Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wild Comfrey

Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)

A relatively large native perennial with a small, pale blue flower usually found in open woods. The USDA distribution map indicates wild comfrey is found throughout Canada and central/eastern United States. However, in many of the northeastern states C. virginiauum varies from Endangered to Presumed Extirpated. The heaviest concentration are found mainly in the Mid-South. We have plenty here in the Ozarks.

"The genus name Cynoglossum is from the Greek "cynos", of a dog, and "glossa", tongue and refers to the rough, tongue-shaped leaf. The European Hound's-tongue, a close relative, was believed in ancient times to heal the bite of dogs and to keep dogs from barking. Our native wild comfrey has been used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes." (New York Natural Heritage Program)

There is disagreement about whether this plant actually has medicinal properties or with it was simply incorrectly associated with Old World comfrey. According to the author of 2bn The Wild: "Nineteenth century herbalist suggested that Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) could be a substitute for Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) which is the Old World Comfrey long used for treating wounds and internally for digestive disorders, respiratory infections and as a mild sedative. Pyrrolixidine one of the active substances may cause liver damage it taken in large doses over time. Today some herbalist seem to completely confuse the Wild Comfrey of the U. S. with the Comfrey of Europe and Asia. I can find no scientific data to suggest that they may have the same properties. The more closely related Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) was also an Old World plant that was used similarly but there is no evidence of its effectiveness."

"Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is a European species introduced here and now weedy in this country. It is larger and more leafy with reddish purple flowers."



Anonymous said...

My mom used to say it made a good tea but I don't know what for. It has a pretty flower. Nice story.

Tom said...

This is interesting.. we have Comfrey growing here, most allotment gardens of old grew this to be used on wounds, or the leaves soaked in water and then wrapped around sprains. I remember my mum using this when I was growing up.

Marvin said...

You have the "real" comfrey. Over here across the pond, what we have growing wild is a fake. (We also have some Old World comfrey growing in the garden.) The wild comfrey in North America is a native plant that some herbalist thought had the same medicinal properties although it isn't even related. Common names are handy, but they can also cause problems.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Hi Marvin, I have comfrey growing in the garden but it is a cultivated one. I can't remember what it is except it has pink flowers as I remember. It gets big too.

I don't care how you comment on my blog by the way. I am just glad you stop by. Blogger can be most annoying.

Anonymous said...

This is such a cool plant and remind me of my forget me not's that I have growing!

Anonymous said...

great flower and info. thanks for shared

Texas Travelers said...

Excellent post.
Good information.

Thanks for sharing,