I love herbal remedies for mild ailments that we can take care of at home, and my comfrey leaf salve has been a go-to for years. Comfrey has come under some scrutiny in medical literature, so let me take you through the benefits and risks of this pain-soothing, skin-nourishing herb.
What Is Comfrey Leaf?
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a perennial herb with a black root. It has hairy broad leaves (that grow fast) and bell-shaped flowers that can vary in color.
Comfrey is native to Europe and parts of Asia but is now found in North America too.
For centuries, comfrey has been used for ailments like broken bones and other wound support. They called it “knit-bone” and “bone-set” for these abilities. In fact, comfrey’s Latin name Symphytum comes from the Greek symphis (“growing together”) and phyton (plant).
In keeping with its name, comfrey ointments have been used for centuries in folk medicine for:
- bone mending
- joint health
Comfrey contains many constituents that are thought to help with these uses. Two that are most associated with benefits are allantoin and rosmarinic acid.
Comfrey also contains nutrients such as vitamin C which is known to support collagen production in the skin and overall skin health.
Health Benefits of Comfrey
Here’s why comfrey leaves are a staple in my home, and why it’s been used for thousands of years:
Many cultures historically used comfrey on open wounds. It can be helpful beyond cuts and scrapes even. I’ve used comfrey for bug bites or bee stings, and to soothe a stinging nettle encounter. Science supports some of these uses as well.
A clinical overview published in 2012 shows that science backs traditional uses of comfrey for wound support. According to the overview, research suggests that comfrey can help reduce wound size as well as support collagen formation.
Additionally, “the healing time when using ointment containing comfrey extract was significantly shorter” compared to preparations with no active ingredients.
Helps Muscle and Joint Aches & Pains
As I mentioned, comfrey can help with wound healing in my experience, but its benefits to the body go deeper. Comfrey can help with pain inside of the body — either muscle or joint pain.
The 2012 overview mentioned above also found that comfrey is helpful in supporting healthy muscles and joints. Pain reduction was observed in the group using comfrey topically. In one of the studies, over half of participants suffering from joint pain found complete symptom resolution, while only about 5 percent had no improvement at all.
In another interesting study, researchers discovered that comfrey resolved symptoms more quickly than cryotherapy. Similar outcomes happened in studies focusing on lower back pain and osteoporosis pain. Overall, studies found that comfrey was helpful in supporting the relief of pain.
Supports Blunt Injury Recovery
Comfrey is most famously used as a poultice for broken bones. Allantoin is the constituent thought to be responsible for this benefit. Allantoin can diffuse through the skin and tissues to reach the affected area. Studies also suggest it supports tissue formation.
I once broke my pinky toe (actually, this has happened more than once thanks to late-night stumbling in the hall to get water for kids) and was told that this is not an injury that doctors can really help and that it would have to heal on its own.
I decided to research natural options to help with the pain and stumbled on information about comfrey in the process. After more research, I decided to make a poultice of comfrey leaf and plantain and apply to my broken toe several times a day.
Since I’d had this type of injury before, I knew that it often took several weeks at least to heal and that the pain often lasted this long. With twice-daily comfrey and plantain poultices, I noticed a reduction of pain within a few days and the pain was almost not-noticeable after one week!
By the second week, I was back to wearing whatever shoes I wanted! Now I’m a believer in the benefits of comfrey.
Uses for Comfrey
Comfrey clearly has many benefits and has earned a place in my natural remedy cabinet. Here are some of the best ways to use comfrey:
- As a poultice for bone breaks and ankle sprains, or muscle and joint pain. (A poultice is a paste made from herbs (and sometimes clays or other ingredients) that is put directly on the skin and covered with cloth.) This is the safest way to use herbs on the skin and is what I used on my broken toe.
- Ointment or healing salve for topical wound dressing – I use healing salves or liniments for wounds to keep them clean and help them close faster.
- Lip salve – I add herbs to lip balms and salves for the health benefits. In this case, adding comfrey can help support healthy lips and avoid chapped and cracked skin.
- Black drawing salve – I learned about this remedy from an Amish farmer who said it worked well from drawing out splinters and even spider venom. It’s a bit complicated to make but is very effective.
- After birth sitz bath – Recovery from childbirth can be difficult (especially if you struggle with a sick baby or postpartum depression). Add this herbal remedy to a bath or Peri Bottle to soothe soreness.
Some herbalists who still recommend internal use of comfrey (under specific guidelines) will use comfrey tea for digestive issues, respiratory issues, and urinary issues. I would not personally use it internally and recommend further research and checking with your doctor before you do.
Why? Read on…
Is Comfrey Safe?
Used externally, comfrey is generally considered safe for children three or four years old and older as well as most adults.
As I mentioned earlier, comfrey has come under some scrutiny. The reason is that studies have pointed to comfrey having side effects when taken internally. This is based on the fact that comfrey contains a number of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage and liver disease.
Some herbalists argue that many studies that came to this conclusion isolated the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) and injected or fed them to animals at higher levels than herbalists would recommend. In the cases where people had negative health effects from ingesting comfrey, the intake of comfrey was also well above the recommended dosages.
Since the jury is out, to be on the safe side:
- Do not use comfrey on any type of broken or irritated skin.
- Do not use if pregnant, even for external use.
- Avoid it if you have liver problems or cancer.
- Do not use comfrey in combinations with anything else that affects the liver, such as pain relievers, alcohol, and prescription medications
- Do not use in combination with herbs such as kava, skullcap, valerian, or CBD oil.
That being said, I like to err on the side of caution and avoid internal use of comfrey if possible. One reason is that there is likely another safer herb I can use in place of comfrey in ingestible preparations.
As always, consult a doctor and/or qualified herbalist before using this or any herb!
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Walker, an internal medicine physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
Ever used comfrey to help a broken bone or other use? Share below!
Discussion (156 Comments)
Before all the “controversy” and comfrey was pretty much pulled everywhere, I remember sitting down after a long, hard day of my regular 8 hour job and then my 3 hours of teaching aerobics (yeah, 2 1.5 hour classes back to back) and having a nice big mug of comfrey tea. It probably was a little weaker than the norm – I was buying it in stores in tea bags – because I had it in a 16 ounce mug. But it really helped with all the aches and pains, helped relax me a little and helped my had since I was 12 and no doctor could prescribe anything that gave me relief without side effects chronic IBS. I found comfrey to be almost a “miracle” when I tore teondons on the bottom of my foot and was put in a soft cast – I was back in shoes and doing light low impact aerobics in 2 weeks. Even the podiatrist was amazed. Comfrey is a wonderful herb. It’s a shame that these “studies” that are done are done so poorly. Of course people do need to be aware that there are risks – but there are risks with many natural as well as pharmaceutical remedies. People need to educate themselves, do their homework, check other medications they are taking or any other conditions they have before taking anything internally or externally. And with comfrey? make sure you’re steering clear of the root, stay with the leaves. I think I’m going to go hunt down a source for leaves and make some tea. Can’t hurt at this point, I’m in so much pain right now with plantar fasciitis (other foot) and I know it’s helped in the past.
I had plantar fasciitis in my right heel. It was really painful to walk on. Like little electric shocks. I bathed the foot in hot water with half a cup of bi carbonate soda & quarter cup of Epsom salts for between 1 & 2 hrs. I did this twice the first day. Skip the next day then do it again. Only did it the twice & mine has gone completely. Hope it works for you.
Oh I miss my comforting Comfrey leaf tea. Like you I use to buy the tea bags in stores for many years. Never had any problems from it.
Try soaking your feet (and your body) in Epsom Salts or Magnesium Chloride. Spray on magnesium oil on your body daily. Check Wellness Mama about magnesium.
Did you ever find comfrey leaves? I’m looking for some to drink.
My daughter’s fiance recently fractured his leg skiing and I did some research to help him with his healing and came upon several articles by Dr Susan E. Brown PhD about how to heal them naturally: https://www.betterbones.com/
Comfrey is fantastic! I took a herbalist course and the uses for it are incredible. I do use it internally – but not every day! People take oil of oregano every day, and really it should be taken for no more than a week and then take a break because it can actually cause problems. There’s been too much fear about this herb and the scientific testing seemed (like you said) to be designed to make it fail. Check out Dr. Christopher – he was a master herbalist and has lots of information on comfrey use.
If I do not have any comfrey growing just yet…can I order dried leaves online and mix it with water and crush to then place on bone? Will an oil be better? My friend broke his toe and I know comfrey has healing properties from a permaculture class I attended.
If you order the cream which is available online, this will in my opinion, be more practical and works very fast. Your friend can apply it three times a day and not have to worry about a fomentation or poultice, which are both more messy and a lot more effort. They are OK if you don’t have the cream.
Cream, made with the root, is very effective. I have had two experiences with seeing two friends with bad breaks which healed quickly. They both used the cream which contained the root because that’s what was available.
If you can’t get it with the root, I would use the one containing the leaf.
Just Google and you will find something.
Tea taken internally will heal from the inside out. The dried herb can also be used for that.
I used a comfrey poultice, made from fresh leaves on a very painfully muscle inflammation of my arm,.possibly tennis elbow.
I left it on all night wrapped in cling film covered by an old sock. I am thinking this may have been a mistake as though the pain was relieved it left a nasty rash. Anyone else have similar reaction?
Comfrey has small hairs on it that can be irritating and cause a rash for some people. Comfrey oil or salve that’s been well strained shouldn’t have that same issue though.
Reply to Alysia…
Is that the doctor’s full name? Dr. Christopher?? You stated that you did not take the Comfrey tea everyday. Was it because of fear? I’m trying desperately to heal this 2cm Hiatal Hernia. It causes really bad symptoms.This Comfrey tea seems like the perfect solution for my problem! Please help!
Used Comfrey leaf about twenty years ago and have never forgotten the
occasion.I had an infected sore on my lower leg ,maybe from a large
splinter, that had caused the glands to swell in my groin…next step
would have to be anti-biotics.At night I put some fresh Comfrey leaves under a bandage around the sore and by next morning
the leaves had actually drawn all the infection/puss out of the leg
and the leaves themselves were soaked with discharge .The swelling in
the glands was gone and the sore disappeared rapidly.It was an amazing turn around.
William Drake Dorosh
Has anyone used comfrey and noticed any change in their gum line? My dentist has explained to me that my receding gum line is due to receding bone. We know that was caused by tobacco but can I rejuvenate my jaw bone? I’d like to give it a try. I just want to know are there any comfrey users proud of their gum line?
I would try changing your diet. After i started eating more fruits and veggies my teeth improved dramatically. My gums got better (I had mild gingivitis) and I have less plaque. I aim for half my diet being fruits and veggies, preferably raw, and potatoes and juice don’t count. Potatoes because they’re mostly starch and juice because it’s mostly sugar. Smoothies should be limited because you need to chew your food to get the most benefits from it, especially for dental health. I attribute this change from both the high nutrient levels in plant foods (which supports proper tissue growth) and the high fiber content (which helps clean my teeth when the food is raw). Because i have a sweet tooth, many days i would eat half sweet carbs and half fruit, and i still maintained a huge improvement. So there’s more to dental health than just sugar. I particularly recommend raw celery, pears and mango. You can just feel the fiber cleaning your teeth. 😉
Also try switching to whole grains. They also are high in nutrients and fiber and give your teeth more of a workout than refined grains. Beans are great too. For animal products, fish, grass fed animals, organ meats, and cod liver oil are more nutrient dense, though they don’t contain fiber.
Oil pulling my friend! It helped me and most of my family achieve healthier gums. You should really try it out if you’re experiencing receding :]
Complete agreement with Kaila. The local dentists were torturing my husband with his bad gums, told him he need to just get teeth pulled now because they would soon fall out. OIL PULLING the Periodontist was amazed at the change. Just get a routine going.
As one ages, the gums can recede and weaken due to collagen levels decreasing I found the cure for gums. I use the Biocell form of Hyaluronic Acid/Collagen. Most HA supplements use it. I use Doctor Best brand because of low cost.
Take 6 capsules on an EMPTY stomach with at least 8 ounces of water. This must be done because it needs to bind with the water and taking it with food especially any protein will destroy it’s efficacy.
It will take from 6 weeks to 12 weeks to strengthen gums. Maybe a lot sooner than that. I was taking it to cure a herniated disc which it did in 6 weeks. I noticed afterwards that my gums were regenerated and became very strong. I am 60 years old.
If one is younger, maybe vitamin C alone will help.
Thanks for this! What do you mean by regenerated? Did your gums grow back at all?
Yes oil pulling with coconut oil. Even my mainstream dentist recommended this. She said that her patients who used mouthwash found it made no difference, but experienced really good results with pulling coconut oil. I do it for 20 mins when I get up in the morning and spit out the residue (not down the sink – it will block when the oil hardens). I also do for a few minutes before bed and do not rinse.
I was in my late 50s when my gums started to deteriorate. At the time I was trying to cure a L4-L5 herniated disc with Biocell brand of Hyaluronic Acid (which is a high absorption HA and collagen. It must be taken on empty stomach and water. Give it a half hour or so to absorb. It healed my herniated disc in 6 weeks. I also found that after 2+ months, my gums regenerated and became very strong.
I euse Comfrey for arthritis as a poltis and to baid my my feet and ankles find it great instant relieved from pain . I also make a tea of it it isn’t the nicest i prefer Dandelion tea to drink but find it hard to find enouf ingredient i only make my own I don’t by any from shops
What about the root? Can I drink tea made from the root?
The root has much more of the toxic chemicals than the leaf; Comfrey leaves contain about 0.06% alkaloids, and roots about 0.2 to 0.4%” . I would recommend the leaves if you’re going to make a tea.
I just saw your post here. I wanted to say that I am a cancer survivor and I do owe it to my daily herbal regime. I make a tea of Comfrey and LIcorice Root. I use 1/2 tsp of Comfrey and 1 tsp of Licorice Root to 2 cups of water. Yes, this is a weak tea by most standards. I sweeten it with a few drops of honey and drink each morning. Having been through chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as multiple surgeries to remove tumors, I noticed that within 6 months of my starting this regime, I had smaller tumors and less reactions to the therapies. After sticking to my regime without fail for just over a year and half, I went in for another fun biopsy. The result was remission. After another year, I was declared cancer free. This was back in 2007 that I was declared cancer free. I have been since as well. I still go in for regular check ups and tests and even had my liver checked as the common fear of Comfrey being liver failure. I originally heard about using Comfrey from an older Polish Herbalist that I studied under. Yes there are side effects to any herb just as there is for any medication, but before you decide to not use or to use something, please speak with your health care professional and get more than one opinion! Don’t be afraid to ask those silly embarrassing questions either. The only wrong question is the one that goes unasked…
I had a knee replacement 2 years ago, and due to an infection, I had a revision knee replacement 6 mos. ago. I am experiencing quite a bit of pain after activities, and was considering using a comfrey wrap to alleviate the pain. I have concerns about chemicals from the comfrey. What risk do I take with it causing adverse reactions in my knee?
The only wrong question is the one that goes unasked…
I love this saying right here.
I would like to further question the lady who is the cancer survivor.Would it be possible to get her email address?
Thanks so much.
Congratulations on being healthy and cancer-free! I’ve been researching the uses of comfrey for menopause issues. I found a nice, big bag of dried comfrey for sale online but it stated, “Not for internal use.”! I thought that seemed odd, right? Apparently, due to the supposed “risks” for the liver, they must add this disclaimer, which put me off buying it for tea. I’m really glad to read your story and understand a little more about comfrey!
Any other suggestions for making a poultice besides Plaintain? Thanks!
Is it possible for you to contact me directly? Reason: I have a neighbor friend who is undergoing chemo and suffering. I would like to refer him to you if he is willing. I have no credibility, whereas you have experienced everything he is experiencing.
I grow the comfrey. You’ve grown the experience.
THAT rocks out loud…I know I’m way behind on posts but wanted to share my excitement for you! Congrats!!!
Can you give me the name and contact info of your Polish herbalist?
Sabrina M Bowen
Comfrey is extremely easy to grow, so I have TONS of it. And I’ve always drank it as tea. There ARE benefits to taking it internally, and the small risk of side effects still makes it safer than conventional medications!
I’ve taken it internally, in the form of a tea, for a soft tissue injury, and it really made a difference.
How do I make tea is it from the root or leaves. When is the best time to dry the plant.
So much in the way of healing, wheather it be bones , muscles, tendons etc….. Even nerve, dare I say as I have read so I’m quoting here,
“All connective and soft tissue”, also “Bones and the strength and health of bone” … Can be so so much healthier if we add or supplement out diet, with Magnesium Chloride , since there are different forms of magnesium such as Epsom salts etc… This is the Chloride Type and is quite different than Epsom salts. Most Americans are very deficient in this amazing mineral. It affects so many things in our body I can’t begin to speak to that, if anyone hasn’t read about it, it’s for sure something to read about! Just FYI it’s really helped my life indeed as it was the only thing that’s helped my nerve pain due to a “BooBoo” that was made during my back surgery and I had nerve damage which became nerve pain which is very hard for Dr’s to treat. Similar to diabetic nerve pain .
Off the wall I’m sorry but! To make it quick, the best way to get this wonderful substance into our bodies and working at peak performance is Transdermally! Proven over and over again, but the supplement company’s make the big bucks on selling magnesium supplements , I won’t say that they have anything to do with it but it’s controversy but bottom line is it’s easily assimilated transdermally and SO easy to make! Like easier than tea? Yes! It helps ? 99% of everything that happens in iur bodies that I wouldn’t want to be with out it even to the way to get a good nights sleep! It’s important . I use and so many others as well, the brand is Ancient Minerals , Magnesium Bath Flakes. You can Purchace expensive “Magnesium Oil” sprays if you just have way too
Much $$$ lol
Or you can make the exact same thing with the flakes. You for the equal
Amout of boiling water over the flakes , stirred till water is clear and flakes have melted, couple
Minutes.. LOL… Then cool
And put into a good spray bottle. Spray on yourself when out of the shower, it may tingle some that’s normal
& doesn’t bother me if it does bug you spray on a non tender place on the Bod like the bottoms of feet or arms etc.. Just get it sprayed on it all absorbs very quickly so if you get a bit of a whitefish look on your skin just brush off with a dry washsloth. The good stuff is already at work in your body so that residue matters not. I can’t tell you how much it has improved the way I feel from yep sleeping good (wow!) to deminished pain to the point I can ExERCIZE again which has always been important to me. I would say for everyone to try it ASAP ! lol
I love it! If you feel you should speak to a dr first then absolutely !!! Just get it sprayed on as soon as you can. It’s really that important . After you e read or heard what all it can do for you you’ll be blown away! Seriously! So sorry I just interrupted here, but after thinking about healing bones and osteoporosis and perio problems I just felt the need to share! I wish I had know. About it ten years sooner for sure! You’ll then be making some for your BFFs as gifts! Trying to explain its value but it has to be felt by oneself! Health & Peace to All!
I’m going to try this for my herniated disc
Since I discovered magnesium, my life has changed so much. I had lower back pain that sent me crawling into bed on and off and also anxiety, tremors and joint pain. Mg helped ALL of it and I’m never not going to have it. I like Natural Calm and also like to use Epsom Salts (baths) and Mag Chloride transdermally.
Replying to April Grow….
Everything I have read on consuming Comfrey tea or supplements internally tells me it is DANGEROUS! It really makes me sad. It looks like this is the one thing I SHOULD be consuming for a 2cm Hiatal Hernia! I need this thing HEALED!! I read where you consumed this Comfrey as a tea with great results. I’m excited all over again. How many cups did you consume a day and how long a period of time did you take it?? Please help!!
This can be frustrating….I also have small hernia hiatus…I’m also looking for remedies to heal so I can have my life back…
Wellness mama, speaking of controversy… What do you think about those “organic” tampons? I hope this isn’t too personal but I’m sure alot of us moms/women have seen them at whole foods/etc and wonder..
I know you asked Wellness Mama’s opinion but thought I would share my two cents and see if it helps. Organic can be hard to support fully through and through completely but from an agricultural stand point I think it is important to support organic ag as much as possible. From there though, organic tampons being a healthIER choice for you and your body it depends if they are also toxin and chemical free. Because those harmful toxins are being absorbed into your body with the help of your own body’s natural heat. Also, some tampon’s had controversy with moldy tampons, going unnoticed bc of being hidden in the applicator. I really recommend something like the Diva Cup (or something with the same idea) the first day will blow your mind, I laughed my butt off trying to figure the thing out but once that was over I realized how much of a better solution it really was.
I have used the diva cup for 6 years now and I would recommend it to every woman. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars and my body feels better.
I Totally agree! I had the diva cup for 2 years, and then misplaced it. Because I could not find it, I ended up using a tampon, only to become extremely sick…not cool, which made me stick to pads until I got another Diva cup. Granted, I have a heavy flow and have to change it a lot, but at the end of the day, it is soon worth it!
I too switched to the Diva Cup, eventually got used to the awkward insertion procedure, and would TOTALLY recomend this safe and frugal method. The only weird downside in my experience is when you need to (sorry for the imagery), dump and clean it, when in a public restroom. I suggest avoiding that ordeal if at all posible.
What’s made it a little easier for me when in a public restroom is to take wet paper towels in the stall with me. For the cup & my hands. Having some personal wipes helps too until I get out to wash my hands. It’s still a little awkward, but I can get past it a lot easier now.
I wholeheartedly agree. The diva cup- both sizes are fairly large though and although it is the American standard, there the lunette, the keeper, the mooncup, me luna- which I use because of the 4 different sizes, then long or short lengths, then in so many colors – all fundamentally the same with minor differences to make a wonderful product that lasts. Precious star pads is a youtuber from GB to help you sort it out.
For the last few years before menopause I used a small sea sponge for my periods. Worked great. Got it at health food store for 50 cents. Used the same one for years.