What Is Comfrey? Benefits And Possible Side Effects

Written by Sindhu Koganti

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is widely used in folk medicine to set fractured bones. That is why it is also known as knitbone or boneset. The roots and leaves of this flowering herb are rich in phytochemicals and have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, making it an effective solution for skin and health issues, sprain, and osteoarthritis management. In this article, we explore the benefits of comfrey and its side effects. Keep reading!

What Is Comfrey?

Comfrey is a flowering plant belonging to the Boraginaceae family. It has been used for centuries for its medicinal values. The ancient Greeks and Romans used comfrey extracts to heal wounds, set broken bones, and stop heavy bleeding. Keep reading to understand how and why it may benefit your health.

How Does Comfrey Work?

Comfrey leaf and root extracts contain allantoin and rosmarinic acid, making them excellent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and wound-healing agents. The chemical constituents of comfrey extract reduce redness and stimulate cell proliferation and collagen production to heal wounds when applied topically.

The next section explores other skin and health benefits of comfrey. Keep scrolling.

Skin And Health Benefits Of Comfrey

1. Improves Skin Health

Creams and ointment containing comfrey are often used to soothe and heal cracked or painful nipples. Its roots contain allantoin (0.6-4.7%) and rosmarinic acid (up to 0.2%).

Allantoin protects the skin and keeps it smooth. It promotes wound healing by stimulating the fibroblasts to produce collagen. Aerial parts of comfrey (flowers and leaves) also have wound-healing properties. They promote skin cell regeneration and may help treat blunt traumas and injuries. Allantoin has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation and calm irritated skin. It maintains the skin hydration levels and reduces the signs of aging to keep your skin youthful.

The anti-inflammatory effects of rosmarinic acid reduce UVB-induced erythema (redness), inflammation, and leg ulcers. Topical application of aqueous extracts of comfrey root can minimize skin irritation. A study involving 161 patients found that topical application of comfrey root cream could treat pressure ulcers.

2. Lowers Back Pain

Massaging comfrey root extract can help relieve upper and lower back pain. A study conducted on 120 patients with acute back pain found applying comfrey cream three times a day beneficial in pain management. Comfrey root ointment provides faster relief and can also reduce myalgia (soreness and muscle ache).

A study conducted by the Charles University in Prague on 215 patients with pain states that topical comfrey root cream has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that can treat myalgia. It also works well in combination with methyl nicotinate for back pain management.

3. Improves Ankle Sprain

The therapeutic properties of comfrey root ointment can reduce short-term symptoms related to an ankle sprain and speed up the healing process. A study conducted on 203 patients with acute ankle sprain found that a high concentration of comfrey could decrease swelling and pain.

Comfrey cream is more effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for treating ankle sprains. Moreover, a clinical trial suggested that plant-based ointments (including comfrey ointment) are safer and effective than Diclofenac gel.

4. Reduces Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis (a type of degenerative joint disease) affects about 27 million adults in the US. Topical application of comfrey extract was found effective in regulating pain and improving knee mobility.

A study conducted by the University of the SunshineCoast, Australia, involving 220 people with knee osteoarthritis, found that topical comfrey extract gel improved pain without any side effects.

You can also try a blend of comfrey root extract and tannic acid creams. Using this blend three times a day for six weeks can relieve stiffness and knee pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Oral consumption of comfrey is not recommended. When using topical comfrey, be extremely cautious so that it does not get into your mouth. Otherwise, it may cause serious side effects.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Comfrey?

Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (toxic compounds) and may cause liver damage, liver cancer, and death. This is why the Food and Drug Administration has banned oral comfrey products.

Avoid using topical comfrey products for a longer time as there are chances that it may get absorbed through the skin. Also, never apply comfrey cream on open wounds.

Avoid using topical comfrey if you are breastfeeding, as it may expose the infant to the toxic compounds. Hence, always use comfrey creams and ointments under a doctor’s supervision and never self-medicate.

To Conclude

Comfrey is commonly used in traditional medicine and has anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, and analgesic properties. It can help soothe the skin and aid in pain management. However, oral administration of comfrey is not recommended as it contains toxic compounds. Always consult your doctor before using comfrey to avoid its adverse effects.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Why is oral comfrey illegal in the US?

The FDA banned oral comfrey as it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, toxins that may cause liver damage and lead to death.

Is it safe to drink comfrey tea?

No. Oral administration of comfrey in any form is not recommended due to its toxicity.

Is comfrey good for wrinkles?

Yes. Comfrey contains allantoin that promotes collagen development, and rosmarinic acid reduces skin inflammation. Hence, comfrey can soften and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

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Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.