Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

 Comfrey is a perennial herb that is believed to have originated in Europe and Asia. The plant belongs to the family Boraginaceae. The plant can grow up to a length of 5 feet, and has hairy, large and broad leaves. The roots of the comfrey are usually black, while the flowers are small and white, pink or purple in color. The plant has been renowned for a long time for its medicinal properties. However, some species of comfrey are poisonous. Its name is derived from the Latin word comfera, which means knitting together.


Comfrey has been considered a healing herb since ancient times. The ancient Greeks and Romans, used this wonder herb for alleviating a number of ailments including bronchial problems, wounds, heavy bleeding and broken bones. Its popularity grew during the middle ages, mainly for healing fractures.

The main active ingredient of comfrey is allantoin, which has the ability of stimulating cell proliferation. So, it can be effective in replacing the damaged cells of the body. Besides allantoin, another important compound found in comfrey is mucilage. Both allantoin and mucilage have anti-inflammatory properties. So, they are used in alleviating the pain and inflammation associated with broken bones, sprains, arthritis, wounds, etc. Mucilage is also effective in intestinal disorders, while allantoin augments the immune system to fight against infectious diseases.

The roots and leaves of comfrey can be applied as a wash, ointment and poultice. Comfrey is an expectorant and a mild sedative. It can induce blood clotting and heal ulcers, both external and internal ulcers. Many use comfrey as a herbal remedy for diarrhea, bleeding gums and gangrene. It can also be used to enhance skin and alleviate skin problems like acne, boils and abscesses. It is widely used in homeopathic treatment for several diseases.

According to some studies, comfrey can be beneficial in diabetes and reducing the level of cholesterol. Roots of this plant have been used for a long time in relieving lung problems. In Ireland, it is mainly used for treating problems associated with the circulatory system.

It is abundant in protein and vitamins. Vitamin A and C are abundantly found in comfrey. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, that protects the body from the damaging effects of free radicals and also reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, vitamin A is required for improving vision and proper growth and development of bones. Comfrey is one of the rare plants that contains the vitamin B12, essential for the formation of red blood cells, cell division and proper development of nerve cells.

Besides, these essential vitamins, comfrey is also rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium and germanium. Germanium is a powerful antioxidant, while calcium and phosphorus are required for healthy teeth and bones. Potassium is essential for maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body. In addition, it assists in regulating the blood pressure level and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Zinc facilitates energy metabolism and strengthens the immune system, while magnesium is important for a healthy heart, teeth and bones.

Though comfrey has been used internally to relieve a number of disorders like indigestion, stomach and bowel problems, thyroid disorders, hernia, coughs, lung problems, hemorrhage and even cancer, recent studies have shown that the consumption of comfrey can be dangerous. Studies conducted in this regard has revealed that it contains a compound, known as pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA), which is hepatotoxic and carcinogenic. Accumulation of pyrrolizidine in the body, may block the hepatic vein and cause liver failure. These findings induced the United States Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning in 2001, against the internal usage of herbal products containing comfrey. However, it can be applied externally, as no known side effect of external application has been discovered so far.

Disclaimer: The information presented herein  is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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