Companion Planting For Fruit Trees: What Is Comfrey?
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a perennial herbaceous plant with purple flowers and small white berries. It grows from 3 feet up to 6 feet tall and has oval leaves that are 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Its flower stalks have 5 petals each, which are arranged in a V shape. The plant produces white flowers in clusters of 10 to 12 flowers.
The leaves are edible when they are young and tender, but after the first year they turn brown and fall off. They taste bitter, so it is best not to eat them raw or cook them before eating.
However, if you cut the leaf stalk into pieces then they become very tasty!
It is easy to grow comfrey because it does not require much water and requires little fertilizer. It is not invasive like many other herbs do.
You can easily harvest the leaves and flowers without damaging the tree.
You can use comfrey as a tea, in salads, or add it to soups and stews. It makes a great addition to desserts such as pies, cakes, cookies and ice cream!
How To Grow Comfrey Under Fruit Tree?
It does not matter if you choose to grow your comfrey under a fruit tree or in a pot, as long as you give it plenty of sun and water. It rarely gets diseases and pests so it is not very fussy about the growing conditions. However, when grown in containers it may need feeding every two weeks.
It does not take long before the comfrey plant produces flowers. Once it starts producing flowers, you can start harvesting the leaves and buds.
It is very easy to grow, however the flowers do have a mild laxative effect if eaten in large quantities, so you may want to keep this in mind when harvesting.
How Many Types Of Comfrey Are There?
There are actually 2 different types of comfrey to choose from. It is best to grow the common comfrey as it has wider leaves and a more manageable size. There is also a Russian comfrey which grows much larger than the common one.
Is Comfrey Good For Companion Planting?
It is a popular choice for companion planting because it fixes nitrogen in the soil, which helps plants that require more nutrients to grow well. It is mainly used in permaculture gardens to help grow other types of vegetables, fruit trees and other plants such as roses.
It is also very useful for growing under fruit trees because it fixes nitrogen in the soil and helps to remove toxins from it as well. This helps to make the soil more fertile and it is easier for your tree to get the nutrients that it needs from the soil.
You can also plant comfrey under trees that have shallow roots, as the comfrey will help to hold more water and nutrients in the soil around the roots of the tree. This helps to prevent problems such as wind rock.
If you plant comfrey under fruit trees that have shallow roots such as cherries and apricot, then you can help to prevent wind rock and help them to get the nutrients that they need easier. This can be a very useful thing to do if you are growing them in an area where the soil is not great or if you want to encourage them to grow better.
As comfrey fixes nitrogen in the soil it also helps other plants to grow as well. It is especially good for legumes and leafy vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce, but the effect is not as pronounced as it is with other plants.
Is Comfrey Good For The Garden?
As comfrey is so easy to grow, it is a very good choice for anyone that wants to start growing their own herbs. It is also very useful if you have fruit trees as you can plant it under the trees to help keep the soil rich in nutrients. It can also be planted in containers to help keep them fertile and promote new growth.
It is also extremely useful if you want to start creating your own natural pesticides. It is a great insect repellent and helps to control garden pests such as aphids, as well as many others.
It is a very good companion plant.
It also has several other uses around the garden from pest control to helping to keep the soil fertile. It is definitely one of the better choices when it comes to companion plants and is a great choice for any gardener.
How Can I Use Comfrey?
You can use the leaves and flowers in a number of ways. You can dry the leaves and flowers and then crush them up to use as a natural pesticide around your garden. If you dry the roots and then crush them, they make an excellent fertilizer for all types of plants.
You can also pick the leaves when they are young and cook them like spinach to eat. The roots of the comfrey plant can also be cooked and eaten like potatoes or eaten raw in a salad.
Comfrey has many other uses as well outside of the garden. It has been used to make a soothing skin balm and you can use it to make a honey substitute by mixing it with sugar.
You can even turn it into wine.
Is Comfrey Safe To Use?
The reason that comfrey is so effective for growing things is due to a compound that it contains called allantoin. Allantoin has many useful properties, but one of the main ones is that it helps to heal and regenerate cells. As this is the case, comfrey can be very effective at repairing and healing broken or damaged skin.
The leaves and flowers can be used topically to treat burns, open wounds, bruises, muscle pain and arthritic pain. It can also be used in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
It is extremely effective in treating sprains and even angina.
As comfrey contains allantoin it should never be taken orally, as this can lead to serious liver damage and even death. You should also not use it in any way if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, as it can lead to birth defects.
It is also not recommended that you use it on open wounds as this could lead to an infection as the allantoin can stop wounds from healing properly. It is best to only use it topically on unbroken skin or very shallow cuts.
Due to the potential risks comfrey should not be used on children, even though it is often mixed in herbal ointments and creams designed for babies and children because of its effective healing abilities.
Other than these warnings it is a very useful herb to keep in your garden as it has so many useful properties and isn’t just good for your garden.
Comfrey Growing Tips:
If you are planning on using comfrey leaves and flowers topically to treat wounds, it is best to buy the plant rather than trying to harvest your own. This is because it is very easy to mistake the extremely poisonous Water Hemlock for comfrey if you are not an expert on plant identification.
Even if you know what comfrey looks like, it can still be dangerous to use it topically as it takes years for the toxins to build up in the leaves. Comfrey contains a toxic substance called PSORALENE which means that it takes time for the plant to become toxic.
As comfrey is often used to treat open wounds, it is not wise to use the leaves that you have picked as they could be contaminated with bacteria. It is best to buy the dried leaves from a store or online and make sure you follow the instructions when using them.
Comfrey grows well in wet soil conditions and actually benefits from being planted next to lakes and streams. It can grow up to six feet tall and just as wide.
It has large heart-shaped leaves and bluebell type flowers.
It is easy to grow from seed, but it is slow growing plant as it only grows a few inches each year. It grows well in most soil types, but it likes wet soil and actually does better when planted near water.
This means that it is easy to plant comfrey near your pond or lake in your garden if you are lucky enough to have one nearby.
If you are using it to treat open wounds, simply crush the leaves and apply the poultice directly to the wound. If you are using it for bone fractures or other internal use, follow the instructions on how to prepare a comfrey ointment or tincture.
It is very important that you only use this herb externally and never take it internally as it can be fatal.
Where to Find it in the Wild
You can find wild comfrey growing in wet soil conditions near lakes, streams and even in damp woodlands. It is very easy to spot due to its large leaves and blue flowers.
You will often find it growing alongside other herbs such as plantain, yarrow, garlic mustard and nettle.
If you don’t have a nearby body of water in your garden, it is best to buy the seeds or plant rather than trying to gather your own as it can be found growing wild almost anywhere in the Northern hemisphere.
The best time to harvest the leaves is in the late spring when they are young and tender.
Once you have picked the leaves you need, you should dry them for later use. If you don’t have the room to dry them properly, you can just leave them out in a cool dry area for a few days until the leaves are crumbly rather than soft.
If you are using it to prepare an ointment or tincture, follow the instructions for use that come with the leaves. Comfrey ointment is a traditional remedy for treating bruises, sprains and healing broken bones.
Many people use a tincture of Comfrey leaves as a natural alternative to pain relief and to treat their bone fractures.
The next time you suffer from a sprained ankle or get a bruise, try picking some comfrey leaves and making a poultice rather than using the chemical filled alternatives available at the drug store. You’ll be pleased with the results!
Don’t confuse common Comfrey with the opposite but rarer Poison Comfrey (Conium maculatum). The leaves of poison comfrey look similar to common comfrey but its white flowers are much smaller and it has a dark purple stem.
It contains a toxic substance called Coniine which is a severe nerve poison that can cause death.
As with common comfrey, you should never take it internally and be careful when handling it.
You should also not use comfrey if you have a liver condition such as cirrhosis or have problems with your gall bladder. It should also not be used by pregnant women as it can cause a miscarriage.
If you are in any doubt as to what plant you have, it is best not to use it at all.
In addition to using comfrey for first aid, you can use it around the house as an insect repellent. Simply mix a few leaves with water and boil them to create a smelly mess that will keep most insects away.
You can also use it as a mulch in your garden or just as a fertilizer for your flower beds. It is a good way of keeping the plants healthy and will help to keep away certain pests.
However, remember that the leaves will only remain good for use as a mulch or fertilizer if they are dry. If they are still damp, they will keep releasing alloxene which is poisonous to plants and can actually kill them.
You can also use the roots to make a liquid feed for your tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables if you like experiment and want to try something different.
If you want a more scientific approach to curing aching muscles and bones, here are a few tips:
Tips for Treating Bruises:
1. Rest the injured area as much as possible to allow the tissues time to heal.
2. Apply ice to reduce swelling.
You can do this for the first 72 hours after the injury.
3. Take over the counter pain medication to reduce the pain.
Be careful if you are taking these long term as they can cause liver and kidney damage.
4. Apply a cold pack or take a cold bath to relieve the pain in the first 48 hours after the injury.
After that use heat to relax the muscles.
5. Apply Comfrey ointment or cream to the bruise at least twice a day or as needed for pain and swelling.
6. Apply a moisturizing lotion to the skin to keep it from drying out.
This will help prevent cracking and further irritation to the area
7. Try to move the injured part in as many different ways as possible.
This helps to loosen up the stiff and healing tissues and can relieve a lot of pain.
8. Don’t try to do too much too soon as this can cause the injury to re-injure and slow down recovery time.
9. As soon as you start to feel better, start using the injured part more to help restore normal strength and flexibility.
This will also help to reduce the possibility of re-injury.
10. Try a warm bath or massage to encourage the blood flow to the area and help heal any internal bruising that may still be present.
If you are unsure about your condition, it is best to seek professional medical advice before trying any self medication.
A Word of Warning About Comfrey
Most herbal guides and even some mainstream medical sites advise against using comfrey internally or topically due to the potential for liver damage and other side effects. This information is based on studies done on the Russian comfrey (symphytum x uplandicum), which is a different plant from the common comfrey (symphytum officinale).
The Russian comfrey has a much higher level of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and these are the ones that cause the health issues.
The common comfrey (symphytum officinale), while still containing some of these alkaloids, has far lower levels and therefore doesn’t cause the same side effects. Even in the case of the Russian comfrey, as long as it is used externally and not ingested, there shouldn’t be any health issues.
The most common side effect of topical application of Russian comfrey (symphytum x uplandicum) is a temporary lightening of the skin where it has been used.
There are many online accounts of people successfully using comfrey for treating broken bones, though it’s always best to get a doctor’s advice if you are unsure about your condition.
Now you know how to use comfrey to help with bone and muscle pain in a natural way that doesn’t involve chemicals or drugs. Just remember, as with anything, try it on yourself first to ensure you don’t have a bad reaction to it.
Make sure you know what it looks like and don’t confuse it with the related plants similar in appearance. If you aren’t sure how to prepare it, consult an expert before trying it yourself. Comfrey is commonly available at nurseries and garden supply centers, though it may not be in season or legal in every state.
Now that you know how useful common comfrey can be, you’ll never throw it away again. Hopefully, your bones and muscles will thank you too!
Sources & references used in this article:
The Oxford companion to food by A Davidson – 2014 – books.google.com
Companion plants and how to use them by H Philbrick, RB Gregg – 2012 – books.google.com
Yield, pest density, and tomato flavor effects of companion planting in garden-scale studies incorporating tomato, basil, and brussels sprout by MK Bomford – 2004 – orgprints.org
Fruits of warm climates. by B Flowerdew – 2012 – Simon and Schuster
Fruit flies of economic significance: their identification and bionomics. by JF Morton – 1987 – cabdirect.org
The suburban gardener, and villa companion by IM White, MM Elson-Harris – 1992 – cabdirect.org
The Liberty Hyde Bailey Gardener’s Companion: Essential Writings by JC Loudon – 2014 – books.google.com