7 Impressive Benefits of Comfrey

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most interesting health benefits of comfrey include its ability to reduce pain, eliminate inflammation, boost the immune system, promote growth, and strengthen bones. It also helps heal skin, improve respiratory health.

What is Comfrey?

Comfrey is actually a broader genus scientifically known as Symphytum, which is used extensively in herbal medicine. The flowers can range in color from white to purple and the plant is mainly found in northern Europe. Interestingly enough, there is a decent amount of debate regarding the safety of using comfrey, as some of the volatile chemical components can be potentially dangerous to human beings when consumed improperly. Most people only recommend topical use of comfrey, as there have been some traditional suggestions for internal use when done properly. The United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not allow for internal use to be recommended or suggested on labels. [1]

However, many of the organic compounds found in comfrey are able to transfer their benefits via topical application in various salves and lotions. Some of the more unusual chemicals found in it include allantoin, inulin, tannins, saponins, and beneficial proteins. Many people have been turned off of comfrey due to its dangerous chemicals when ingested, but in reality, there is not any proven risk to topical application of this impressive herb.

Close-up of beautiful comfrey flowers blooming in a meadow

Comfrey is a perennial herb found in moist grasslands. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Comfrey

Health benefits of this beautiful flowering plant include:

Wound Healing

When you apply comfrey to your skin, it can have some benefits on rashes and irritations. The high content of antioxidants, as well as vitamin C, makes comfrey pastes and salves the ideal solution for speeding up the healing of wounds. Antioxidants also help eliminate foreign substances in the body and preventing cell death, while vitamin C’s importance in producing collagen means that it is necessary to produce new skin cells for healing. [2]

Reduced Pain

If you’re suffering from any sort of chronic pain in your body or if you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, applying comfrey salves and lotions to those areas can quickly soothe that pain. Analgesic qualities in herbs are particularly valuable, and the organic compounds and antioxidants found in comfrey serve that purpose quite nicely for aches and pains. [3]

Anti-inflammatory Activity

In a similar way as the analgesic substances in comfrey, the various organic compounds, like saponins and tannins, also serve as anti-inflammatory components of this powerful herb. If you suffer from arthritis, gout, or other inflammatory disorders, use comfrey salves as often as necessary. The lotion is so potent, however, that you can afford to be quite frugal with the oils and creams. [4]

Boosted Immune System

As mentioned earlier, vitamin C is a major component of comfrey, and ascorbic acid’s primary role in the body is to stimulate the production of white blood cells, which is the first line of defense of the body’s immune system. By increasing the strength of your immune system, even from topical applications, you can improve conditions like jaundice and various vitamin and immune deficiencies.

Better Bone Growth

One of this herbal remedy’s nickname is knitbone because it can help speed up the healing process for broken bones, as well as other injuries. It is also rich in calcium, which is a key ingredient in bone growth. The unique combination of organic compounds found in comfrey can stimulate the regrowth of bone minerals, by facilitating more efficient uptake and use of these minerals within the body. [5]

Improved Respiratory Health

Again, it must be stressed that comfrey should not be consumed, but even inhaling or rubbing it on the chest can work as an expectorant. If you are experiencing clogged sinuses or congestion in your respiratory tracts, this plant can help you cough that out and eliminate it from your system. Those phlegms and fluids can catch bacteria and other pathogens, thus, extending or worsening illnesses, but not if comfrey is administered! [6]

Skin Care

If you are suffering from anything from a spider bite to a bad case of eczema, comfrey can help alleviate the symptoms and reduce irritation. A combination of vitamin C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds makes this the perfect solution for skin irritations of all kinds, from psoriasis to acne. [7]

Word of Caution: There is a high concentration of specific alkaloids in comfrey that makes them controversial and potentially toxic when used inappropriately. These alkaloids are particularly potent when consumed, which is why many medical professionals do not suggest any internal use and only limited topical use instead. As with any new herbal remedy, check with a trained herbalist or medical professional, as some of the complications of this high alkaloid content can affect the health of your liver. Use of comfrey is restricted in some countries such as UK and U.S. so consult your local health specialist before use. [8] [9]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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