When it comes to the effectiveness of herbal remedies, comfrey made a believer out of me. Years ago, I attended a workshop on making herb-based infusions and salves from master herbalist Theresa Finkbeiner of Coyote Moon Herb Company. One of our projects was a jar of comfrey salve, wonderful stuff with a silky beeswax base, which I tucked away in the bathroom cabinet and promptly forgot about.

Nearly a year later, we were living on a remote piece of property in the north Georgia mountains when my middle daughter had an accident resulting in severe burns across the top of one foot. I remembered Theresa’s lesson on comfrey: the plant contains a remarkable substance called allantoin, which speeds up the body’s natural replacement of cells. For centuries, herbalists have made extravagant claims on behalf of the fuzzy leaves and pungent root, prescribing it for everything from broken bones to stomach ulcers. Medieval women bathed in comfrey tea, believing the plant would restore lost virginity.

We slathered a layer of my pale green comfrey salve on my daughter’s burns. Within 15 minutes, the pain had subsided. The next morning, a thin pink layer of new skin had already formed across the top of her foot. Amazing!

The easiest way to add comfrey to your garden is through rooting a piece of it. (In fact, rooting is SO easy that even small fragments will sprout up again and again in your compost pile. Beware.)  The chopped leaves are loaded with potassium and make a good fertilizer. I have also heard that it can be used as a supplementary livestock feed, although my efforts to interest horses or rabbits in eating comfrey failed repeatedly. They just didn’t like it.