Comfrey and borage are green plants in the Boraginaceae family. Both borage and comfrey have a long history of medicinal use, and you can cultivate both in your home herb garden. You can also raise comfrey and borage in flower gardens. Both plants produce attractive blue to purple flowers and dark green foliage.
Comfrey, or Symphytum officinale, is a perennial with dark-green, hairy foliage and attractive purple flowers. European settlers brought comfrey to the United States to use as both a vegetable and an herbal remedy. The leaves of the comfrey plant can be eaten as greens or used in medicine. Some people use comfrey as a tea or tincture to treat broken bones and respiratory ailments, while they use poultices of comfrey leaves to treat wounds and sprains.
Borage, or Borago officinalis, usually grows as an annual plant in the home garden. The plant has hairy, dark green leaves and star-shaped blue flowers. Though usually grown as an ornamental, some people add the flowers to water to make a refreshing drink. The flavor is similar to cucumber. You can also use the flowers in salad. Traditionally, borage tea was used to treat kidney ailments, coughs and fever.
Both comfrey and borage contain akaloids which cause liver damage and some tumors in laboratory animals. For this reason, researchers advise against ingesting comfrey or borage. However, research on the consumption of small amounts of comfrey and borage have not been conducted.
Growing Comfrey and Borage
Comfrey and borage flourish in bright sunlight and require little water once established. The plants will wilt in very hot weather. Grow borage from seed; it does not transplant well. Though the first hard freeze will kill borage, the plants frequently reseed themselves in the spring. Comfrey roots survive freezing winters. You can propagate comfrey from root cuttings. The plants do best with the addition of nitrogen fertilizer.