What You Need to Know About Comfrey
Latin name: Symphytum officinale
Comfrey has been called “The Legendary Herb of Life.” Known for centuries for its amazing healing properties, this herb is truly one that belongs in every home.
Legend has it that if you cut raw meat, then put a comfrey poultice on the cut, it will grow back together! I can’t say I believe that, but it’s a great reminder of one of comfrey’s talents: healing cuts and scrapes.
Comfrey’s Medicinal Uses
Parts used: The entire plant is used medicinally: leaves, roots and rhizomes.
These terms help you understand how herbs work and which herbs to use.
- vulnerary – helps the body heal wounds, cuts and other tissue damage.
Comfrey is a most impressive wound-healing herb. This is partly due to a chemical (allantoin) that stimulates cell growth, promoting healing both inside and out. It is used for healing cuts, and scrapes, surgical incisions, stubborn leg ulcers, and skin irritations. It also promotes smooth and proper healing of scar tissue.
Comfrey has even been used to heal broken bones, particularly fractures of small bones or those that cannot be put in a cast such as ribs, fingers and toes. A poultice of its large leaves is wrapped around the affected area. (see directions below)
- demulcent – rich in mucilage to soothe and protect inflamed or irritated tissue.
Its demulcent quality makes comfrey an excellent soothing herb for healing digestive ulcers, skin ulcers, ulcerative colitis, bronchitis, and persistent coughs.
- astringent – contracts tissue, can reduce secretions and discharge.
Comfrey’s ability to stop bleeding contributes to its use for first aid, wound care, hemorrhage, and nosebleeds.
- expectorant – helps remove excess mucus from the respiratory system.
Congestion from colds and flu can be alleviated with comfrey. It is also helpful for sinus infection, bronchitis, persistent cough, pneumonia, and other respiratory illnesses.
Regarding broken bones, I love the following, written by Euell Gibbons:
Modern herbalists may smile tolerantly at the old notion that herbal medicine could hurry the healing of broken bones. I refuse to join them. What causes broken bones to heal swiftly in one person and take months to knit back together in another? Could it not be that in the slow cases the elements necessary for the healing process are absent, or present in such small quantities that healing proceeds very slowly? Analysis shows that comfrey is high in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, along with many useful trace minerals, and the green leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, and broken bones simply refuse to heal unless many of these nutrients are present.
How to Prepare and Use Comfrey
- Make a poultice
A poultice is solid plant material applied directly to the skin. The medicinal properties work both on the skin and the area beneath it. A poultice can be used for cuts, wounds, bruises, burns, rashes, swelling, broken bones, sprained ankles or other joints, scars, and skin ulcers.
- Put fresh or dried leaves in a large bowl.
- Heat enough water to moisten the leaves until it starts to simmer; pour the water over the leaves in the bowl.
- Cut and press the leaves to “bruise” them, using a spoon or other utensil.
- Put the leaves and warm liquid on a clean cotton cloth, and place it on the skin of the affected area. The herb material should be touching the skin. Leave on for thirty minutes or more.
- Make an infusion
Infusion is herb speak for what most people call tea made from leaves. Infusions are used for internal healing, especially digestive and respiratory issues. An infusion can also be used as a warm compress for external application. Just saturate a cotton cloth with the infusion, then place it on the skin. Use a heating pad to maintain the warmth if needed.
NOTE: Use comfrey internally for no more than one week.
. Dr. James Duke says:
“No one should drink comfrey tea by the gallon every day, but I’m not
afraid of a little comfrey now and then. I base this on studies done by
biochemist Bruce Ames, Ph.D., at U.C. Berkley. According to his findings,
a cup of comfrey leaf tea is less carcinogenic than a can of beer, and I’m
not going to give that up either!”
Use 1 cup water per teaspoon of dried herb, or two teaspoons fresh herb.
- Heat water to a boil in a covered pan.
- Remove from heat. Add herbs, stir until all leaves are saturated.
- Cover pan and let steep for fifteen minutes.
- Strain out herbs into another container. The remaining plant material makes good mulch for the garden.
- Keep extra in the refrigerator; stays fresh for up to three days.
Standard dosage: 1 cup up to three times per day.
- Always clean a wound thoroughly before applying comfrey, as rapid healing on the surface can trap any dirt or debris.
- Do not use comfrey on deep wounds, as the surface can heal over and form an abcess or interfere with complete healing beneath the surface.
- The safe use of comfrey is currently a topic of discussion. Some studies suggest that one of the alkaloids can cause liver damage when taken internally, but other studies demonstrate it does not. Swedish and other researchers have determined that this alkaloid is destroyed when making an infusion of the leaves. To be absolutely sure, if you have any liver problems, you may want to choose a different herb. As always use your own good judgment!
Stay tuned for Part Two of All About Comfrey, coming soon!
Have you ever used comfrey? Tell us about your experience! Did you have the results you expected? Please leave a comment in the Contact section.