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Comfrey: Nature's Remedy for Aches and Pains

A powerful herbal healer, Comfrey is a great ally to incorporate into your medicine cabinet. Its name comes from the Latin phrase con firma, which means "made firm" and explains how this herb helps to knit the musculoskeletal system back together.


It is important to have a solid understanding of how Comfrey works with the body, as there are many risks that can come from uninformed usage of this powerful healer. Read on to learn about the virtues and risks associated with Comfrey so that you can interact with them safely.


A photo of Comfrey flowering

Comfrey Key Information

  • Common Name: Comfrey

  • Latin Name: Symphytum officinale (comes from the Greek word "to unite")

  • Other Names: Knitbone, Bruisewort 

  • Plant Description: Large roots that look line bones and joints; large, rough and oval-shaped leaves; perennial; bell-like flowers that are pale blue, pink or yellowish

  • Parts Used: Root and aerial parts

  • Harvest Info: Dig root from fall through spring, harvest leaf when fully formed but before plant flowers. The cell-proliferating molecule called allantoin is at the highest levels when the plant is growing fastest. The root and the main rib of the leaf have the highest amounts of allantoin and mucilage. Can work with Comfrey fresh or dried.

  • Precautions: This herb can be dangerous to take internally and can heal wounds too quickly, causing risk of infection. We will be sharing a post soon for a more in-depth discussion of the risks and benefits associated with Comfrey. 


Herbal Actions

  • Analgesic (mild)

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Astringent 

  • Demulcent

  • Emollient 

  • Expectorant 

  • Heals skin and musculoskeletal system 

  • Mucilaginous (contains more mucilage than Marshmallow root)

  • Vulnerary 


Comfrey Herbal Indications


Comfrey is perhaps best known for the way it stitches up the musculoskeletal system. This plant is high in a constituent called allantoin, which encourages cell proliferation and speeds up healing.


Comfrey encourages ligaments, muscles and bones to knit together firmly. This herb also facilitates the healing of cuts, bruises, sprains, dislocations, swelling, fractures, burns, splinters and ulcers and soothes inflamed tendons. Comfrey is a good ally for healing insect bites, scars, skin inflammation, acne, and hemorrhages as well.


This herb is mildly analgesic and a great anti-inflammatory, making it an effective pain remedy and especially soothing for arthritis, gout and lower back pain. Overall, Comfrey is a great helper for decreasing the time it takes to heal wounds and irritations.


A photo of Comfrey flowering

Matthew Wood teaches that “Comfrey stimulates growth when the system has been traumatized and is, perhaps, having trouble regenerating on its own.” The roots are the most effective part of the plant for this, although the leaves are still very medicinal. Amazingly, Comfrey roots look like bones and joints, indicating how good nature is at communicating with us. 


It is important to exercise caution with Comfrey, though, as it is not antimicrobial and can heal wounds and injuries too quickly. It can trap dirt inside and knit unset bones together improperly.


Comfrey heals from the outside in and pairs well with other herbs that heal from the inside out, such as Calendula, Yarrow, Plantain and St. John’s Wort. And while Comfrey will not kill off infection-causing microbes, it is a good drawing agent that can pull stagnant and toxic material out of injuries. This means that Comfrey can help to remove metabolic waste and is a good ally for removing stings and splinters. 


Symphytum officinale is also an excellent remedy for burns, helps to reduce scarring and also disperses bruises. Think of this herb as a good general rejuvenative, but work with it carefully, not exuberantly or it may cause excess growth or overstimulate healing in a way that can cause more harm than good.


There is a lot of controversy and concern about whether Comfrey is safe to take internally. Historically, Comfrey has been used to soothe irritated mucous membranes in the GI tract, respiratory tract and urinary tract.


There is a lot of controversy over whether Comfrey is safe to take internally. This is because this herb contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that are potentially toxic to the liver and can induce veno-hepato-occlusive disease.

Astoundingly, Symphytum officinale is so mucilagenous that it actually contains more mucilage than Marshmallow root. However, it is important to only work with Comfrey when indicated.


Hildegard states that, “if a person eats it for no reason, it destroys all the humors that had been correctly established in him. But if some part of a person is deficient, ulcerated, or wounded, and he then eats Comfrey, it quickly pursues the mucus which is coming out there, healing it as well as the ulcers on the surface of the skin.”


There is significant caution against taking Comfrey internally. Historically, this herb has been used to heal internal ulcers and sooth inflammation in the digestive and urinary tracts.


A photo of a warm compress

Symphytum officinale also has an association with the respiratory tract as it is both soothing and expectorant. It has historically been used to aid with chronic lung diseases, dry coughs, inflammation, sore throats and bleeding in the lungs. Comfrey can also make a great gargle for soothing the mouth. It is super mucilaginous, especially in the roots, making it very soothing to the mucus membranes in the body. 


This post is focused on the various herbal indications associated with Symphytum officinale. I share this information to provide a complete picture of all of the ways that Comfrey interacts with our body.


However, it can be dangerous to take this herb internally so make sure to do thorough research before you engage with this powerful being.

I have written a second blog post that goes into more detail about how to safely work with Comfrey, which we will be sharing soon. Check back soon for insight into precautions with this herb and a great recipe for a scrapes and stings salve that we learn in Artemisia Academy's Herbal Apprentice Program.


Herbal Apprentice Program description

Herbal Apprentice Program

If you want to learn how to safely and effectively work with herbs like Comfrey, Artemisia Academy's Herbal Apprentice Program may be perfect for you. This 150-hour program is hands-on, interactive, and will give you the skills and knowledge you need to form deep and healing relationships with the herbal allies all around us.


Sources Used


About the Author

A headshot of the author, Alicia Cielle Heiser

Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also has a podcast called Conversations with the Planets and she offers herbal astrology readings and crafts personalized herbal tea blends. You can find her at www.aliciacielle.com. 


 

Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.


Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.

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