Also known as: Knitbone, Wound
wort, Healherb, Gum Plant, All Heal Symphytum officinale F. Boraginaceae
Comfrey is another of the best Eczema
herbs, primarily because of its allantoin content. Allantoin is an ingredient in many Skin
lotions that soothes the Skin
, promotes healing and increases the growth of new Skin
cells. These properties make the herb ideal for treating inflammatory Skin
conditions such as Eczema
Many herbalists and physicians prize comfrey for the treatment of broken Bones
, torn Cartilage
damage, Lung Congestion
and ulceration in the Gastrointestin
al tract. These applications have not been tested in clinical trials although there is research supporting Anti-inflammatory
[9-10], would healing[9,11], and Immune
modulating effects[15-17]. The major barrier to testing this plant's therapeutic effects is the naturally occurring pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in comfrey. Due to the presence of PAs many countries have laws restricting the distribution, sale,and/or use of comfrey. This includes the United States, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Medicinal Uses: Recorded history tells of comfrey's use, since ancient times, for healing.Dioscorides, author of one of the oldest herbal texts, 'Materia Medica' of 50 AD, prescribed the plant to heal Wound
s and broken Bones
. Many writers since have honoured the herb. The name comfrey is believed to come from Latin, meaning knitting together. The genus name symphytum means to heal together, and for this use, it is renown: that it can assist the body to heal any part that is torn or broken, which also explains the reason for another common name, knitbone.
Leaves or roots applied as a wash, poultice or ointment are used for bruising, chapped Dry Skin
, Varicose veins
, bed Sores
, Insect Bites
s, Muscular Pain
, pulled Tendon
and dermatological conditions. A local grandmother told me she makes comfrey ointment. So renown is it for healing, that her grandchildren call it Grandma's magic cream.
Comfrey may also be of value in reducing scar tissue and fading old Scars
. Once again, it's the high allantoin content of the leaves that's responsible
Adding comfrey to the bath water is said to promote a youthful Skin
. Comfrey acts as an Emollient
and is very soothing, inhibiting further damage to tissues, stimulating the production of Cartilage
s and Muscle
s. It has been esteemed as a blood, bone and flesh builder. The dark green colour of the leaves indicates the richness of chlorophyll with a molecular structure closely resembling our blood. Chlorophyll acts as a catalyst, to promote healing within the body of man and animals, and is a valuable Blood Purifier
. Scientific research shows that chlorophyll helps to Rejuvenat
e old cells and promote the growth of new cells. This action, together with comfrey's allantoin properties (a cell proliferant) provides us with a very powerful herb.
Allantoin is one of the elements that makes comfrey unique. Allantoin is also produced in the allantois Gland
of the umbilical cord (the link between mother and developing baby, which feeds the embryo) for promoting rapid cell growth. Mother's milk is also rich in allantoin (which stimulates rapid growth of the new baby) and then the element fades out. This process also takes place in other mammals. Allantoin is a leucocytosis promoter (increases white blood cells) that helps to establish immunity from many infectious conditions.
Internally, comfrey has been used for: inDigestion
problems, excessive Menstrual
diseases, Bleeding Gums
, gastro-intestinal Ulcers
conditions, hemorrhaging, Cancer
, lowering Blood Pressure
, hiatus Hernia
, Blood Purifier
, to ease Inflammation
of the joints and Mucus
Comfrey was one of the most popular and widely used herbs of the last two centuries; people had faith in the plant, used it, and experienced miraculous healing. It was held in such high esteem that it was believed that even wearing or carrying comfrey could guard and protect a person on a journey. In my bookshelf,I have more books on comfrey than any other individual herb.
H.E. Kirschner, M.D., in his book, 'Natures Healing Grasses', devotes four chapters to comfrey and says, 'A leaf a day keeps illness away'. In his practice, he witnessed healing of obstinate Ulcers
, malignant growths and many other ailments. He tells the incidence of a man in New Zealand who casually nibbled a comfrey leaf when walking in a friend's garden (he had suffered with Asthma
for thirty years). That night he had unbroken sleep, and when wondering why, thought it could have been the comfrey leaf he chewed, that gave him relief from Asthma
. So he kept up eating a comfrey leaf a day, and has not suffered with Asthma
since. He shared this folk remedy with many people who suffered with Asthma
, who likewise experienced relief by using the routine of leaf nibbling. Over the years I have met many people who attribute miraculous virtues to comfrey, and shared their personal experiences.The healing benefits of comfrey have been spread by word of mouth, in many testimonials. There is no doubt that the plant is very much loved and revered.
For those familiar with natural medicine and chronic Pain
, comfrey is likely on your list of remedies. This herb has been used for centuries to treat a variety of Pain
- and Inflammation
Among its clinical uses, comfrey can help relieve Pain
, reduce Inflammation
s and joints, speed the healing of Bruises
and contusions and potentially aid in the treatment of Fibromyalgia
In the U.K., researchers found that practitioners prescribed it in about 15 percent of all consultations regarding Tendon
problems, fractures and Wound
Although it was commonly used internally for many years, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, as well as governing bodies around the globe, banned the use of dietary supplements containing comfrey and advised against any internal usage in 2001. (3) Studies have found that it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are toxic to the Liver
Comfrey is still highly useful for external uses. It can help serve as a powerful Pain
reliever and Anti-inflammatory
. In fact, it can even help speed the healing of Wound
s. Let’s look at how it works.
6 Healing Benefits of Comfrey
1. Can quickly relieve Muscle
and joint Pain
A large review released in 2013 about the medicinal uses of comfrey stated:
It is clinically proven to relieve Pain
s and joints in the case of degenerative Arthritis
, acute myalgia in the back, Sprains
, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents, also in children aged 3 years and older. (4)
That’s a pretty incredible statement to make!
However, available scientific evidence seems to back it up. In multiple studies, comfrey application improves the healing and Pain
response of Bruises
s and joints, particularly related to exercise. (5)
In a single-blind, randomized clinical trial of 164 participants comparing the efficacy of comfrey against a common NSAID (non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory
drug) used for ankle Sprains
, it performed better than diclofenac gel, leading the researchers to state their encouragement that this natural product functions as a safe and effective alternative to the standard treatment. (6)
2. Effective for lower back Pain
Searching for lower back Pain
relief can be an exhausting and daunting task for the 31 million Americans struggling with this Pain
at any given time. However, comfrey may offer an alternative method for this chronic condition.
Two double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trials have seen significant, fast Pain
relief when compared with a placebo on an external application of comfrey root extract gel on the back. (7, 8)
3. May aid in reducing Arthritis Pain
An astounding 1 in every 5 people in the U.S. suffer from Arthritis Pain
. Worn-down Cartilage
and connective tissue cause Bones
to rub together and cause chronic Pain
Because of the possible side effects involved with most medications for Arthritis
, such as Heart
burn, Stomach Ulcers
, increased risk of Heart
attack or Stroke
, bone loss and more, many people seek alternative remedies for relieving their Pain
in a safe way.
It turns out that using a topical comfrey ointment or poultice can help to significantly decrease the Pain
associated with Arthritis
. Various study reviews have seen results consistent, in some cases, with topical NSAIDs and even arnica, all without any negative side effects. (9, 10, 11)
relief, try creating a poultice of comfrey with Pain
-relieving essential oils such as peppermint oil and applying it to the Pain
ful areas two to three times a day.
Please note: comfrey should only be used topically up to 10 consecutive days, in order to avoid bioaccumulation. There are no studies showing a danger of this, but we take this precaution to stay on the safe side.
4. Natural Fibromyalgia
is associated with Pain
in various parts of the body, comfrey application might help to offer some relief. Again, stick to no more than 10 consecutive days of application. And limit use to four to six weeks per year.
If you suffer from Fibromyalgia Pain
, remember that your best option is to seek a multi-targeted approach to address whatever the root cause of this Pain
may be. Adjusting lifestyle to lose extra weight, eliminating problematic food ingredients like excitoToxin
s and eating Anti-inflammatory
foods may offer some additional relief. (12)
5. Speeds Wound
Comfrey contains an ingredient called allantoin, which aids the regrowth of Skin
, along with rosmarinic Acid
and tannins. (13) Allantoin has been developed as an approved medication for over-the-counter Skin
treatment for a variety of Skin
That’s a likely reason it may help Wound
s to heal faster. One folk term for it is “knitbone” because it was believed to activate the healing of Bones
While bone regrowth has not been proven scientifically as a benefit, researchers have seen an improvement in collagen production and Wound
healing when applying topically. (14)
For safety, never use comfrey on an open Wound
. If you want to see how it works for your own Wound
s, wait until the Wound
has totally closed before applying it.
6. Lessens Skin
Probably also due, in part, to the presence of allantoin in comfrey, another use in folk medicine for it is the soothing of inflamed, irritated Skin
Two controlled clinical studies saw a healing effect on irritation caused by UV-B rays (a mild Sunburn
) was equal to or greater with comfrey than diclofenac, one of the more often used over-the-counter medications used to soothe Skin
In another study, researchers purposefully irritated the Skin
of healthy young adults and then tested a liquid extract of comfrey on the Skin
. They found that topical applications of “comfrey extract may have a great application in the treatment of Skin
Comfrey Botanical Profile
The common comfrey plant is known in Latin as Symphytum officinale and displays a “Hair
y” exterior. It grows as a root stick with branches coming from the stalk and only gets to about 2–3 feet tall. Some varieties produce yellow or purplish flowers alongside the broad, fuzzy leaves. The most commonly grown species is Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum).
Comfrey plants can grow in almost any climate or soil and prefer the shade. Medicinally, most folk remedies suggest using the leaves, although the roots also carry significant benefits when used as well.
In large quantities, mucilage (a gelatin plant-derived compound) is the main component of comfrey. (17)
History & Interesting Facts About Comfrey
In folk medicine, comfrey was a common feature among those in Europe. Known as “knitbone,” it was used for everything from the speeding of bone growth to Nausea
relief. Historically, it has been prescribed to remedy Diarrhea
and for Lung
issues such as whooping Cough
It can be used in gardening as a fertilizer as well as an herb.
Comfrey products such as poultices, ointments and salves have been used as herbal remedies because of the plant’s ability to reduce Inflammation
and urge healing. The root has also been used in the past as a decoction to help Gastrointestin
al problems such as Diarrhea
. (18) However, using it internally is not recommended.
It’s not just humans who can benefit from comfrey — in 2014, researchers in Taiwan looked at the ability of its leaves to alleviate UV damage to the fins of zebrafish, suggesting it as a potential development for an agent to protect zebrafish embryos from future damage. (19)
There is also preliminary research on the development of comfrey extract in creating an antiCancer
drug to combat Prostate Cancer
. An animal study found very promising results — although it’s very important to note here that this does not mean you should ever ingest it. (20) Controlled research in a lab of a chemically-extracted component of the plant is extremely different than just eating or drinking the substance.
How to Use and Grow Comfrey
In most circumstances, the most effective way to use comfrey is in a salve or poultice. This is then applied to the Skin
. For example, comfrey oil is a key ingredient in my bruise cream with arnica & bilberry.
You can purchase comfrey oil as an infusion with olive oil. Or, you can create your own oil (also known as comfrey balm)by simmering olive oil (or another carrier oil) and comfrey roots and leaves. Use this oil to treat minor closed Wound
s and aches.
Many people simply use fresh or dry comfrey leaves directly on the Skin
, depending on the type and severity of Pain
they have. Perhaps due to the high mucilage content, its leaves do not dry as fast as most herbs. But give them time, and you’ll be excited about the results.
Since comfrey isn’t widely available outside of Europe, if you live in another area but would like to grow your own plants, it’s quite simple. After buying some seeds and (preferably) planting them in a shaded area, you will most likely see them grow quickly.
Fortunately, it is a fairly “non-invasive” plant because it doesn’t put down long roots and doesn’t set seed as it grows. This perennial is best harvested before its flowers bloom. (21)
Possible Side Effects/Caution
Like I’ve mentioned, it’s imperative that you do not ingest comfrey, whether in fresh or tea form (or any other method).
Comfrey is toxic because it contains a substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids. (22) The main concern with these PAs are Liver
toxicity. (23) PAs can cause veno-occlusive disease of the Liver
, a blockage of microscopic veins within the Liver
that can lead to cirrhosis, Liver
failure and/or Cancer
Some efforts have been made to create purified comfrey extract or tea free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Both of these have resulted in even worse side effects than before. (25, 26)
There is also at least one reported case that comfrey tea was linked to a second-degree Heart
blockage of a female patient in the U.K. (27)
While there have been no cases to date of toxicity resulting from epidermal application, a minuscule amount of PAs do pass through the Skin
when you use it. (28) Because of this, it’s best to use it for no more than 10 days in a row and only for a maximum total of 4–6 weeks each year to avoid any negative side effects.
Never use comfrey on an open Wound
or broken Skin
. People with Liver
or a history of alcohol abuse should also avoid even the external use of it.
Most sources agree that comfrey is safe externally for children over 3 years of age. But others recommend never using it for children under the age of 18. Pregnant
or breastfeeding women should not use it.
Comfrey is a traditional herbal treatment for Muscle
and joint Pain
. It helps to reduce Pain
and soothe the Skin
as well as help heal Bruises
This perennial herb grows mainly in the United Kingdom. But it can grow in most climates, although the plant does prefer shaded environments.
Using comfrey as a poultice or simply by using its dried leaves on the Skin
, you may find relief from Pain
s relating to conditions like ankle Sprains
Comfrey is not ever safe for ingestion, as it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are extremely dangerous to the Liver
. External applications do not have the same toxic effects.
/nursing women, as well as young children or those with any potential Liver
damage or disease, should avoid comfrey entirely.