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Comfrey

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  • Botanical: Symphytum officinale
  • Family: Boraginaceae
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Comfrey

Botanical

Symphytum officinale

Family

Boraginaceae

Known as

Arznei-Beinwell, Beinwurz, Bienenkraut, Echter Beinwell, Gemeiner Beinwell, Gemeine Wallwurz, Gewöhnlicher Beinwell, Glotwurzel, Grosse Wallwurz, Hasenbrot, Hasenlaub, Himmelsbrot, Honigblum, Komfrei, Kuchenkraut, Milchwurz, Schadheilwurzel, Schmalwurz

Old Use

medicinal

Parts Used

leaves, roots

Medicinal

abscess, asthma, arthritis, boils, bone weakness, bleeding, blood forming, bruises, burns, cellulite, coughs, diabetes, diarrhea, eczema, flu, gastritis, gout, hemorrhoids, indigestion, itching, insect bites, joint pain, muscle pain, pain relief, psoriasis, rheumatism, scars, sinusitis, tendovaginitis, ulcers, varicose veins, wounds, osteoarthritis, sprains

Heart & Circulation

bleeding, hemostatic, hemorrhoids, vascular, varicose veins

Hormone & Sexual Organs

menstrual problems, uterine bleeding

Infection & Inflammation

eye inflammation, gum bleeding

Muscle & Joints

bone weakness, rheumatism, sprains

Respiratory System

cough

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain

Skin & Hair

abscess, blemished skin, bruises, burns, cellulite, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, eczema, scars, stretch marks, skin rashes

Properties

analgesic, antirheumatic, anti inflammatory, astringent, cooling, expectorant, vulnerary

Description

The leafy stem, 2 to 3 feet high, is stout, angular and hollow, broadly winged at the top and covered with bristly hairs. The lower, radical leaves are very large, up to 10 inches long, ovate in shape and covered with rough hairs which promote itching when touched. The stem-leaves are decurrent, i.e. a portion of them runs down the stem, the body of the leaf being continued beyond its base and point of attachment with the stem. They decrease in size the higher they grow up the stem, which is much branched above and terminated by one-sided clusters of drooping flowers, either creamy yellow, or purple, growing on short stalks.

Properties & Uses

Comfrey is a commonly used herbal medicine with a long and proven history in the treatment of various complaints. The root and the leaves are used, the root being more active, and they can be taken internally or used externally as a poultice. Comfrey is especially useful in the external treatment of cuts, bruises, sprains, sores, eczema, varicose veins, broken bones etc, internally it is used in the treatment of a wide range of pulmonary complaints, internal bleeding etc. The plant contains a substance called 'allantoin', a cell proliferant that speeds up the healing process. This substance is now synthesized in the pharmaceutical industry and used in healing creams. The root and leaves are anodyne, astringent (mild), demulcent, emollient, expectorant, haemostatic, refrigerant, vulnerary. Some caution is advised, however, especially in the internal use of the herb. External applications and internally taken teas or tinctures of the leaves are considered to be completely safe, but internal applications of tablets or capsules are felt to have too many drawbacks for safe usage. See also the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are harvested in early summer before the plant flowers, the roots are harvested in the autumn. Both are dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh root, harvested before the plant flowers. This has a very limited range of application, but is of great benefit in the treatment of broken bones and eye injuries. 

Other Uses

The plant grows very quickly, producing a lot of bulk. It is tolerant of being cut several times a year and can be used to provide 'instant compost' for crops such as potatoes. Simply layer the wilted leaves at the bottom of the potato trench or apply them as a mulch in no-dig gardens. A liquid feed can be obtained by soaking the leaves in a small amount of water for a week, excellent for potassium demanding crops such as tomatoes. The leaves are also a very valuable addition to the compost heap. A gum obtained from the roots was at one time used in the treatment of wool before it was spun

Cautions

This plant contains small quantities of a toxic alkaloid which can have a cumulative effect upon the liver. Largest concentrations are found in the roots, leaves contain higher quantities of the alkaloid as they grow older and young leaves contain almost none. Most people would have to consume very large quantities of the plant in order to do any harm, though anyone with liver problems should obviously be more cautious. In general, the health-promoting properties of the plant probably far outweigh any possible disbenefits, especially if only the younger leaves are used. Use topically on unbroken skin. May cause loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting. Do not use with Eucalyptus. Do not combine with herbs containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids (e.g. agrimony, alpine ragwort, help, tansy ragwort)

Distribution

Europe, including Britain, south and east from Scandanavia to Spain, Siberia and Turkey.

Constituents

tannin, rosmarinic acid, allantoin, steroidal saponins, mucilage, inulin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, Gum, Carotene, Glycosides, Sugars, Beta-sitosterol, Triterpenoids, Vitamin B-12, Protein, Zinc.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.