Comfrey the Vilified Healer


Comfrey or Knit bone has been used for centuries for purposes ranging from chest complaints to broken bones.  It is an amazing healing plant for wounds.  Why the controversy?

Comfrey contains compounds called Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have been shown to cause hepatotoxicity in large doses.  In Canada you can purchase comfrey but it is labelled Not For Internal Use.  I will therefore skip over the internal uses and talk about the healing properties of comfrey when used         externally. 

Wound Healing

Comfrey is an amazing wound healer.  So amazing in fact that you need to be extremely careful to make sure that the wound is clean before applying comfrey.  It has been known to heal wounds in as little as 24 hours and you don’t want to heal the wound with dirt inside. 

Comfrey creams are available at health food stores and many are excellent.  You may also want to try a comfrey salve from a natural products manufacturer.  My favourite way to use comfrey is simply to use the leaves to heal. 

For a bug bite or sting in the wild simply chew a small piece of comfrey leaf to mix it with your saliva and create a poultice.  Apply the poultice to the affected area and within a few minutes the pain and swelling will be gone.  If you are at home you can simply mash the leaf with a little water to create a poultice. 

In cold weather myself and many people find that their fingers crack and bleed from the dryness.  Recently this happened to me.  I cleaned the crack and used some antibacterial cream for 2 days but the pain was intense.  I finally went to comfrey.  I wet a small piece of the leaf and held it on with a bandage.  For the first 20 to 30 minutes it hurt in a different way.  It burned slightly.  Then it stopped hurting all together.  I left it on overnight and when I woke up and removed the bandage the crack was there but I could see that it had healed on the inside.  Also there was still no pain.  Within the next 24 hours the crack had healed. 

How Does it Work?

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, comfrey contains allantoin which is a substance that helps new skin cells grow.  It also contains other substances that reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy.

Allantonin also assists in regrowing bone and cartilage which may be the reason for its common name knit bone. 

Broken Bones

Comfrey used to be taken internally to assist with breaks but it works extremely well in a compress.  Grind up a comfrey leaf and mix it with a small amount of hot water to form a paste.  Use it directly on the affected area or spread it on gauze and wrap the area with the comfrey side next to the skin.  Repeat this daily till healed. 

Although the studies that found comfrey hepatotoxic were done on rats which were fed 33% of their diet as comfrey it is best not to overuse it.  Once the healing has taken place discontinue using it until it is needed again.