So, the question; what is comfrey?
Comfrey is a perennial flowering herb that grows in many states across North America. It goes by other names such as; boneset, bruisewort, knitbone, and others. As you probably noticed, the names also identify the healing properties.
Some people consider it a weed because of how it spreads and how hard it is to get rid of once you have it. However, there are those of us that know the healing benefits it has and considers it a must as an herb in the field of home remedies or natural herbals.
Where Does Comfrey Come From?
Comfrey has been around since ancient Greece. It was claimed to have been used to aid wounded soldiers that fought for Alexander the Great.
What Does The Plant Look Like?
Comfrey has a root system that can go down as deep as 10ft. And because of depth, the root system brings up wonderful and essential elements such as — magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous. These elements add greatly to your garden as the elements are stored in the leaves and when they die return to the earth and enrich the soil.
Where Do You Plant Comfrey?
Comfrey needs to be kept in a border unless you don’t mind it spreading. Just remember once planted it is there to stay. The plant can grow up to 4ft tall and loves rich moist soil.
When Should You Harvest?
It is harvested in the Summer, so plant your seeds in the Spring or divide already established plants in the Fall.
Now that we’ve established what comfrey is, let’s talk about how to use it.
First, there are those who think you should not take comfrey internally because of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are found in the stalk and a smaller amount in the leaves. Studies have shown this to be toxic to the liver. However, some also say you would have to have a high amount for this to happen. I recommend doing your own research and make the best decision for you.
Top Ten Benefits of Comfrey
- “Softens Skin: There’s allantoin in comfrey extract. Allantoin is a moisturizer that creates a protective film over skin cells. That film helps to lock in moisture and prevent drying. It also helps your outermost layer of skin to shed more easily. Although this may sound a bit icky, it’s an important process (and so satisfying) to help your skin heal and remain healthy and glowing.
- Fights Inflammation: Allantoin is also an anti-inflammatory substance. It’s used in a few medical treatments to help with issues such as rashes and burns. This property makes using comfrey for acne a great idea. It helps stop that uncomfortable inflammation and reduces the intensity of acne!
- Antioxidant: The Rosmarinic acid in comfrey is an antioxidant. You probably already know that such substances are good for you but may not know why. For skincare, the main benefit is protection against harm from UV rays.
- Protect Against Environmental Harm: There are tannins in comfrey root. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait around while these tannins mellow! Instead, when you apply the extract, they will protect your skin from bacteria and toxins.” -blume.com
There are soaps online you can buy which improve acne and restore the normal pH balance of the skin. Or you can make your own.
#2 Bruises – #3 Reduces Inflammation
“Comfrey has a long history of use as a topical agent for treating wounds, skin ulcers, thrombophlebitis, bruises, and sprains and strains. Comfrey has anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease bruising and help heal wounds when the herb is applied topically.
In a study of people with acute ankle sprains, topical application of an ointment four times a day containing a comfrey extract was at least as effective as, and possibly more effective than, a topically applied anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac). The comfrey ointment was a proprietary product that contained 35% comfrey extract.
#5 Wounds – #6 Broken Bones – #7 Cuts
Comfrey is used in traditional medicine as a topical application to help heal wounds. The roots and leaves of this plant contain the protein allantoin, which stimulates cell proliferation and promotes quicker healing of wounds, cuts, and broken bones.Witch hazel can also be used topically to decrease inflammation and to stop bleeding. Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel leaves and bark to treat wounds, insect bites, and ulcers.” -Peace Health
Because of the properties in comfrey we’ve discussed and its botanical name which is Symphytum, from the Greek root sympho meaning “to make grow together”. It is a powerhouse and quick healer hence one of its names, “The Knit-bone Herb.”
Comfrey Compress For Burns, Sprains, and Bruising
Use this comfrey compress when you wish to speed up healing.
- Steep comfrey root in hot water for 20 minutes, covered. I use 1/4 cup dried comfrey to 2 cups of boiling water. What you are doing is making a poultice or very strong tea.
- Next, cool the mixture, strain it, and then soak a gauze pad in it.
- Finally, I apply your soaked pad to the burn. As this might drip be sure to hold your burn over a sink or place a towel under where you are applying.
- When you pad starts to dry out, remove from burn and remoisten in your poultice/tea.
The mixture will be cool and soothing and will quickly work in healing your burn, sprain, or areas where you have bruising. Honey is also an excellent healer for burns. See post about Honey here.
Note: Do not apply comfrey to a burn that is infected. You need to clean the infection out first.
A double-blind clinical trial published in 2009 found that comfrey root extract ointment helped to treat acute back pain, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A three-week-long, double-blind study of 220 people published in 2006 also found that comfrey root extract ointment relieved symptoms related to osteoarthritis of the knee, compared to placebo.
Comfrey Infused Oil
This will be your base for the Homemade Comfrey Ointment. In this process, the constituents of the plant are passed on to the oil, we then discard the plant material and make our ointment, (see below recipe). Herbal Author: Naturopath Lauren Glucina
- 1 500ml glass jar with an airtight lid
- Dried comfrey leaf or root enough to pack the jar with (I think I used close to 50g)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil you could also use almond, or coconut – liquefy the coconut oil first, enough to fill the jar (I think I used just under 2 cups)
- Pack your dried herb into the glass jar, filling it right to the top.
- Pour your oil over the top, again, right to the very, very top.
- Tap the jar on a hard surface lightly – this is just to remove any air bubbles, then screw the lid on tight.
- Clearly label the jar with the herb and date, then place in a cool dark place for 6 weeks to let it infuse.
- Every couple of days or even once a week, give the jar a good shake up to make sure the oil is getting through to all of the dried herb.
- After six weeks, strain herbs through a fine mesh bag, collecting the infused oil. Press the mixture in your hands well to expel every last drop. When you’re done, compost the herbs and store the oil in a glass jar.
Homemade Comfrey Ointment
by Ascension Kitchen
This ointment is for minor cuts, bumps, and sprains. To make things easy, use one cup of infused oil (see above recipe). Prep Time 5 mins- Cook Time 20 mins- Total Time 25 mins.
Herbal Author: Naturopath Lauren Glucina
- 1 cup comfrey infused oil see notes
- 30 g shaved organic beeswax or beeswax pellets
- ½ teaspoon vitamin E oil
- 10 drops tea tree or lavender essential oil optional
- Melt the beeswax over a double boiler.
- Warm the infused oil gently so it is just warm to touch.
- Pour the melted beeswax into the comfrey oil and stir well.
- Remove from heat and let cool till it is warm to touch again.
- Add the vitamin E and your choice of essential oils (vitamin E is a preservative).
- Pour into glass jars and leave to set.
- Date and label, ready for use!
#10 Diabetic Soars
According to NCBI, “Diabetes is a global health problem predicted to rise to over 642 million by 2040. The propelling factor responsible for the increase in morbidity and mortality of diabetes is linked to vascular complications as well as the failure of the wound healing processes in diabetic state.
Different approaches have been adopted in the treatment of diabetic wounds, and medicinal plants are certainly one of those approaches that have drawn global attention. In this review paper, the effects of medical plants on wound healing in a diabetic state as well as factors affecting wound healing and the mechanism of action of medicinal plants are examined.” To Read Full Post Here.
Comfrey is known for its healing properties and has been effective in not only wound treatment but also in diabetic wound healing. That being said, please do not apply the ointment of treatment to a wound that is infected.
Comfrey Salve Recipe
by The Sparrow’s Home
This salve works fantastic for cuts, scrapes, hangnails, chapped lips, burns, diaper rash, general rashes, eczema, chafing, and just about anything skin-wise that you’re not sure what to do with.
- Dried herbs in equal parts:
- Comfrey – root and/or leaf
- Lavender Essential Oil – 12-20 shakes (or to your preference)
- Tea Tree Essential Oil – 6-10 shakes (or to your preference)
- Olive Oil to cover
- Coconut Oil (optional – if you opt, use at a ratio of 1/3 coconut oil to 2/3 olive oil)
- Beeswax (1 Tbsp. grated beeswax per ounce of infused oil)
- To Infuse Oil: Fill a jar about 1/2 full with dried herb mixture. Fill with oil(s). Steep herbs in oil, warming either in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks or using the stovetop or oven methods. (Stovetop: a double boiler for ½ – 1 hour, be sure oil does not overheat) (Oven: set jar of herbs/oil in a water bath and heat slowly at lowest temp for several hours)
- Strain oil well, be sure to push on herbs to extract every bit of infused oil.
- Measure beeswax (1 tablespoon needed for each ounce of oil)
- Gently heat oil and beeswax until wax melts. Stir in desired amounts of essential oils.
- Pour into containers and let sit on the counter until set.
Well, what do you think of comfrey now?
Now that you are more familiar with this beautiful plant, I hope you give it a try along with the recipes to aid you in your health and healing.
For more on natural remedies visit: Turmeric for your Health