The root of Symphytum officinale, Linné.
COMMON NAME AND SYNONYMS: Comfrey; Radix symphyti, Radix consolidae majoris.
Botanical Source.—Comfrey has an oblong, fleshy, perennial root, black externally, and a pilose, herbaceous stem, 3 or 4 feet high, branching above, and winged by the decurrent bases of the pointed, wavy, rough-edged leaves. The lower leaves and radical are ovate-lanceolate, tapering into a petiole; the upper and floral, lanceolate. Flowers white or of a rose color, and borne in terminal, revolute racemes. Calyx 5-parted, with lanceolate, acuminate sepals; the corolla tubular-campanulate; the limb with 5 recurved teeth. Stamens 5, included; anthers elongated. Style filiform. Nutlets smooth, ovate, fixed by a large excavated (perforate) base. The whole plant is rough with dense hairs (W.—G.).
History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—Comfrey is a native of Europe, but naturalized in this country, growing on low lands and moist places, flowering all summer. The root is medicinal; when fresh it is glabrous, fusiform, branching, 10 or 12 inches in length, by 1 in diameter, and very mucilaginous. The dried root, as found in commerce, is in pieces varying from 1 to 4 or 5 inches long, black, and corrugated externally, dark-whitish and corneous internally, nearly odorless, viscid, and slightly astringent. It contains some tannic acid, a trace of starch, some sugar, and a large amount of mucilage, which is readily extracted by water. Asparagine in small amount was obtained from it by Henry and Plisson in 1829.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This plant is demulcent and slightly astringent. With other mucilaginous agents, it is considered inert or of but little medical importance by many writers; but this is an erroneous view, the result of deficient investigation. All mucilaginous agents exert an influence on mucous tissues, hence the cure, by their internal use, of many pulmonary and other affections in which these tissues have been chiefly implicated. Physicians must not expect a serious disease to yield to remedies which act on mucous membranes only; and to determine the true value of a medicinal agent, they must first ascertain the true character of the affection, as well is of the tissues involved. Again, mucilaginous agents are always beneficial in scrofulous and anemic habits. Comfrey root is very useful in diarrhoea, dysentery, bronchial irritation, coughs, hemoptysis, other pulmonary affections, leucorrhoea, and female debility; these being principally raucous affections. It is also of some value in passive hemorrhages from the bowels, kidneys, or womb. It may be boiled in water, wine, or made into a syrup, and taken in doses of from 1 to 4 fluid ounces of the preparation 2 or 3 times a day. A tincture of the recent root (℥viii to alcohol, 98 per cent, Oj) has been recommended in from 1 to 10-drop doses. Externally, the fresh root, bruised, forms an excellent application to bruises, ruptures, fresh wounds, sore breasts, ulcers, white swellings, etc.