Knitbone, Boneset, Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Bruisewort, Consound, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Knitback, Salsify, Slippery Root, Wallwort
Taking its name from the Latin “con fera” which means to knit together, and the Old English “knitbone”, Comfrey has been prized since ancient times for its ability to help heal broken bones and damaged tissues.
Comfrey has been historically used for all manner of injuries and accidents, including but not limited to broken bones. It had an equally strong reputation for helping with external wounds that were not healing properly. This versatile herb was also used extensively for tuberculosis and irritating dry lung complaints in general.
Broken Bones/Wound Healing
There are hundreds of anecdotal stories where people are hailing the miraculous speed of healing broken bones using Comfrey. Astonishingly, Comfrey tablets were even standard issue in World War II First Aid packs, so widely known was the ability of this herb to speed up the healing of bones and wounds.
Research has now shown Comfrey to contain the plant chemicals allantoin and rosmarinic acid. Allantoin is able to accelerate cellular mitosis (meaning it speeds up the process of new tissue growth), while rosmarinic acid helps to relieve pain and inflammation. Allantoin is even part of the developmental process of a foetus – the placenta contains this compound as the baby grows, eventually dwindling as full maturity is reached. Also present in breast milk, a small supply of allantoin continues to be supplied to the baby after birth.
Comfrey also contains bone strengthening vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, Calcium and Magnesium.
In most instances, Comfrey compresses and ointments are used topically to facilitate the healing of bones and wounds. It is very important to make sure that wounds are completely clean before applying Comfrey – this is because the skin can regrow so fast that it can trap any debris left in the wound.
Muscle and Joint Pain
A large review of multiple studies released in 2013 about the medicinal uses of Comfrey stated: "It is clinically proven to relieve pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles 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."
In the studies, Comfrey application improved the healing and pain response of bruises, sprains, painful muscles and joints which were particularly related to exercise. In a single-blind, randomized clinical trial of 164 participants, Comfrey outperformed its pharmaceutical counterpart for its efficacy on ankle sprains and pain. This led the researchers to state their encouragement that this natural product functions as a safe and effective alternative to the standard treatment.
Comfrey’s healing properties also encompass the skin, with its wonder ingredient – allantoin – hydrating, naturally exfoliating, repairing, protecting and soothing the skin. Due to Comfrey’s high antioxidant status, topical application also helps to reduce free radical activity on the skin.
Natural allantoin as found in Comfrey can actually help to reduce abnormal thickening of the skin caused by “keratinisation” - if this is out of balance more keratin than usual is produced and the structure of the barrier function is changed. Allantoin interacts with the skin’s keratin to thin out an abnormal, thick stratum corneum, and this is the reason that allantoin is known for leaving skin feeling smooth.
Comfrey can also be used to relieve skin irritations such as rashes, sunburn and stings.
Comfrey is typically used to make compresses, poultices, ointments and salves to be applied topically.
The leaves can be used to make tea. The dried leaves have a much lower pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) content than the fresh leaves or the roots. It is recommended that Comfrey Leaf Tea is not used over the long term.
With a history of traditional use stretching back thousands of years, Comfrey has been cultivated as a healing herb since at least 400 BCE. The Greeks and Romans commonly used Comfrey to stop heavy bleeding, treat bronchial problems and heal wounds and broken bones. Poultices were made for external wounds and tea was consumed for internal ailments. It is said that the Roman legions also used this herb to heal wounds suffered in battle.
The notable Greek physician Dioscorides documented its use in his "De Materia Medica" and prescribed it for healing wounds, broken bones, as well as for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. He was employed as Nero's medical officer to the Roman army (thus, traveling extensively and having much cause to use Comfrey) and documented his experiences in five volumes with descriptive accounts on medicinal plants. Dioscorides prescribed Comfrey for its bone-knitting and wound-healing virtues.
Comfrey appears in monastery writings and herbals from 1000 AD and Saxon herbariums recommended it for “internal bleedings, ruptures and hernias".
The major constituent of the Comfrey plant is mucilage; other constituents include allantoin, polyphenols, amino acids, phytosterols, triterpenoids, saccharides, and pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
If taking Comfrey internally it is best done on the advice of a Herbal Practitioner due to the potential effects of pyrrolizidine alkaloids on the liver.
Pregnant and nursing mothers should not use Comfrey.
If you are taking pharmaceutical medications, please consult your Healthcare Practitioner before using Comfrey.