Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

2014

Medical Uses

Comfrey is used externally for superficial wounds, sore breasts, and hemorrhoids.

Historical Uses

In folklore, comfrey was used for healing gastric ulcers and reducing the inflammation around fractures. It is also known as knitbone.

Growth

Comfrey is a perennial plant that grows to about 2 to 4 feet high. It has huge, broad, hairy leaves and a small, bell-shaped flower.

Comfrey: Parts Used

• Leaves

• Root

Major Chemical Compounds

• Allantoin

• Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (more in the roots)

• Mucilage

• Tannins

Comfrey: Clinical Uses

Comfrey is used externally for superficial wounds, sore breasts, and hemorrhoids.

Mechanism of Action

AUantoin promotes cell proliferation, reduces inflammation, and controls bleeding. Its astringent properties help to heal hemorrhoids. Comfrey is unsafe when used internally.

Comfrey: Dosage

External Use Only

Comfrey may be used externally up to three times daily. It may be applied to the skin in a compress, poultice, or ointment. Do not use for more than 10 days, and do not exceed 100 μg of pyrrolizidine alkaloids each day (Natural Medicines, 2000).

Side Effects

Comfrey may cause veno-occlusive disease and hepatotoxicity and may have carcinogenic effects when taken internally.

Contraindications

• Alkaloids cause liver damage and tumors in cows and laboratory animals when used internally.

• Do not apply comfrey to deep wounds.

• Do not apply comfrey to broken or damaged skin.

Herb-Drug Interactions

None are known.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Avoid external use during pregnancy and breast-feeding (Natural Medicine, 2000)

Warnings

• Comfrey may block veins, damage the liver, and cause cancer if taken orally.

• Don’t apply comfrey to deep wounds.

• Don’t apply comfrey to broken or damaged skin.

• No herb-drug interactions are known.

• Pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid use of comfrey.

Comfrey: Recipes

Comfrey Ointment

To help heal wounds, you may make an ointment by adding 3 ounces of chopped comfrey to about 6 or 7 ounces of petroleum or nonpetroleum jelly. Simmer (don’t boil) the mixture. Then remove from heat, strain the herb, and place the remaining ointment in small jars. Label and date the jars.