4 Benefits Of Comfrey, How It Works, & Possible Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Benita Perch, ND
Written by Sindhu Koganti, BTech (Biotechnology), Diploma In Nutrition

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is also called boneset or knitbone (as it is used in folk medicine for setting fractured bones). Comfrey benefits can be attributed to its phytochemicals. It is a flowering herb, whose roots and leaves possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Comfrey may help treat various health and skin issues, osteoarthritis symptoms, and sprains. In this article, we further understand the benefits of comfrey, and its side effects. Read on.

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.

The benefits of comfrey can be attributed to its phytochemical content. Comfrey improves skin health, relieves upper and lower back pain, treats ankle sprain, and reduces osteoarthritis symptoms. But the oral consumption of comfrey is not recommended, and caution is highly advised while using it topically. Otherwise, it may cause serious side effects like liver damage, liver cancer, and death. Usage of comfrey by breastfeeding women is proven to be toxic to the infant. However, taking it as prescribed helps in reaping its benefits.

Frequently Asked 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.

Key Takeaways

  • Comfrey is a flowering plant with high phytochemical content. The leaves and roots of this herb have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties with many therapeutic benefits.
  • Comfrey may improve skin health, reduce back pain, help heal an ankle sprain, and relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
  • However, oral consumption and long-term use of comfrey are not recommended as it contains toxic compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids.


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  1. Comfrey
  2. Comfrey: A Clinical Overview
  3. Profile of wound healing process induced by allantoin
  4. Wound healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytum x uplandicum NYMAN: ): results of a randomized controlled double-blind study
  5. Epidermal Regeneration Induced by Comfrey Extract: A Study by Light and Electron Microscopy
  6. Tolerability and effectiveness of an antitrauma cream with comfrey herb extract in pediatric use with application on intact and on broken skin
  7. An investigation into multifaceted mechanisms of action of allantoin in wound healing
  8. Efficacy and Safety of an Anti-aging Technology for the Treatment of Facial Wrinkles and Skin Moisturization
  9. Comparative Study of the Biological Activity of Allantoin and Aqueous Extract of the Comfrey Root
  10. Efficacy and safety of symphytum herb extract cream in the treatment of pressure ulcers
  11. Comfrey root: from tradition to modern clinical trials
  12. Efficacy and safety of comfrey root extract ointment in the treatment of acute upper or lower back pain: results of a double-blind randomised placebo controlled multicentre trial
  13. Topical symphytum herb concentrate cream against myalgia: a randomized controlled double-blind clinical study
  14. Combination of Comfrey Root Extract Plus Methyl Nicotinate in Patients with Conditions of Acute Upper or Low Back Pain: A Multicentre Randomised Controlled Trial
  16. Efficacy and safety of topically applied Symphytum herb extract cream in the treatment of ankle distortion: results of a randomized controlled clinical double blind study
  17. double-blind multiclinical trials
  18. Comfrey extract ointment in comparison to diclofenac gel in the treatment of acute unilateral ankle sprains (distortions)
  19. The Epidemiology and Impact of Pain in Osteoarthritis
  20. Natural Products as Sources of Novel Drug Candidates for the Pharmacological Management of Osteoarthritis: A Narrative Review
  21. Topical herbal therapies for treating osteoarthritis
  22. Effect of a blend of comfrey root extract (Symphytum officinale L.) and tannic acid creams in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: randomized placebo-controlled double-blind multiclinical trials
  23. The efficacy and safety of comfrey
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Dr. Benita Perch

Dr. Benita Perch is IMI’s Managing Director and Senior Partner and a highly sought-after naturopathic physician. For over 10 years,... more