* Comfrey Symphytum officinale (Borage Family)
This herb is a favorite first aid remedy. It contains a compound called allantoin, which when applied to the skin accelerates the healing of tissue and the closing of wounds.
When fresh leaves or roots are applied to a wound it causes it to contract and close quicker and inhibits the opportunity for infection while minimizing scarring.
Comfrey leaf has a long history of use to promote the healing of bones and wounds, as well as internal use to treat a wide variety of ailments from arthritis to ulcers. Its use in Chinese traditional medicine spans over 2000 years.
Recently, reports of the toxic effects of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in comfrey have led some herbalists to be wary of using it internally. PAs in extremely large doses or over long periods of time may cause potentially fatal damage to the liver. Many leading herbalists and traditional healers question the warnings, pointing to laboratory tests that show only minute levels of PAs in random samples of comfrey preparations.One of the most common uses of comfrey leaf is in an ointment or a poultice applied to sprains, broken bones and other wounds, where it promotes rapid healing of both skin lesions and bone breaks.
Comfrey leaf constituents include tannins, rosmarinic acid, allantoin, steroidal saponins, mucilage, inulin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, Gum, Carotene, Glycosides, Sugars, Beta-sitosterol, Triterpenoids, Vitamin B-12, Protein, Zinc.
It is used in herbal pastes, ointments, tinctures, decoctions, poultices and in cosmetics.
It is a popular addition to herbal salves and ointments, which can be used for bruises, sprains, eczema, swellings and burns.
Research seems to bear out the claims for the healing properties of comfrey leaf. In one major European study, an ointment based on comfrey root proved more effective at relieving both pain and swelling in 142 patients with sprained ankles. In another study with over 300 participants showed that comfrey leaf treatments of varying types (ointments, salves, compresses and other topical applications), were very effective in treating eczema, dermatitis, viral skin infections and ulcers of the lower leg. More recent research in the United States has shown that allantoin, one of comfreys main constituents, breaks down red blood cells, which could account for its ability to help heal bruises and contusions.With regards to the warnings that comfrey can cause cancer and liver disease, most herbal practitioners point out that those results were from studies that isolated the pyrrolizidine alkaloids and fed or injected them into animal subjects in doses far higher than any typical usage of comfrey leaf, and that comfrey leaf has been regularly ingested by thousands of people around the world without reported ill effects.
Comfrey root is used to relieve pain from blunt injuries, promote healing of broken bones, sprains and bruises, reduce swelling and edema, and encourage the rapid and healthy regrowth of skin and tissue cells. Because comfrey may contain PAs, which have caused cancer and liver damage in animal studies, and because the root contains it in higher concentration than the leaves, internal use is not suggested.
A strong infusion of the leaves and/or roots can be used as a skin wash to relieve irritation and promote healing.
CAUTION: There is some debate on the safety of internal consumption of this herb – mostly the root, due to the fact that it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have been linked to liver cancer.
Many herbalists use the leaves internally, chopped fresh in salads or dried and added to herbal infusions, for the high mineral content.
Still, many herbalists recommend that comfrey preparations should not be taken internally because of the possibility of liver disease and damage. Comfrey should also not be used by pregnant or nursing women.
Use caution or avoid internal consumption if you have liver damage.
Try this Easy Comfrey Salve Recipe