Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.  Grandmother, b.1932, still alive!, she had Irish parents, born in Manchester, but had a smallholding in Yorkshire: put comfrey leaves in a jar, weigh down with a stone, and let them rot until they are a black paste. Used for wounds and sprains [University of Westminster Complementary Medicine Society, London, February 2019].

2. Comfrey – recommended as a cure for persistent nappy-rash by a lady living in Germany.  I have not tried it myself, but she said it was the only thing that worked! [Wandsworth U3A, London, June 2014].

3.  Comfrey – husband used to put comfrey in his shoes to sweeten and ease feet [Hilltop Garden Club, Eastcombe, Gloucestershire, December 2013].

4. Comfrey leaves as a poultice for bruises, Gloucestershire currently [Hilltop Garden Club, Eastcombe, Gloucestershire, November 2013].

0275. In the Tyrol Symphytum was used to treat bruises [Vienna, Austria, September 2012].

6. Memories of my childhood in the 1950s … mum used to make a ‘bandage’ out of a comfrey leaf [to put] on a bruise [Tamworth, Staffordshire, May 2012].

7. I was born and bred in the house in which I still live in part of … Comfrey leaves for bruises [Muchelney, Somerset, January 2007].

8. Bone-set – comfrey, bandaged over broken bones [Portesham, Dorset, January 2007].

9. Comfrey used to cure pigs of various diseases [Wormshill, Kent, May 2003].

10. My husband has reminded me that when he was a Casualty Officer in the Royal Hospital, Sheffield, in the 1950s, it was not uncommon for patients suffering from suspected breakages and sprains to arrive at hospital with the affected bones swathed in comfrey leaves, held in place by bandages [Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire, May 2002].

11. Many years ago when I kept dairy goats … for any leg injury I used a compress of brewed comfrey leaves [Chapelhope, Selkirk, April 2002].

12. Comfrey – knitbone – used to cure sprains and help breaks (put in boiling water) [Fleetwood, Lancashire, February 1998].

13. Many years ago I played a lot of league cricket in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. A supply of comfrey leaves always available was a must for bruised fingers and other knocks. In fact we kept a supply of dried leaves in the house. The leaves were boiled and the fingers, etc., bathed in the liquid. The same brew was re-heated for the next treatment [Gloucester, August 1997]

14. Comfrey grows in profusion. I learned from a Lancashire miner that it was used widely for bruises and sprains (boiling the leaves to get a solution) [Glencruitten, Argyllshire, October 1990].

15. Comfrey leaves spread on arthritis will soon soothe the pain and take any inflammation out [Omagh, Co. Tyrone, October 1986].

16. I am in my 70s; a few [old fashioned cures] were used for various complaints when I was a child … Comfrey root well pounded to a pulp was used for sprains [Yeovil, Somerset, October 1975].

Images: main, Ham Lands Local Nature Reserve, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, May 2014; upper inset, label in a ‘recreation of a mid-17th century garden of a farmer yeoman and his family’ at the Weald and Downland Living Museum, Singleton, West Sussex, October 2019; lower inset, beside River Stour, Flatford Mill, Suffolk, September 2015.