The Book of Comfrey

 ©  2024 Jelani K. .Asantewa

Chapter 2



1) Medical Uses:

Comfrey is a plant with a wide variety of uses. The use it is perhaps most known for is its medicinal prowess. Medically Comfrey is known as a healing agent. It is known for, and is famous for, accelerating tissue and bone growth in the healing process. It is also used as a pain reliever and as an anti-inflammatory.

The medical applications Comfrey is used for are; muscle , joint and ligament pains. 

"Comfrey has a centuries-old tradition as a medicinal plant. Today, multiple randomized controlled trials have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of comfrey preparations for the topical treatment of pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in degenerative arthritis, acute myalgia in the back, sprains, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents, also in children aged 3 or 4 and over. This paper provides information on clinical trials and non-interventional studies published on comfrey to date and further literature, substantiating the fact that topical comfrey preparations are a valuable therapy option for the treatment of painful muscle and joint complaints. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd."

Comfrey: A Clinical Overview by Christiane Staiger [4}

1-1) Warnings

Although used throughout history as a healing herb, internally and externally, it is now considered dangerous for internal use.

 **** In 2001 Comfrey was banned in the USA. The FDA banned it for use in commercially sold oral            medications and foods. The ban labels it as a toxin because it produces Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids, a                    compound that reportedly may cause liver damage and/or cancer, possibly leading to death. [ ]

1-2) Benefits

To the positive Comfrey does produce allantoin.  This is a compound that is known to promote the production of skin cells and cartilage. [ ]Hence its reputation for being a dynamic healer. Because of its remarkable ability to speed up the healing process it has earned its most common names: Knitbone and Boneset. Some still find its use as a topical controversial.

**** As of the writing of this book Comfrey HAS NOT been banned by the FDA as a topical application.

1-3) Forms of Comfrey Topicals:

"Comfrey ointments (containing 5 to 20% comfrey), creams, poultices, and liniments are made from the fresh or dried herb, leaf, or root of comfrey species. Use only products made from leaves of common comfrey." Mount Sinai Health System [2]

1-4) Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs):

PAs are the toxic chemical substance found in Comfrey. The substance is found throughout the plant's vascular system. Although it runs throughout the entire plant the levels of toxicity are said to be different in each part of the plant. There seems to be a consensus about the various levels of PAs in Comfrey plant parts. The Root has the highest level of Pas and is the most potent. The younger leaves are second in potency to the root.   

Larger leaves are said to have the least Pas and therefore are the least potent. The larger leaves are also the oldest leaves because they are the first leaves the plant shoots out. As the plant grows the lower leaves grow large and fuller. The youngest and smallest leaves will always be found at the top of the plant. I have yet to find any data or discussion on PAs in the stems or flowers. When using comfrey to make any sort of concoction it would seem that use of the lower, larger, older leaves would be most diligent. The cast away upper, smaller leaves could be used in any of the  fertilizer applications. Nothing has to go to waist.

It is important to remember that there are may species in the Comfrey family and each species may have its own PA levels of toxicity characteristics. And within a species individuals may vary in potency depending on many environmental factors. 

Level of PA potency - toxicity found in each part of the plant:

Comfrey preparations are made from the leaves or other parts of the plant grown above the ground. New leaves tend to have more of the poisonous pyrrolizidine alkaloids than older leaves. Some preparations were also made from the roots, but roots contain up to 16 times the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Mount Sinai Health System [2]

1-5) Topical Comfrey Precautions:

*Always Consult your physician or veterinarian first, before using topical Comfrey.

* Do not use Comfrey topicals on open wounds or broken skin.

         1)  "DO NOT use Comfrey topicals if you have liver disease, alcoholism, or cancer. Children, the elderly,                 and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use comfrey products." Mount Sinai Health                     System [2]   (This includes all topical applications.)

        2)  Take breaks between periods of application:

             "Use only small amounts of cream with Comfrey for no longer than 10 days at a time." Mount                   Sinai Health System [2]

        3)  DO NOT use for prolonged periods of time:

             "DO NOT use any Comfrey product for more than 4 to 6 total weeks in one calendar year." Mount               Sinai Health System [2]

  4)  "Since comfrey may increase the risk of liver damage, it should not be used with other                              medications that may also affect the liver, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you take any                        medications, whether prescription or over the counter, ask your doctor before using comfrey."                      Mount Sinai Health System [2]

        5) "You should not use some herbs that have also been known to cause liver problems, such as kava,                skullcap, and valerian, while using comfrey ointments or creams." Mount Sinai Health System [2]

7)  DO NOT use Comfrey topicals on fractured or broken bones. that have not been attended to or set                 properly by a qualified healthcare practitioner. Comfrey heals quickly and undiagnosed bone                         fractures or brakes may be fused in the wrong position.

       6)  Proceed immediately to an Emergency Room for any injury or open wounds such as scrapes, punctures, cuts, or burns, where the skin has been broken. Broken skin may present the risk of serious infection therefore it is necessary to seek the immediate attention of a qualified healthcare provider. 


   D) Consider interaction with alcohol, food, supplements, and diseases. [1]

Medication's efficiency may be hampered by the other things that you put into your body. All Topical medications are absorbed through the skin and therefore do end up inside your body.

Even over the counter medications that you don't really consider, like cough drops, antacids and a calming glass of liquor must be accounted for when introducing a new medication, Although Comfrey taken topically may not be as potent as when taken orally, it is still entering your body. Because Comfrey (and all topicals) are absorbed it is important to consider what medications you are combining. It is important to remember that the medications, foods or drinks that you combine could potentially effect the efficiency of a medication. Bad combinations of any sort may result in harmful side effects, decrease the efficiency of one or both, even cancel each other out. Both scenarios have the potential to be equally as harmful. 


       F) In cases of persistent or severe infection arise DO NOT USE TOPICAL COMFREY, Remember, IT Is A Mender, an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever, NOT AN ANTIBIOTIC. when infection is present or there is even a chance of infection, seek help at an Emergency room or other medical facility IMMEDIATELY.


1-6) Comfrey Topicals in Survival Mode:

If you find yourself stranded and in survival mode and YOU DO DECIDE, contrary to all warnings, to use Comfrey topical preparations on humans or animals, * "AT YOUR OWN RISK" and without consulting a qualified healthcare provider there are things to consider and know.: 

With no hope of timely access to the proper healthcare, but the access to live Comfrey plant or access to a concocted Comfrey topical is available be aware of these important cautions:

  • Keep the area clean and/or stable and follow ytadiyional first aid for the appropriate type of injury. 
  • * Seek professional care as soon as possible. 

1-6-1) Infection Alert:

if a topical is used on a minor open wound be sure all infection is cleared from the wound before using the topical. Comfrey heals so quickly and efficiently that infection may be healed, "sealed" into the body. If in question it would be better to attend to the injury by just keeping it clean rather than to unknowingly seal an infection in. *** An infection, no mater how slight,  sealed into the body has the potential of causing a serious, life threatening scenario. Monitor throughout the day and night for infection and also with each      application of the topical. If infection is present or arises treat infection before any further applications are made.       

1-6-2) Bone Fracture or Bone Break Alert:   

DO NOT use Comfrey topicals on fractured or broken bones that have not been diagnosed, attended to or set properly by a qualified healthcare practitioner. Comfrey heals quickly and improperly diagnosed or improperly treated fractures or brakes may be fused in the wrong position. More damage may be done than good. If you do not have access a qualified professional then treat the fracture or brake using standard emergency first aid and wait for qualified help.

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