Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) Overview

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) other names: Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Bruisewort, Common Comfrey, Consolidae Radix, Consound, Consoude, Consoude Officinale, Consuelda, Grande Consoude, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Herbe aux Charpentiers, Herbe à la Coupure, Knitback, Knitbone, Langue-de-Vache, Oreille d’Âne, Salsify, Slippery Root, Symphytum officinale, Wallwort.

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) is also known as knitbone or common comfrey and belongs to the Boraginaceae family. Comfrey is a perennial herb having black roots resembling turnips and bears broad leaves with bristles. The herb is indigenous to Europe and grows in soggy and lush green areas, especially along the river banks and ditches. The flowers of the plant are bell-shaped and vary in hue from white to pink or purple. Comfrey is widely used for treating a number of conditions.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) flower

Comfrey is native to Europe and thrives well in all temperate climatic regions across the globe - and this includes North America, Australia as well as the western regions of Asia. The herb grows best in soggy and marshy areas. The herb can be propagated from its seeds during spring or by root division during autumn. The leaves and the flowering acmes are usually collected during the summer months. The root of comfrey is harvested during autumn.

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) Health Benefits

Comfrey has several therapeutic uses. Traditionally, the herb has been prescribed for treating ulcers in stomach, an assortment of respiratory conditions, inclusive of pleurisy and bronchitis, as well as irritable bowel syndrome. For thousands of years, effectiveness of comfrey has been recognized in healing injuries, fractures as well as sprains. Comfrey has been established that the herb helps in firmly binding the ligaments to bones. When a compress prepared with comfrey is applied to a strained ankle instantly, it helps appreciably to lessen the acuteness of the damage. The presence of tannins and mucilage in the herb is effective for alleviating injuries and scratches on the body.

It is believed that any and all the remedial characteristics of comfrey perhaps owe to allantoin - an active element of the herb. Allantoin is basically a mediator that endorses propagation of cell. The herb also encloses some amounts of tannin and mucilage. The parts of the plant under the ground, especially the root, encloses around 0.6 to 0.7 per cent of allantoin and approximately 4.0 to 6.5 per cent tannin. On the other hand, comfrey leaves contain lesser amount of allantoin (approximately 0.3 per cent), but more of tannin (anything between 8.0 to 9.0 per cent). However, the roots as well as the leaves of the plant contain considerable quantities of mucilage or binding substances. Although, the advocators of the therapeutic use of this herb speak highly about the content of vitamin B12 in the herb, the fact remains that in comparison to the more traditional sources of vitamin B12, such as the liver, the presence of this substance is not really high in comfrey.

In fact, various species of comfrey that have been examined by scientists so far have shown to contain hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), but literature on this subject is confusing owing to an obvious absence of focus on adequate botanical recognition of the different Symphytum species researched till now.

Comfrey is often considered to be a major first aid medication. When comfrey is applied topically over a fractured bone, its prime element allantoin simply disseminates into the tissues below and helps in speeding up the healing and closing processes. Allantoin is known to encourage cell growth and, thereby, mend damaged cells. When fresh comfrey leaves or roots are topically administered to sores, injuries or ulcers, the mucilage or adhesive agents present in the herb trickles out onto the damages skin. It first dries on the wound and then coagulates and contracts bringing the sides of the damaged skin closer and also slows down contagion at the place. In places where the injury is somewhat shallow, comfrey is effective in healing the skin leaving behind a small blemish.

A poultice or balm prepared with comfrey roots may be used to heal an assortment of conditions, including blemishes, twists and strains, gout, arthritis, varicose veins, ulcers, swellings, burns and phlebitis (inflammation of veins characterized by pain, swelling and change of skin color). Again, a decoction prepared with comfrey root or an infusion prepared with the leaves of the herb serves as an effective eyewash for tender, inflamed eyes as well as a cleanser for skin conditions like eczema, acne, psoriasis and boils.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) picture

Comfrey leaves possess substantial therapeutic properties and are especially effective in healing digestive, respiratory and urinary problems. The leaves of the herb act as a comforting expectorant for dry coughs, bronchitis and pleurisy and are also used to cure tender throats and laryngitis. Comfrey is also useful for treating various conditions of the alimentary canal. The herb provides comfort as well as cures gastric and duodenal ulcers, gastritis and may also be used to lessen the inflammation responsible for dysentery, diarrhea and ulcerative colitis. As mentioned earlier, the herb is also effective for treating a number of conditions in the urinary system. Comfrey loosens up the spasm, comforts cystitis and, at the same time, helps get rid of inflammation and contagions. Herbal medicine practitioners also recommend comfrey for treating gout and arthritis. Comfrey is also used to cure other excruciating or irritated conditions like sprains, tendinitis and fractures.

Early research suggests that applying comfrey ointment to the affected area for up to 2 weeks improves mobility, decreases pain, and reduces tenderness and swelling of sprains. The effect of comfrey ointment in relieving pain and reducing swelling seems to be comparable to the effects of diclofenac gel. Most of the studies have used a specific comfrey ointment that is low in pyrrolizidine alkaloids (Kytta-Salbe f).

The oil extracted from comfrey, or lotions prepared with it, are recommended to cure acne and boils as well as alleviate the skin condition called psoriasis. In addition, the herb is also effective in healing scars.

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) Side effects

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) tree

Comfrey is possibly safe for most people when applied to unbroken skin in small amounts for less than 10 days. It’s important to remember that the poisonous chemicals in comfrey can pass through the skin. Absorption of these chemicals increases if the skin is broken or if large amounts are applied.

Comfrey is likely unsafe for anyone when taken by mouth. Comfrey contains chemicals (pyrrolizidine alkaloids, PAs) that can cause liver damage, lung damage, and cancer. The FDA has recommended removal of oral comfrey products from the market.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Comfrey is likely unsafe to take by mouth or apply to the skin if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. In addition to causing liver damage and possibly cancer, the PAs in comfrey might also cause birth defects. Even topical use is unwise, since the PAs can be absorbed through the skin.

Broken or damaged skin: Don’t apply comfrey to broken or damaged skin. Doing so might expose you to large amounts of the chemicals in comfrey that can cause liver damage and other serious health effects.

Liver disease: There is a concern that comfrey might make liver disease worse. Don’t use comfrey if you have any problems with your liver.