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Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)


Comfrey is an Angiosperm of the plant family boraginaceae. It has been used traditionally in Russia in organic gardening and as an important herbal medicine, though it has been introduced to many other areas especially Europe. In gardening, is known to act as a fertilizer.  The plant grows naturally in ditches, river banks and other grassy and damp areas. The plant grows as a perennial herb with large, turnip-like and black roots. The leaves are hairy and broad and bear flowers of several colors like purple or cream and sometimes striped with a variety of colors. The flowers are distinctive with their bell-like shape.

Medicinal Uses

Comfrey is known to contain proteins, inulin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, tannins, steroidal saponins and mucilage which give it variety of effects on the human body, mostly medicinal. The use of Comfrey has however been marred by controversy with the research claims that its chemical components cause liver toxicity, mainly the pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are hepatotoxic. This can be avoided by limiting the use of Comfrey to externals body parts only with no ingestion.

In light of external use, extracts of Comfrey are used for skin treatments. Continued usage stimulates repair of cells and growth of new cells because of the organic moplecule component allantoin which also depresses skin inflammation.

Comfrey is also used for bone ailments and has earned the name knitbone in upcountry European nations notably rural Russia.  The pulp made from Comfrey is used for healing bone pain and fractures. Even modern scientists use oils extracted from Comfrey for use in the course of bone ailments. Wounds and skin inflammations have also been treated with Comfrey including osteoarthritis, strains, sprains, joint pains, fracturers, pulled ligaments and bruises.

Doctors may also recommend addition to baths and shower water for treatment of swellings, joint pains, circulation problems, varicose veins, gout and most commonly for those with rheumatic complaints. The use of Comfrey tor treat gastrointestinal disorders has been terminated due to toxicity discovery.

Dosage and Administration

There are no specific limitations on external use and users will rely on judgment to determine the correct dosage to use. The administration and dosage limitations have to be followed for the herbal tea made from its dried and crushed leaves. There are three ways of making a Comfrey herbal drink:

  1. Using fresh leaves and bark. Pour a cup of boiling water on the fresh Comfrey to be infused and let the water extract its juice for five minutes. ¼ cup of fresh Comfrey should be used.
  2. Using dried leaves and flowers. Two teaspoons are boiled in water for 5 minutes
  3. When using the seeds or the bark, a tablespoon of the bark or 2 teaspoons of seeds can be boiled in water and used to make the drink.
  4. The Comfrey drinks can be supplemented with other additives for taste or aroma. If you prefer the traditional tea taste, then mix with the conventional tea. Honey can also be added as a sweetener and a dash of lemon juice, preferably fresh can enhance the taste and aroma of the drink.
  5. Continuous use of Comfrey has been discouraged because of health concerns when ingested and if you have use it intermittently for say, 10 days then a five day break or consult a herbal doctor. During acute periods like when you have a cold or flu, it can be used intensively for like 3 times a day but for not more than five days.

Parts Used

The main parts of Comfrey used are the roots and leaves. Fresh leaves or dried and ground can be used to make pulp for use in skin and bone treatment. The bark and the seeds can also be used to make homemade beverage.


Comfrey is usable both for medicinal purposes and is also edible. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. It can also be used to make gum and tea in which case one also gains from the medicinal purposes.

Side Effects

Comfrey has been determined to contain chemicals, pyrrolizidine which have toxic effect on the liver and can result in death. The skin can also absorb these toxic products which may end up building in the body.


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