one part comfrey to one and a half parts straw increases the digestion of the straw. The flowers make it useful as bee fodder. It is used in zoos as fodder for many (expensive) animals. Its tremendous production rates make it a great elephant feed. Soil Improvement Comfrey has deep roots that help it to draw up nutrients from subsoils. This characteristic makes it a valuable nutrient cycler. It accumulates nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, sodium, sulfur, chromium, molybdenum and lead (the latter might make it useful in cleaning roadside soils contaminated by the use of leaded gasoline). It can be used as a green manure, and its ability to be cut right down to the ground a few times a year helps in this respect. It can be used as a compost activator. It can be made into a liquid plant feed: Place harvested comfrey in a sealable bucket Weigh down the comfrey with a stone Wait 1 or 2 weeks Drain out the juice and dilute it 10 to 1 with water and water your plants with it You can also use it to fill niches to suppress weeds. As Food Traditionally the whole plant has been used. Young leaves can be added to salads in small quantities to boost nutrient uptake. The stems can be blanched and eaten like asparagus. It is the only known plant source of vitamin B12. As Medicine Contains allantoin, which assists in the repair of damaged tissues. It is used as a poultice for cuts, scrapes, burns, skin conditions, ulcers, broken bones, strains and aches. It can help with digestive problems. The juice from leaves can be rubbed into the coats of dogs with mange. The full catalogue of uses is: Vulnerary (wound healer) Astringent (contracts tissue making it useful to treat bleeding, peptic ulcers, diarrhoea, shrink mucus membranes, etc.) Expectorant (dissolves mucus making it useful in treating phlegm) Emollient (smoothes and softens skin) Demulcent (treats inflamed, irritated tissue by coating it e.g. treating a dry cough) Antiseptic (helps treat or prevent infection in wounds) Nutritive (along with its protein and minerals, it contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, E and 28,000 IU of vitamin A per 100g) Tonic
Styptic (helps stop bleeding) Antioxidant (from the rosmarinic acid it contains) Pest Control Slugs go for comfrey, so you could use it to attract slugs away from plants. If you really want to go all out against slugs, grow a ring of comfrey around your garden, separating the garden with an electric fence. The comfrey will attract the slugs from the garden. Then run pigs in the comfrey. The pigs will love both the comfrey and the slugs. And the pig urine and manure will attract in even more slugs, hopefully depleting your local population for a while. In place of the pigs, poultry could be run as well. Caution Needed? Comfrey does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have the potential for liver damage. There have been warnings put out against the use of the herb, but evidence of incontrovertible documented toxicity is lacking. In the book "The Safety of Comfrey," J.A. Pembery found no reported cases of pyrrolizidine poisoning from comfrey. He did find one case of pigs in Germany being poisoned by nitrates in comfrey, but not by pyrrolizidine. Lab tests on rats suggest that to cause harm to humans, one would have to eat about 20,000 leaves. Certainly from anecdotal evidence, many people have eaten comfrey without reservations for decades and been very healthy. Still, to err on the side of caution, limit consumption. Also, drying the comfrey reduces the amounts of alkaloids. In addition to some comfrey plants containing 0.7mg/100g or B12, comfrey leaves contain B1, Thiamine
Iron, Calcium, Pro Vitamin A --
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The comfrey bed should be well prepared by weeding thoroughly, and dressing with manure if available. Offsets should be planted 2 3 feet apart with the growing p oints just below the surface, whilst root segments should be buried about 2 inch es deep. Keep the bed well watered until the young plants are established. Comfr ey should not be harvested in its first season as it needs to become established . Any flowering stems should be removed as these will weaken the plant in its fi rst year. Comfrey is a fast growing plant, producing huge amounts of leaf during the growi ng season, and hence is very nitrogen hungry. Although it will continue to grow no matter what, it will benefit from the addition of animal manure applied as a mulch, and can also be mulched with other nitrogen rich materials such as lawn m owings, and is one of the few plants that will tolerate the application of fresh
urine diluted 50:50 with water, although this should not be regularly added as it may increase salt levels in the soil and have adverse effects on soil life su ch as worms. Mature comfrey plants can be harvested up to four or five times a y ear. They are ready for cutting when about 2 feet high, and, depending on season al conditions, this is usually in mid-Spring. Comfrey will rapidly regrow, and w ill be ready for further cutting about 5 weeks later. It is said that the best t ime to cut comfrey is shortly before flowering, for this is when it is at its mo st potent in terms of the nutrients that it offers. Comfrey can continue growing into mid-Autumn, but it is not advisable to continue taking cuttings after earl y Autumn in order to allow the plants to build up winter reserves. As the leaves die back and break down in winter, nutrients and minerals are transported back to the roots for use the following spring. Comfrey should be harvested by using either shears, a sickle, or a scythe to cut the plant about 2 inches above the ground, taking care handling it because the leaves and stems are covered in hairs that can irritate the skin. It is advisabl e to wear gloves when handling comfrey. Despite being sterile, Bocking 14 Russia n Comfrey will steadily increase in size. It is therefore advisable to split it up every few years (and at the same time propagate more plants that can be share d with fellow gardeners!). It is however difficult to remove comfrey once establ ished as it is very deep rooting, and any fragments left in the soil will regrow . Rotovation can be successful, but may take several seasons. The best way to er adicate comfrey is to very carefully dig it out, removing as much of the root as possible. This is best done in hot, dry summer weather, wherein the dry conditi ons will help to kill off any remaining root stumps. Comfrey is generally troubl e free once established, although weaker or stressed plants can suffer from comf rey rust or mildew. Both are fungal diseases, although they rarely seriously red uce plant growth and thus do not generally require control. However infected pla nts should not be used for propagation purposes. Comfrey is a particularly valuable source of fertility to the organic gardener. It is very deep rooted and acts as a dynamic accumulator, mining a host of nutri ents from the soil. These are then made available through its fast growing leave s (up to 4-5 pounds per plant per cut) which, lacking fibre, quickly break down to a thick black liquid. There is also no risk of nitrogen robbery when comfrey is dug into the soil as the C:N ratio of the leaves is lower than that of wellrotted compost. Comfrey is an excellent source of potassium, an essential plant nutrient needed for flower, seed and fruit production. Its leaves contain 2-3 ti mes more potassium than farmyard manure, mined from deep in the subsoil, tapping into reserves that would not normally be available to plants.
There are various ways in which comfrey can be utilised as a fertiliser, these i nclude: * Comfrey as a compost activator - include comfrey in the compost heap to ad d nitrogen and help to heat the heap. Comfrey should not be added in quantity as it will quickly break down into a dark sludgy liquid that needs to be balanced with more fibrous, carbon rich material. * Comfrey liquid fertilizer - can be produced by either rotting leaves down in rainwater for 4 5 weeks to produce a ready to use 'comfrey tea', or by stacking dry leaves under a weight in a container with a hole in the base. When the leav es decompose a thick black comfrey concentrate is collected. This must be dilute d at 15:1 before use. * Comfrey as a mulch or side dressing - a 2 inch layer of comfrey leaves pla ced around a crop will slowly break down and release plant nutrients; it is espe cially useful for crops that need extra potassium, such as fruit bearers but als o reported to do well for potatoes. Comfrey can be slightly wilted before applic
ation optionally but either way, avoid using flowering stems as these can root. * Comfrey potting mixture - originally devised to utilize peat, now environm ental awareness has led to a leaf mold-based alternative being adopted instead; two year old, well decayed leaf mold should be used, this will absorb the nutrie nt-rich liquid released by the decaying comfrey. In a black plastic sack alterna te 3-4 inch layers of leaf mold and chopped comfrey leaves. Add a little dolomit ic limestone to slightly raise pH. Leave for between 2 5 months depending on the s eason, checking that it does not dry out or become too wet. The mixture is ready when the comfrey leaves have rotted and are no longer visible. Use as a general potting compost, although it is too strong for seedlings. ================================================================================ ================ ============================================================================ Comfrey Pasta Ingredients - weights and measures conversion chart One Onion Garlic to taste 5 Mushrooms - (Button or freshly picked ceps) 20 or so leaves of Comfrey Pinch of Nutmeg Some oil for frying, (pref. Rapeseed oil) Olive oil or Butter to flavour Black pepper Basil Pasta for two Method Fry up the onions until soft then add garlic. Add the mushrooms and once softened add the comfrey and cook until wilted. Chuck in the remaining ingredients Serve with pasta and garlic bread and a smile. Comfrey fritters. Sift 200g of plain flour add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a knob of butter an d half a pint of milk. Stir and throw in an egg. This is best left overnight but I never do and it tastes fine. Coat one or two leaves with the batter. Fry until crispy. Serve as a starter or with fish. Comfrey bhajis This is more or less a vegan version of the above recipe. Make a batter using garam flour, a pinch of coriander powder and/or fresh leaves, sparkling or still water and other spices of your preference. Mix until it has a thick but not s olid consistency. Add some chopped comfrey leaves and mix trying to ensure most of the comfrey is coated with the batter. Deep-fry until golden brown and puffed up. Comfrey Aloo.
An excellent version of the traditional Indian dish Saag Aloo substituting the s pinach for comfrey. It can also be made with nettles and or a mix of any seaso nal wild leaves, (good King Henry etc). Part boil some potatoes whilst toasting coriander, fennel, fenugreek and cumin s eeds. Take the seeds from the dry pan and crush in pestle and mortar or on a c hopping board with a meat cleaver or side of a big knife. Fry some onions, garli c, ginger and chilies. Add the part boiled potatoes and crushed seeds. Add som e comfrey leaves and a little turmeric to colour. Cook until potatoes are soft and the comfrey has wilted. Can be served with Naan bread, yogurt and comfrey bhajis. Comfrey has traditionally also been used as a flavouring for wine and butter in Russia and the Baltic. It has also been widely used as an animal fodder. Comfrey Pancakes My mate Justin makes these and swears that its one of the nicest things he makes , I am still yet to try it. Make a batter the same as in comfrey fritters above. Chop two comfrey leaves finely and add to a pan of hot oil. Pour in the mixture so that it just covers the bottom of the pan. Fry each side until golden. Serve with a two nice bottles of wine and some friends. ================================================================================ ===============
Latin Name: Symphytum officinale L. (Family: Boraginaceae) Synonyms: Common Comfrey, Blackwort, Healing Herb, Bruiswort, Knitbone Life Zone: The reported life zone for Comfrey is 6 to 25 degrees C., wit h an a annual precipitation of 0.5 to 2.7 meters, and a soil pH of 5.3 to 8.7 Th e plant grows best in a moist environment, and is found wild along rivers. CROP - COMFREY LEAF AND ROOT (Symphytum officinale L.) ADVANTAGES - Potential cattle food additive MAJOR USES - Major food additive, cosmetic, pharmaceutical uses CLIMATE REQUIREMENTS - 5.3 to 8.7 pH 19.2 to 106.2 inches annual precipitation 42.8 to 77.2 degrees F. NATURE OF PRODUCT - Sold as Leaf, Root, and Root Extract WORLD & DOMESTIC VOLUMES - Unknown. Estimate world use for Leaf 80K ton. Domestic food and drug is 800 ton. CURRENT SOURCES OF SUPPLY - South America, Germany, and Bulgaria DOMESTIC PRODUCTION POTENTIALS - 1,000 ton/month/State as cattle food
COMPETITION - Oregon, California, Brazil, Germany, Bulgaria EQUIPMENT NEEDS TO: Grow - Irrigation, light cultivation, rotary mower, vacuum pick-up Store - 200-lb. burlap bale, pallet load, heated storage Process - Pellet mill, special dehydration systems (corn bin, hop dryer) Market - Change in politics and belief systems CULTURAL PROBLEMS - Grass control first two years MARKETING PROBLEMS - New market for cattle feedlots Description: This hard perennial is native to Eurasia, and naturalized in North Ameri ca. The erect growing herb can reach the height of one meter. Characteristically covered with a prickly pubescence, the plant develops flowers colored from whit e to purple, a thick, externally black root, and relatively large leaves. Perennial, 30 to 120 cm tall, on thick brownish-black rootstock. Leaves and stems erect, with stiff hairs. Lower leaves to 25 cm long, petiole, lanceola te, hairy beneath. Upper leaves narrower. Flowers purplish, pinkish, or yellow-w hite, in crowded terminal cymes; appearing early Summer to early Autumn. History: Since certain strains of the Leaf contain almost 35% protein, vitamin B1 2, and the cell-proliferate allantoin, attempts have been made to extract it for human consumption. Comfrey is, however, an important feed in some parts of the world. It is also grown as an organic compost and mulch. It reached the top of it s fame in 1974, when Celestial Seasonings used it in many of their herbal tea blends. That year they imported some Comfrey from B razil which was infested with Woody Nightshade. A number of people were poisoned , so Celestial Seasonings, in a vane attempt at damage control, immediately remo ved it from their blends. What happened next was that Oregon State University and Washington State University conducted some studies to determine the content of oxalic acid and p yrillozine alkaloids present, thinking this is what poisoned Celestial Seasoning s consumers. Their studies showed that there were toxic levels in both the leaf a nd root. The two studies were flawed however, as the plant sources they used were over six years old, with no previous harvests of the leaf. Further studies woul d eventually show that there was essential not toxic value of alkaloids in leaf that had been cut from the plant prior to 10% flowering (much like Alfalfa). Canada, then, without even studying the Leaf correctly, made Comfrey ill egal for human consumption, just on the flawed studies from the two Universities . This severely limited the future use of Comfrey at that time. If Comfrey is not cut at this stage of growth, then the Leaf tends to be come more root-like in both alkaloid content and texture. In some private studie s conducted with Honda Corp. in Osaka, their feedlots were three 60-story buildi
ngs. Not being outside, the cattle were rampant with disease. When fed a 605-Com frey/40% Alfalfa pellet, however, virtually all diseases were eliminated. Chemistry: Both Leaf and Root have been used medicinally. The plant root has a larg e content of mucilage, allantoin, symphytine, echimidine, isobauerenol, beta-sit oosterol, tannins, and lasicarpine. The tannins are responsible for the astringent properties of the plants parts, and the allantoin mucilage accounts for a demulcent activity. The pyrrolo zidine alkaloids are potentially toxic, but not harmful in the small amounts ing ested by humans. Usage: Comfrey Leaf is used as an external remedy as a poultice. In dehydrated and/or pellet form it makes a useful cattle fodder. It is also used as an adulte rant of digitalis leaf. Rich in vitamin B12, amino acids, and proteins. Comfrey Root is a demulcent used in cough mixtures in the form of a deco ction. Cam be combined with Dandelion and Chicory for use in a non-caffinated cof fee substitute. Comfrey is also used in cosmetic products, such as Nexus Hair Conditione r. Field Production: Raising Seedlings: Usually always grown from rootstock, not seed. Cultivation: Comfrey is cultivated from rootstock. Roots from an older f ield are quartered and cut into 3 to 5 inch lengths, by hand. They are planted 1 .5 to 2.0 inches deep and one foot apart in rows (some recommended planting 4 in ches deep, but this can lead to rotting before emergence); 17 to 20 inch furrows . Some 6 to 10 inches of rootstock can be taken from an established field every fourth year, with one acre reseeding five. Fertilization: Likes nitrogen to encourage the lush leaf growth. Manure adds too many weeds. The taproot can grow to six feet within three years. Irrigation: Comfrey likes a heavy irrigation which it sets up its root s ystem the first year, probably as much as a five-day rotation on well drained so ils. Weed Control: Weed control is done by cultivation, however, when the fie ld begins to mature somewhat an umbrella effect markedly discourages weed growth. The broad Comfrey leaves compete successfully with many weeds. Insects & Diseases: None cited. Harvesting: Comfrey should be cut before 10% of the crop goes to flower. It cannot b e dried in the sun because of high mucilage. Even pellet milled Comfrey will rot from the center. The best form of harvest is to cut at 6 inches from the ground with a side-bar cutter, attempting not to bruise the Leaf as this darkens it. Root harvest can be done with potato digging equipment, taking care to p ile and cover the Roots with tarps, or at least keep them from exposure to the d
rying effects of the sun. Yields: Yields in dry weight for a field established for four year or more can b e five ton per acre on four cuttings. With heavy irrigation, up to six cuttings are available in some regions. Tabin, S. , Berbeck, S., and Bobrzynski, T. The yields of sever ecotypes of Symphytum officinale [in Polish}. Hodowls Rosl. Aklim. Nassienn. 17: 505-511 . Drying: Let the cut Leaf come to a 50% sun-cure wilt, and then pick it up with a flail-chop to be taken to a drying facility (i.e. Hop Kiln, Corn Dryer, etc.]. Tobacco dryers and plywood kilns are other alternatives for dryers. Comfrey is e asy to grow, but the key to success with this crop lies in proper dehydration an d handling. Processing: Besides processing the Leaf for the greenish powder, and harvesting the underground Root for drying, there is an opportunity to produce cattle feed alte rnatives as a 60% Comfrey/40% Alfalfa pellet. This constitutes a whole food for ca ttle. Storage: Both Leaf and dried Root should be kept in average room temperature and humidity for long-term storage. Store to eliminate the potential for insects, ro dent contamination, and yeast and molds. ================================================================================ ================ COMFREY LEAF: A NEW ANIMAL FOOD SUPPLEMENT by Richard Alan Miller, c1993
The Controversy: The future of comfrey is uncertain now, especially with new rulings in both Canada and the U.S. on its limited use as a food. However, many of these politic al stands are built on sand and may soon be challenged in the courts. Long toute d as one of the most popular herbs in European folk medicine, comfrey has become increasingly controversial because of reports that it is toxic to the liver, an d perhaps carcinogenic. At issue is a class of chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Alkal oids of this type are responsible for the toxicity of such poisonous plants as H elliotropium, Crotalaria, and Senecio. They have caused substantial losses of gr azing livestock, and some human poisonings as well. The alkaloids damage the vei ns within the liver, causing a condition known as hepatic veno-occulsive disease (HVOD). Different PAs have different toxicity, further complicating matters.
Comfrey has been known since at least the 1960s to contain PAs, which in suf ficient doses, have caused liver damage and tumors in lab animals. The risk to h umans is a matter of serious debate, while international government regulation i s showing a trend toward eliminating the causal consumption of comfrey. Comfrey root is much higher in alkaloids than leaf, and younger leaves contain more than older leaves. For perspective, spinach and chard also contain similar quantitie s of these PAs. The U.S. FDA has sampled a variety of comfrey products for l ultimately make a decision about how such products are to be lia has banned comfrey, while Canada has proposed a ban on its estricted its medicinal use. Germany and New Zealand have also e.
analysis, and wil regulated. Austra use in food and r restricted its us
The first Canadian action was taken in 1982, when the Health Protection Bran ch of Health and Welfare Canada introduced an amendment to Canada's Food and Dru g Regulations which prohibits the sale, for medicinal purposed, of any products containing echimidine (Canada Gazette, 30 March, 1988). Echimidine, considered t o be the most toxic of comfrey PAs is not found in common comfrey (Symphytum off icinale L.) However, it is present in prickly comfrey (S. asperum Lepchin) and its hybri ds with S. officinale L., including Russian comfrey (S. x uplandicum Nyman), whi ch is the most commonly encountered commercial comfrey. Examination of comfrey p roducts reveal that none are ever designated or labeled as Russian comfrey or by its Latin binomial. Products continue to be labeled as either simply "comfrey" or Symphytum officinale (common comfrey). New Canadian legislation is now designed to have more careful attention paid to identification of botanical species by the herbal industry. In my review, th ere is still no intent to underestimate the relative potential danger of echimid ine-free S. officinale. While S. officinale has been shown to be carcinogenic in rats, the methodology and dose rates were so high as to be make results suspect . Without this labelling, however, the "baby might get thrown out with the bathw ater." There are numerous studies now available that show the benefits of using com frey leaf (S. officinale) as an animal food supplement. This is especially true for older plants, where the leaf is taken prior to the "10-percent" flowering st age, much like alfalfa. While the root is quite high in PAs, there are absolutel y no PAs shown to exist when 3-year-old comfrey leaf is cut at this stage of gro wth. All reported toxic reactions in humans (only 4!) are from individuals who to ok massive doses of leaf , either by juicing it, or large quantities of tablets. However, when used as a 50-percent supplement to cattle, not only are there no reported toxic reactions, apparently it is metabolized into harmless proteins, i ncluding two essential amino acids missing in alfalfa (lysine and alanine). When combined with alfalfa, this mixture becomes a "whole food" for the cow! Allanto in is also considered very important to cattle, especially those in feed lots wh ere chance of disease and infection is so much higher. While debate continues on the safety of comfrey, current evidence indicates that commercial comfrey preparations are not always derived from S. officinale. Uncertainties in the marketplace are compounded by errors in the scientific lite rature, further complicating safety evaluation. The presence of echimidine (like ly the most toxic alkaloid) in commercial products has led the Canadian governme nt to propose a general ban on comfrey. In the U.S. the American Herbal Products Association and the FDA are both reviewing the literature on comfrey to determi ne what action may be appropriate regarding marketing of comfrey products.
History Of Usage: Since comfrey contains almost 35 percent protein, vitamin B12, and cell-prol iferent allantoin, attempts have been made to extract it for human consumption. Comfrey is, however, an important animal feed supplement in some parts of the wo rld. It is also grown as an organic compost and mulch. Both leaves and roots have been used medicinally. The plant roots have the l argest content of mucilage, allantoin, symphytine, echimidine, isobauerenol, bet a-sitoosterol, tannins, and lasiocarpine. It is for this reason that comfrey roo t has not historically been used for internal consumption. The tannins are respo nsible for the astringent properties of the plant parts, and the allantoin mucil age accounts for a demulcent activity. Comfrey leaves are used as an external remedy as a poultice with thoroughbre d race horses with shin splints and bone spur problems. In dehydrated and pellet forms it make a useful cattle fodder. Comfrey root is a demulcent used in cough mixtures in the form of a decoction. It has also been used as an ingredient com bined with dandelion and chicory root for use in a non-caffeinated herbal "coffe e" substitute. Comfrey is also use in cosmetic products, such as Nexus Hair Cond itioner. Field Production: Comfrey is cultivated from rootstock. Roots from an older field are quartere d and cut into 3 to 5 inch lengths by hand. They are planted 1.5 to 2 inches dee p and one foot apart in rows (some recommend) planting 4 inches deep, but this c an lead to rotting before emergence. Use 17 to 20 inch furrows, depending on ava ilable cultivation equipment parameters. Some 6 to 10 inches of rootstock can be taken from an established field every fourth year with one acre reseeding five acres. Comfrey likes nitrogen, encouraging the lush leaf growth. Manure adds too ma ny weeds. The taproot can grow to six feet within three years. Comfrey thrives i n heavy irrigation while it sets up its root system the first year. Use up to a five-day rotation on well-drained soils. Weed control is done by cultivation unt il the field begins to mature somewhat. This forms an "umbrella effect" and mark edly discourages weed growth. The broad leaves compete successfully with many we eds. When starting a new field, grasses are the primary problem when first establ ishing the field. Just at first emergence from the split rootstock, a light appl ication of RoundUp will kill the full grasses and only "burn" the comfrey back o ne week. RoundUp is one of the few herbicides that truly breaks down into minera ls and salts within 10 days of application. As a "translocator," it's primary ac tion is to prevent photosynthesis, not a problem at this stage of growth for com frey. If you choose not to use RoundUp, cultivation should be handled via listers. First and second cuttings are usually not marketable because of grass contamina tion. Once the field "sets," the so-called "umbrella effect" takes over and gras ses are more easily confirmed or eliminated. This method, while being strictly b y the rules of "organic" farming losses one year in production. If RoundUp is ne cessary, no further applications are ever necessary. Harvesting Technique: Comfrey leaf should be cut before 10 percent of the crop goes to flower. It cannot be dried in the sun because of the high mucilage. Even comfrey from an al
falfa dehydration pellet mill will rot from the center. The best form of harvest is to cut comfrey leaf at 6 inches from the ground with a side-bar cutter, atte mpting not to bruise the leaf as this darkens the final color of the dried leaf. The comfrey is laid out in wide windrows, avoiding leaf stacking and compact ion. Let the leaf come to a 50 percent sun-cure, and then pick it up using a dra per or other type conveyor-type delivery to wagons. Some can use a flail-chop if the end use is for cattle. While this may darken the leaf, cattle are less conc erned with appearances. The wagons should be taken to large dehydration facilities for final drying. These facilities can be hop kilns, tobacco dryers, and plywood kilns. Grain dry ers are too small. Basically, forced warm air shafts work best. This gently conc luded the final drying of the leaf. Comfrey is easy to grow, but the key to succ ess with this crop lies in proper dehydration. The plant design needs to consider the shear volumes involved. Most fields i n third year production will experience a minimum of six cuttings. Each cutting will have more than 10,000 pounds of wet produce per acre. One 30-foot by 30-foo t kiln floor will hold up to two acres per 8-hour period of air drying. How do y ou propose to load and unload this product from wagons into a kiln, and how do y ou unload a kiln - especially if you are farming 20 acres? This will need some t hought, and is the "proprietary" aspects of successful comfrey ventures. Once the comfrey leaf is dried, it is usually put into 180-pound rectangular bales, wrapped in burlap (much like hops). Since it is quite light, the "cube" is bulky, so dimension of the bale are designed for stacking in a warehouse. If the product is to be used for animal feed supplements, then a simple pellet can be used, with 50-pound sacks (like dehydrated alfalfa). Root harvests can be done with potato digging equipment. If they are to be t aken for replanting a field, care must be taken to pile and cover the roots with tarps. Exposure to sun will often dry the root to a point that it will be hard or slow to begin re growth. Sunlight triggers the root into stasis. Sun-cured ro ots for the cosmetic industry are packed in either burlap or fiber drums. The powder of comfrey leaf is green, almost odorless, and has a mucilaginous , weakly astringent taste. Product should be of more or less uniform color with little or not "browning" evident. As the flowers are edible, their inclusion is fine, except where high product uniformity is necessary. Underground comfrey root is spindle shaped, branched, often more than 2.5 in ches thick and more than 5 feet deep. It shows external wrinkles, has a firm, ho rny texture, and dark color./ The inside ranges from creamy white to a dark brow n color. The root is almost odorless, and has a sweetish, mucilaginous, feebly a stringent taste. Powdered comfrey root is grayish brown in color with a many small dark brown specks of outer bark on it. It contains a mucilage which is water soluble. It s hould not be taken internally, as previously discussed. Marketing: Comfrey is traditionally sold to processors (for milling) and manufactures. Prices vary, depending on availability and volume of sale. Most current sales to small processors is usually in 2 to 4-ton lots. A typical mid-sized wholesaler will use up to 20 ton, depending on statewide FDA recommended compliance. This i s changing, and less and less comfrey is sold for retail distribution. Most comf rey now goes to manufactured cosmetics and topical applications.
The price for comfrey leaf has increase to about $1.50 per pound in 2-ton qu antities. Comfrey root can fetch up to $2.80 per pound, again depending on avail ability. These two markets are limited, and becoming more so because of concerns about PAs and other potential and "unknown" carcinogenic. There is, however, another very large and potentially important new market a s an animal food supplement. Recent studies with comfrey leaf have shown that it contains several essential amino acids missing in alfalfa. When it is combined w ith alfalfa in a 60/40% ratio, it constitutes a "whole food" for feedlot cattle. The potential future markets for this crop in combination with other currently p roduced feeds can become very significant, with availability. With a pellet-combination price of $400/ton, the demand within five years fo r a new animal feed could be more than 50,000 acres. This would represent more t han 300K ton. Mixed with birdseed, the exotic bird (ostrich) markets are growing more than 500%/year, while the racetrack industry cannot get enough of these sp ecialty feed mixes. Overview: Crop: Comfrey Leaf (Symphytum officinale L.) Advantage: Potential animal food additive. Major Use: Major food additive, cosmetic, pharmaceutical use. Climate Requirements: 5.3-8.7 pH, 19.7-106.2 inches annual precipitation, 42 .8-77.2 degrees F. Nature Of Product: Sold as herb, extract and root. New market as animal feed pellet. World & Domestic Volumes: Unknown. Estimate world use as F/D at 8,000 ton. D omestic F/D is 800 ton. Current Sources of Supply: South America, Germany, Yugoslavia, Russia. Domestic Production Potentials: 1,000 ton/month/state as cattle food, or 600 ,000 dry weight tons by 1996. Competition: Oregon, California, Brazil, Germany, Yugoslavia. Equipment Needs To: Grow: Irrigation, row crop, cultivation, rotary mower or draper (conveyor pi ckup) Process: Large dehydration system, pellet mill, bagging. Store: Poly bags, pallet load, heated storage. Market: Samples, broker. Cultural Problems: Grass control during first two years. Marketing Problems: Federal regulations, FDA concerns, new market for animal feeds.
RE: COMFREY LEAF FEASIBILITY STUDY - Grants Pass Mint Farm Purpose - To determine the suitability of cultivating comfrey leaf on the Gr ants Pass Mint Farm as an alternative cash crop. To determine the cultivation, h arvest and drying problems associated with comfrey leaf. Objective - To develop accurate cost-of-goods produced for cultivating, harve sting and drying this crop for expansion considerations. To solve specific techn ical problems already outlined. To begin developing animal food markets for this crop and show profits. Scope - This should be developed as a multi-phased program. Phase I would be to plant a 10-acre field study for cultivation costs and soil amendment require ments. Begin a search for dehydration options, including the 7 hop kilns at Sunn ybrook Hop Farm (Grants Pass). These dehydrators can be used for other crops. Time Frame - The planting should occur in the early spring of 1990, with ful l commitment to begin research at that time. Rootstock availability may limit the size of the study. First harvests will become available in one year (Spring, 199 1), unless a field already established can be located. Anticipated Costs - Rootstock will cost about $600/acre, plus labor to prepar e and plant the field. Access to the local hop kilns should be no problem since they are no longer used for hop production. Consultant fees (Richard Alan Miller ) should include travel. Estimate Phase I to be less than $20,000 in total costs . Anticipated Incomes - In full production, comfrey leaf yields should be in e xcess of 6 ton/acre (dry-weight), with 5 to 6 cuttings. Previous studies in this area indicate that costs should be less than $320/ton, showing a minimum gross p rofit margin in excess of $800/acre. With additional processing, profit margins c an be increased significantly with production and market diversification. Anticipated Volumes - Estimate more than 10 ton semi-green (30% sun-cure/wil ted) product for dehydration per acre with each cutting. Dry-weight yields are e stimated to be more than 1.2 ton/acre/cutting, with up to 6 cutting per year in this region. Potential Markets - The current domestic tea markets for comfrey leaf are mo re than 400 ton, with world markets greater than 4,000 ton. The potential for a new animal feed made from comfrey leaf and other standard hay-type crops (alfalf a or birdseed) is astronomical. Now estimate this market to be in excess of 4,00 0 ton/month just for the cattle food markets of Japan alone. Discussion: Recent studies with comfrey leaf have shown that it contains several essentia l amino acids missing in alfalfa. When it is combined with alfalfa in a 60/40% r atio, it constitutes a "whole food" for feedlot cattle. The potential future mark ets for this crop in combination with other currently produced feeds can become v ery significant, with availability. With a pellet-combination price of $400/ton, the demand within five years fo r a new animal feed could be more than 50,000 acres. This would represent more t han 300K ton. Mixed with birdseed, the exotic bird (ostrich) markets are growing more than 500%/year, while the racetrack industry cannot get enough of these sp ecialty feed mixes. Richard Alan Miller has assisted in the production of this crop with five di fferent agri-businesses and numerous smaller producers for more than ten years.
He has even sold some comfrey pellets and cubes to Japanese markets in Osaka. He feels that the Grants Pass Mint Farm could be best used for alternative cash cr ops, like comfrey. Richard Alan Miller is available as an outside consultant to put together th is and other related cash crops. His primary expertise lies in marketing and pro cessing (adding value.) ================================================================================ ========= Chemistry Per 100 g, comfrey is said to contain 0.5 mg thiamine, 1.0 mg riboflavin, 5.0 ni cotinic acid, 4.2 mg pantothenic acid, 0.07 mg Vit. B12 (rare in vegetarian diet ), 28,000 IU Vit. A, 100 mg Vit. C, 30 mg Vit. E and 0.18 mg allantoin. So-calle d Russian comfrey (84.93% water) contains (ZMB) 22.73% CP, 5.39% EE, 4.22% NFE, 21.25% ash, 5.35% silica, 2.02% Ca, and 0.57% P. Based on 16 analyses, prickly c omfrey (83.1 to 89.8% H2O) contained (ZMB): 16 23% protein, 1.0 2.8% EE, 11.9 18.2% CF , 12.4 22.1% ash, and 43.2 49.1% NFE. The root contains 0.75 to 2.55% allantoin and about 0.3% alkaloids (symphytine, echimidine), lithospermic acid (said to be ant igonadotrophic), 29% mucopolysaccharide (of glucose and fructose). There is a gu m consisting of L(-)-xylose, L-rhamnose, L-arabinose, D-mannose, and D-glucuroni c acid. Also reported are 2.4% pyrocatechol tannins, 0.65% carotene, glycosides, isobauerenol, b-sitosterol, stigmasterol, steroidal saponins, triterpenoids, (e .g. isobanerenol), choline, consolidine, silicic acid, lasiocarpine, viridiflori ne, echinatine, and heliosupine-N-oxide (List and Horhammer, 1969 1979). According to Morton (1975), "Comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.) has considerable tannin in the leaves and the infusion of the dried leaves is very astringent. Comfrey roo t possesses 2.4% tannin...used in Germany for tanning leather. The above-ground plant contains the alkaloid lasiocarpine...consolidine and the N-oxide of helios upine. Additional alkaloids have been found in the root... The acid fraction of an aqueous extract of the plant has shown antigonadotrophic activity in mice." A ccording to Cancer Treatment Reports (1976; p. 1176), tannin-containing extracts from several plants produced either sarcomas or liver tumors. Tannic acid is he patotoxic and several workers report that tannic acid or tannin extracts from pl ants were oncogenic in animals. On p. 1183, lasiocarpine is reported as an oncog enic compound. Based on these Cancer Treatment Reports, one might conclude that comfrey contains two oncogenic or tumor-inducing substances. Description Perennial, shrubby herb, with powerful mucilaginous roots that go down to a dept h of 2 2.5 m; basal leaves lush, forming a rosette the first year, 30 100 cm long; s tem-leaves hairy, petioled, broad pointed, often up to 5 cm in length, rough-tex tured, on succulent, grooved stems; inflorescence tall, terminal cyme, up to 1.3 m tall (to 3 m tall on good rich soils); flowers magenta-pink, or blue, bell-sh aped; plant usually does not set seed. Germplasm Several vegetable strains of comfrey are known, the best cvs being 'Webster Stra in' and 'Backing No. 14'. Some horticulture cvs are yellow-variegated or with ye llow-margined leaves. (2n = 36) Distribution Native to the Caucasus, Russia and Persia, where it grows up to 1350 m elevation . Introduced and cultivated in England, United States, Canada (British Columbia) , Kenya, North Rhodesia, New Zealand, Australia.
Ecology Comfrey is suitable for the temperate and subtropical regions. It will grow and produce where many other forage plants will not. Almost any soil that allows dee p root penetration (to about 2.5 m) will grow comfrey. The crop needs lots of wa ter, and will stand flooding. Manures and fertilizers, particularly potash, shou ld be added to the soil. Comfrey will grow in partial shade. The above-ground fo liage will stand 15° of frost for a short time, and the roots will stand winter te mperatures of -40°C. In the Crop Diversification Matrix, comfrey is reported to ra nge from the Boreal Moist Forest Life Zone to the Warm Temperate Moist Forest Li fe Zone, tolerating annual biotemperature of 6 15°C, annual precipitation of 5 11 dm, and pH of 5.3 6.8. Cultivation Propagation is mainly by divisions of the crown or root cuttings, started in nur sery beds. Comfrey usually does not produce seed, and plants obtained from seed are very often inferior. Rooted divisions are planted out in the spring (or in t he autumn) as soon as frost does not endanger the foliage. They should be plante d in rows 1 m each way. The crop should be kept weed free until the plants are e stablished. After that there is no weed problem. Both mechanical and manual tech niques may be used. Irrigation may be necessary, as the plant requires a lot of water. Fertilization of the soil is necessary to keep the fields producing well, the fertilizer being best applied at end of April or beginning of May, at rate of 400 kg/ha of a 5-20-20 formula. Soil should be adjusted to pH 6.5. Harvesting Plants last about 20 years or so. However, the plants should not be allowed to f lower as they produce less, the amount of protein in the leaves is reduced and t he amount of fiber increased. The leaves should be cut about 5 cm above the grou nd, the height adjusted so that neither the crown nor young shoots be injured. A first cutting can be made some months after planting when the plants have a goo d growth. A mowing machine is used. Three or four cuttings per year are possible with well established healthy plants. Yields and Economics Comfrey has a reported potential of 247 MT/ha of green fodder, but the average i s usually less than that figure, about 237 MT/ha reported from England. Australi a claims up to 250 MT/ha green fodder, with 33% protein based on dry material. S uch biomass would have the energetic equivalent of 30 to 40 barrels of oil per h ectare. According to U.S. Oil Week (Sept. 17, 1979), an Oregon company, Western Comfrey refines the plant into a 25% protein cattle feed selling for $210 a ton. It is estimated to produce 2 2.5 gal alcohol/bushel with 44% protein cattle feed as a byproduct. Agri-Fuels of Portland put up $1.5 million to build a distillery to turn out 1 million gallons fuel grade alcohol along with tons of rich cattle feed. Energy Figures available suggest that DM Yields would be in the range of 10 to 25 MT/ha /yr and that poor land, such as the types now commonly employed for rough-grazin g, could be used. The ratio of output to input energy for native perennials is e stimated at 4 10 times higher than in arable crops (Palz and Chartier, 1980). Actu al yields will vary considerably with conditions; soil depth may prove to be an
important parameter. In the absence of definitive yield information, an average yield of 17.5 MT DM/ha/yr is assumed. In the absence of experimental energy dete rminations, a conservative figure of 17.5 GJ/MT is also assumed. The cost of est ablishing the energy farm is based on a published figure for comfrey (cost of in itial establishment, spread over 10 years, with interest on the outstanding bala nce at 12% = $461/ha/yr), but may be considerably less for vigorously spreading species such as Polygonum, Pteridium, and Urtica. The likely cost is ca $2.00 to $2.50 per GJ. If the initial planting cost could be halved, it would cost only $1.40 to $1.80 per GJ, at which level these energy sources would be competitive. As feedstock to anaerobic digestion, perennial crops at $2.25/GJ gross thermal value would give a feedstock cost of $3.75/GJ of product gas (without transport and storage) and a probable minimum gas cost of $8.25 per GJ. These figures are based also on harvesting cost of $75.00/ha (Palz and Chartier, 1980). Biotic Factors Grasshoppers, slugs, cutworms and pyrethrum eelworms have been reported as the w orst pests. Several nematodes also attack comfrey: Meloidogyne hapla, M. javanic a and several species in East Africa. The following fungi have been found on com frey: Corticium solani, Pleospora herbarum, Stemphylium botryosum (leaf spot) an d Sclerotium rolfsii. ================================================================================ ================ The history of the introduction of Russian Comfrey In the middle of the 19th century, a chemist, Henry Doubleday, had a factory mak ing gum for Penny Black stamps using latex from acacia trees (gum Arabic). When that became in short supply he heard of a species of comfrey, Prickly Comfrey ( symphytum asperum, not indigenous to Britain) was growing in Russia and was part icularly high in mucilaginous matter . Thinking this might be useful in gum making , he requested plants from contacts there and was sent some seedlings that were growing, it appears, in the same bed as Common Comfrey (symphytum officinale). The seedlings turned out to be a hybrid of those species which we now call S. Up landicum. Although hybrids, they formed fertile seeds from which Doubleday grew a crop but they failed to produce the gum he wanted. He became aware from his chemical analysis that this comfrey was a vital source of plant nutrients and de veloped ways of using it as manure, and later as animal fodder. ================================================================================ =============== HISTORY OF COMFREY Comfrey has a very ancient and colorful history. Dr. Christopher believed that it was one of the patriarchal herbs, possibly found in the Garden of Eden. Its recorded history begins in Europe, in the known world of that time, where Diosco rides, an ancient Greek botanic physician, documents the use of comfrey in treat ing the armies of Alexander the Great. This famous Greek physician references t he wild comfrey, Symphytum, which has been known to herbalists for over 2,000 ye ars. Symphytum comes from the Greek word syumphuo , meaning to make grow together. s complete Latin name is Symphytum Officinale, the term officinale referring to th e Latin officina , which was the monastery storeroom for botanical drugs, or in oth er words, the equivalent of our modern day pharmacy. During the Middle Ages in Europe, herbal medicine was the accepted medical treat ment. Indeed, it was perhaps the only known way to treat illness, injury and di sease. Catholic monks became the primary physicians, or healers, of their day.
What these dedicated fathers could not gather through wildcrafting, they grew i n their monastery gardens. Comfrey was one of those herbs they cultivated. It was used for various injuries and bronchial disorders, which will be discussed i n a later chapter. Many materia medica (accounts of medicinal substances) of th e day mention the specific uses of comfrey. A revolutionary healer, whom we call Paracelsus (although his real name was Phil ippus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) lived from 1493 to 1541. He became a great advocate of herbal medicines, and indeed, held comfrey in high regard, a s evidenced by this comment in his writings, To what purpose do you superadde vin egar to the root of Comfrey, or bole, or suchlike balefull additaments, while Go d hath compos d this simple sufficient to cure the fracture of the bones? The wild comfrey of that earlier era of which we spoke, a native of Europe, was a very prickly ancestor to the cultivated variety we see now under cultivation. Today s cultivated variety is still prickly, but apparently not as much as it was formerly. This less prickly variety is known as Russian comfrey and was first used in ornamental gardens. Joseph Busch introduced it into England between 179 0 and 1801. While Joseph Busch was head gardener at the palace of Catherine the Great at St. Petersburg, Russia, he became acquainted with comfrey. He was so impressed that he sent several plants to his native land of England. These plan ts became cultivated as ornamentals. As late as 1952 the Royal Horticultural Dic tionary of Gardening recommended comfrey as a fine plant for the wild garden, mea ning a garden for bees, birds and butterflies, rather than man. From the ornamental stage, comfrey graduated to a more useful function, that of animal fodder. This came about through the efforts of an Englishman, James Gran t. He artificially increased the yield by constant cuttings and root stimulatio n by water. His yields were very large and by the mid 1800 s, comfrey production in England, Scotland, and Ireland was reported to be as much as 31 tons to the a cre. One of the medicinal properties of the comfrey plant that will be discussed in a later chapter is that it is mucilaginous, meaning that it secretes a mucilage w hich can be sticky. In the mid-1800 s, A Quaker, Henry Doubleday, the inventor of postage stamp glue, had run out of gum arabic for his formula. The Royal Agricu ltural Society s Journal of 1871 ran an article on comfrey, which Mr. Doubleday rea d. He learned that it possessed this mucilaginous property, and he believed tha t he could extract this substance to use as glue. When he sent to gardener at S t. Petersburg for some comfrey plants, the gardener sent him seedlings that had grown between the rows of the established perennials instead of larger, more est ablished plants. These seedlings were the result of cross-pollination of two pu re strains: comfrey from the Caucasus, and the native European comfrey. It is not known if Mr. Doubleday was able to extract his glue-like substance from thes e comfrey plants, but it is known that he fed the comfrey to his livestock. It was a very hardy and prolific strain, yielding from 100 to 120 tons per acre; mu ch more than the former yield of 31 pounds per acre with the plants in the Briti sh Isles. Because of the high yield and the nutritional profile of comfrey, Mr. Doubleday grew comfrey to fulfill his dream to feed a hungry world. In the New World, comfrey was among those medicinal plants the early settlers re lied upon to treat their many and varied illnesses. Although the Colonials had brought some of their most familiar herbs from their native Europe, they were pl eased to learn that comfrey (and other herbs) grew locally. Some of the earliest recorded uses of comfrey in America come from the writings of a nineteenth century botanic physician by the name of Samuel Thomson. He tel ls a personal story of his foot injury from a piece of farm machinery. Using th e traditional healing methods of the time produced no relief, and it soon became apparent that the foot would have to be amputated. The nine-year old Samuel as
ked his father to get some comfrey that was known to be growing in the area. Co mfrey poultices were subsequently placed on the foot, and complete healing follo wed. However, even after this miraculous event, comfrey was not a part of Thomp son s patented system of medicine. The Industrial Revolution in America brought many changes to herbalism. Living conditions in cities changed so that the former plagues were brought under contr ol. The working classes had more money, and were enticed by glamorously packaged and enticingly advertised new patent medicines. Many of the herbal medicines fo rmerly held in high regard, such as comfrey, began to be abandoned, being consid ered as obsolete among physicians. However, in 1896, Dr. Charles MacAllister, M.D. noticed an article written by a Professor William Thompson about comfrey in an issue of the British Surgical Jou rnal, Lancet . Professor Thompson was President of the Royal College of Surgeons i n Ireland. This article recorded the case of a man with a malignant tumor on hi s face. After surgery had failed, the patient had been sent home to die. Three months later the patient returned to Dr. Thompson s office, completely cured. Up on questioning, the patient told the doctor that he had been applying comfrey po ultices to the affected area. Dr. Thompson stated in his article that although he knew nothing about the uses of comfrey, he did not believe that it would remo ve a sarcomatous tumor. Since Dr. MacAllister was interested in irregular cell growth, he became excited by Dr. Thompson s account. He began to consult old materia medica for references on the reported uses of comfrey. He found many references before the mid-ninet eenth century, but also found that its use as a healing agent was discontinued a fter that time. Prior to the nineteenth century, the Turks and Saracens used comfrey to heal wou nds received in battle. In fact, many of the ancient records Dr. MacAllister in vestigated mentioned comfrey as a great healer of wounds, ulcers, and a knitter o f flesh, sinew, and bone. Comfrey held a place of high esteem in the herbal prac tices of the local people. Dr. MacAllister wanted to find out what it was about comfrey that gave it such a good reputation, so he sent plants to the head of t he Organic Chemistry Department at Liverpool University. The chemical analysis of comfrey disclosed a white, crystalline substance called allantoin, which will be discussed in the chapter entitled, Chemical Constituent of Comfrey. Suffice i t to say that this substance seems to play a role in metabolism of growth and de velopment. Dr. MacAllister began experimenting with solution of allantoin on his patient s wo unds. He discovered remarkable improvements, and even rapid healing of old woun ds. He continued to experiment with comfrey, and the results of his experiments were published in the British Medical Journal (January 6 and September 21, 1912.) Comfrey history continues to be written to the present day. Many practicing her balists of our day are still using and praising this extraordinary plant. One o f those herbalists was Dr. Christopher, who recorded many examples of its use in his herbal practice in the latter part of the last century. Many of his case s tudies are documented in his book School of Natural Healing , and also in The School of Natural Healing 100 Herb Syllabus. And, of course, those of us who obtain kn owledge of herbs through The School of Natural Healing learn about comfrey. As we become practicing herbalists, the history of comfrey lives on through our suc cess stories. ================================================================================ ================== Russian Comfrey
Though I have some experience of wild common comfrey I have never grown the Russ ian variety, but I believe it has great possibilities as a spare corner crop or on land not in the rotation or around the hedgerows of the organic farm. I am in debted to Mr. Lawrence D. Hills for this information. As a fodder crop it is on the watery side, 90 per cent, and its beta carotene in the fresh state is 77 mg. per kilogramme, compared with the content of average grass of 120 mg. Its dry analysis, taken from a recent sample shredded and put t hrough grass drier, is protein 21.8 per cent, fibre 14 per cent, ash 13.6 per ce nt, oil 2.1 per cent, carbohydrate 37.4 per cent, moisture 11.1 per cent, beta c arotene 122 p.p.m. which compares favourably with much grass meal on the market to-day. But the colour is poor, and the high moisture content makes it costly in fuel. Its qualities as a silage crop are unknown, but as it will give up to six cuts a year, totalling, according to those who sell it and have sold it for yea rs, 20 to 30 tons in the first year, 40 to 60 in the second, and 60 to 80 in the third, with 120 tons as the target for an acre after that, it is worth consider ation and experiment. As fodder, it is an acquired taste. Cattle learn to like it, some eat it greedil y from the start, and it has been used for horses, sheep, goats, pigs and poultr y. At New Bells Farm, Haughley, Suffolk, the Soil Association use it for cattle food, and recommend it both as fodder and compost material. The leaves are on th e rough side hence the specific name. It is distinct from our native comfrey, Sy mphytum officinale, which is a weed, and useless as fodder, but once they get th e taste for the crop stock will leave even grass to eat it. It can be cut from A pril till November but is deciduous and is no help in winter feeding unless used for silage. The main reason for its unpopularity is the fact that it cannot be brought in on a normal rotation, it is a long-lived perennial, lasting up to forty years, and it is very hard to kill; the roots have so much depth from which to come up tha t no method of cultivation will destroy it and the use of sodium chlorate is abo ut the only way to get rid of it. The place for Russian comfrey is in the odd corner near the compost heap and the farmyard, now growing weeds, where it can be cut quickly for green fodder or co mpost. It is surprising how little work with scythe and fork will fill a cart to take out to a 'threadbare' field in a dry summer. When it is not required as fe ed, half an hour with a scythe on an odd Saturday morning will add a ton of mate rial to the compost heap. The analysis is interesting in the high total of ash, which includes 6.50 per ce nt potash, 2.02 lime, 0.93 phosphates and 0.63 per cent manganese apart from tra ce elements, and of course the larger amounts of these substances locked in the organic matter. It is sappy greenstuff of this type that the economical straw-ba sis farm compost heap lacks. The ground should be ploughed and cultivated, if possible getting out as many pe rennial weed roots as you can, and the crowns planted between March and November three feet apart and three between the rows. It sets seed rarely and is difficu lt to raise from seed. For the first two years it will need surface hoeing betwe en the rows between cuts. When the plants are established weeds cannot survive u nder it, and the cut is greatly increased by a mulch of manure or compost. Experiments have been tried with sawdust mulching between the rows, for the fewe r weed seeds that are brought to the surface by hoeing the better. The comfrey w ill, even in the first year, put on so much growth in three weeks that weeds rar ely have a chance to set seed and the hoeing is only to prevent them taking adva ntage of temporary daylight to flower and seed.
A small patch will enable the organic farmer to try the crop; he has no fear of it spreading, as the roots go down, not outwards like creeping thistle. The few firms who have the true Russian comfrey, not forms of Symphytum officina le, charge about 35s. a hundred (£13 per 1,000 for crowns), but it is so easy to i ncrease that there is no need to buy a further stock. After several cuts have be en secured, each plant is a mass of shoots. Either about September or in March, the better season, break off all you need and plant along a furrow, turning the next on to it so they are just covered. Roll and leave to grow. Any gaps can be filled up in showery weather later in the year with further fragments broken off the parents. These should have a growing point and about three or four inches o f brown thick root. In Germany, where Russian comfrey is a favourite smallholder's crop, the custom is to leave the patch down about seven years and then fold pigs on it. The pigs are not rung and eat every bit of root they can scent, after they have cleared t he foliage. This is the only way of getting rid of it economically and it enable s it to be used as a farm crop like lucerne, outside the normal rotation. The pi g 'grazing' system is that described in Chapter 17. ================================================================================ =============== Comfrey is a perennial that grows quickly and prolifically. I only eat the leave s occasionally but I've read that the root can be used medicinally as a tea for coughs, salves, etc. Comfrey is known for its uses as a cell proliferant and has various applications, including the healing of surface wounds (for deep wounds, plantain is the better choice--don't use comfrey--the top will be healed trappi ng in the beasties deep inside). Comfrey has virtue; cut it down and it pops rig ht back up again. It is easy to propagate by division (but if you dig it up and leave a piece of root behind you'll get another plant!). I hear it is a wonderfu l addition for the compost pile (I make Comfrey tea--put a bunch of leaves in a bucket of water and let it sit and rot for several days or weeks and then use th e dark liquid as a liquid fertilizer.) and can be cut down several times a year. Its ability to come back amazes me. I even did an experiment to see if planting a comfrey leaf with no roots would work--it did, maybe one of three leaves grew into a new plant (if your compost pile is not hot enough you may spread comfrey throughout your beds--a little piece will grow into a new plant--peppermint is the same way). Tomatoes are supposed to love comfrey (I'll put torn up comfrey l eaves around the plant.). While I read that comfrey grows wild in Europe, the pl ant you see pictured is one that I received as a root with a few leaves; it may be Symphytum officinale. I divided this mother plant into a number of plants, on e of which I put near the exit of sump pump water--comfrey likes moist soil, but does not want to constantly sit in soggy soil. It may do best with a little sha de. Comfrey can also be placed on the compost pile [note: sage is one of the few pla nts that does not like comfrey]. My compost pile is a heap of alternately layere d wet stuff (green weeds, green grass, kitchen scraps, dung), dry stuff (like dr ied up leaves and grass), and whatever liquid falls on it. I also cover up kitch en scraps with a little dirt and with urine to keep pests away and to add more n utrients. I have not always managed a formal pile, but it has rotted down just t he same, although it may have take several months or a year. If you make light l ayers of wet stuff, dry stuff, and dirt and turn it over every few days, it shou ld rot down a lot faster. We can all take a lesson from Squanto and actually pla ce a piece of non-rotted nutrition, like a fish (maybe some urine on it to keep animals from digging it up), and stick it in a hole where our plant roots will b e able to get to it. When a man told me that he buried raw dung, put some dirt o
n it and then planted on top of that, it liberated me and greened my gardens not withstanding the warnings not to do so. They say not to use the raw dung if you are not going to cook the vegetables. I didn't know that when I first used dung in the garden. Some people apparently use comfrey as a nutritious forage plant for their animal s--including farm and zoo animals. Because of comfrey's rapid, lush, plentiful g rowth it can supply a ready source of regular or emergency food for animals (rea d more about this in the comfrey links below). Comfrey has been known and successfully used by man for centuries, its virtues a re well-known; however, as with so many things, there are warnings against Comfr ey nowadays, saying that it is dangerous for people to use it internally. The po wers that be villanize comfrey after isolating one specific property of it and t hen overdosing two-week old baby rats on it. Meanwhile dangerous GMOs are being continuously released into the American food supply, fields, and seas with no fa nfare. If you have not seen the GMO Trilogy, you need to watch it. Monsanto (mak ers of Roundup, etc.) has a starring role. Each of us has a responsibility to 1) read the warnings about comfrey, GMOs, chemicals, etc., 2) consider them, and 3 ) decide what actions to take... ================================================================================ ================= Analysis of Pyrrolizidine alkaloids: http://toxicology.usu.edu/endnote/Analysis-of-pyrrolizidine-alkaloids.pdf ================================================================================ =================