Though science and technology has made great progress, we still tag on to many ancient techniques and traditions. We still use conventional methods of treatment with traditional herbs and ancient remedies despite the latest inventions in medical science. Various leaves, roots, stems, flowers and fruits found in different parts of the world contain medicinal qualities, which researchers use to create new medicines. Comfrey is one of those valuable plants, which have contributed a lot to the field of medicine.
What is Comfrey?
Comfrey is an herbal plant whose parts are used to manufacture various medicines. This invaluable herb is a good first aid herb. This plant belongs to the Boraginaceae family. It has furry broad leaves and bell-like purple, white, cream and pink flowers. This herb was first spotted in Europe. It grows well in grassy and marsh areas with damp weather. It contains a chemical called Allantoin, which accelerates the healing of cuts, burns and bruises.
Long ago people used to squeeze the leaves of Comfrey over their wounds. The juice of the leaves would drip out, the skin around the wound would contract, and thus healing would take place. It prevents scars and infection and acts as a disinfectant. Most of the Asian traditional medicines include this herb as a main ingredient.
Comfrey leaves are rich in calcium, potassium, protein, vitamins A, C and B12. Because of their properties farmers used to feed Comfrey leaves to their animals as a part of their diet. The herb protected the cattle from seasonal diseases and boosted their immunity. To this day Comfrey is added to salads, vegetable dishes and other foods as a delicacy. People living in the Far East make tea out of Comfrey leaves and drink it as a refreshing beverage.
Medicinal value of Comfrey Leaves and Comfrey Root
The Comfrey plant is grown in many parts of the world to make medicines and supplements from its leaves and roots. Ranging from broken bones to chronic ulcers and hereditary ailments these leaves can cure anything. A few traditional medicines have been using this plant for over 200 years.
Ointments and poultices made from Comfrey leaves can be applied to sprains, cuts, rashes and boils. The herb is effective on animals too. Herbal pastes, cosmetic creams and moisturizing lotions contain Comfrey leaf extract because of its medicinal value.
The roots of the Comfrey plant also contain healing qualities. Comfrey roots act as a painkiller for internal injuries. It also encourages tissue and skin growth, which is helpful in healing external injuries. Both the roots and leaves are used to make skin washes and soaps that prevent skin diseases and fungal infections.
Contents of Comfrey
Comfrey consists of chemicals and constituents with medicinal properties. Allantoin is an ingredient, which helps in cell growth and bone strengthening. Due to its analgesic and anti- inflammatory properties, Comfrey is used in medicines for sprains, joint stiffness, pain in the joints or muscles and edema. Other ingredients include rosmarinic acid, steroidal saponins, triterpenoids, sugar, carotene, alkaloids, gum, beta- sitosterol, zinc, inulin, mucilage, protein and vitamin B12. These elements are useful in the overall health of both humans and animals.
A few studies reveal that Comfrey might contain PAs, which are the chief cause of liver malfunction and cancer in animals. The roots contain more PAs when compared to the leaves. Therefore, the consumption of Comfrey leaves and roots in their raw form is not suggested. In fact, the USDA warns against human ingestion of comfrey roots or leaves.
Characteristics of Comfrey Leaves
Mucilage and Allantoin are found in greater ratio in this herb. These chemicals are responsible for the plants anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and analgesic effects. Various medicines are made using this herb as a main ingredient. This single herb plays various roles; it works as a Vulnerary (healing wounds), expectorant (expel mucous), Haemostatic (blood clotting), Proliferant (increase growth of cells), astringent (compress blood vessels and pores on the skin), Anodyne (pain relief), coolant and a sedative.
Comfrey leaves are dried and crushed into a powder, which is taken by people suffering from any lung illnesses. It acts as an expectorant and is capable of curing chronic coughs and respiratory ailments. Comfrey acts as an excellent medicine for ulcers and diabetes. It maintains a balance in insulin creation and excess glucose in the body.
This herb works wonders on those with bowel problems. Comfrey is a laxative and the mucilage present in it stops diarrhea and induces digestive juice for better digestion of food. People who suffer from excess of cholesterol can rely upon Comfrey as an excellent remedy.
Where is Comfrey Grown?
Comfrey plants usually grow on moist and wet lands. You can find these herbs growing in the pastures of Newfoundland and a few parts of Georgia and Louisiana. A few places in Europe with similar climates also grow this plant.
What Does the Comfrey Plant Look Like?
The average height of a Comfrey plant is about 5 feet. The leaves are oval and green in color. The plant’s purple flowers bloom from May to September. The flowers are bell- shaped and bloom fresh everyday during the season. The stems are straight and erect. The roots of this plant are black in color and contain a pulpy, sticky, gelatinous substance.
Comfrey as a Food supplement
Comfrey not only has medicinal values but also acts as a food supplement if taken in controlled quantity. It acts as an energy tonic and power booster in human beings. A few of the elements present in this herb are Vitamin A, B12, C, B complex, proteins, calcium, minerals, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, Magnesium, copper, sulphur and Germanium.
The History of Comfrey
The history of Comfrey goes back a few centuries. According to Dr. Christopher, this herb was first located in the Eden Garden. During the period of Alexander the Great, Comfrey was used to treat wounded soldiers of the army. A Greek physician used this herb for various treatments. In the middle ages, physicians in Europe used this herb to cure various diseases. In due course, catholic priests became physicians and started growing this herb in the Monastery gardens. As this herb has multi-curing abilities, the Christian priests concentrated more on cultivating these herbs rather than growing other plants.
Samuel Thomson, an early botanic physician included many accounts of Comfrey’s miracle in his writings. He has mentioned a few personal instances when Comfrey came to his rescue. He once had a wound caused by farm machinery. It was so serious that his foot was to be amputated. However, thanks to a Comfrey poultice applied over the wound the foot gradually healed.
When you are wounded or burned, you can prepare a poultice out of comfrey leaves and apply it in place of antiseptic cream. The poultice will act as both an antiseptic and an analgesic and cure the injury quickly.
To prepare a poultice collect a few Comfrey leaves and pure distilled water or mineral water. Also, see that you have some gauze and medical tape to cover the injury. Now grind the Comfrey leaves by hand with a mortar and pestle or blend until they become a paste. Transfer the paste into a saucepan and set over a low flame. Keep stirring the paste and take care so as not to scald the paste. Once the paste is well heated and starts getting thicker remove it from the stove and let it cool. Spread the paste on a wide piece of gauze cloth and cover the wound with it. Secure the gauze with medical tape.
Repeat this two times a day until the wound is healed. This paste can also be used to cure sprains and pulls. For open cuts, place a piece of gauze on the wound and spread the paste over it. Cover the whole thing with another piece of gaze and tie it well. This method is to keep Comfrey debris from getting inside the cut.
Benefits of Comfrey
Comfrey is known by different names in different parts of the world. People call it boneset, healing herb, slippery root, salsify, common Comfrey and gum plant among others.
Comfrey performs multiple tasks such as curing diseases, maintaining health and healing wounds. It is a magic herb that can cure many medical conditions. Ailments ranging from arthritis to chronic Asthma, aches and illnesses can be cured completely using regular doses of Comfrey. You can use medicines that contain Comfrey to cure minor problems such as coughs, ulcers, sprains, rashes and more.
The phosphorus and calcium present in these leaves encourage strong bones and teeth. The mucilage present in it acts as a moisturizer, which softens the skin and cures skin problems. The pepsin in this herb promotes good digestion and keeps the digestive system working well.
Other infections and injuries that can be cured with this plant are burns, Eczema, spider bites, amoebic infections, minor burns, insect stings and minor fractures. It has also been noted that many cases of Diarrhea and dysentery can also be cured to some extent using this herb. The leaves act as a great medicine for Diabetic patients.
Side effects of Comfrey
Although this herb is known for its medicinal values and curing abilities there are a few side effects if taken inappropriately or improperly. Just like any other medicine it is always advisable to take Comfrey only under medical supervision.
The FDA has restricted the use of oral Comfrey products as traces of hepatotoxic pyrrolidizine alkaloids have been detected. This toxic substance can lead to liver dysfunction or kidney failure. In addition, if the cuts are too deep or badly infected Comfrey alone would not work effectively. The toxins in the Comfrey might damage the affected part and lead to death in acute cases. Comfrey could close up a deep wound too quickly trapping dirt and alien objects inside the wound and causing swelling and pus.
Doses and duration have to be strictly followed. Medicines containing Comfrey are not prescribed for more than 4 weeks. If they are taken any longer, they can cause adverse effects.
Who cannot take Comfrey Medication?
Comfrey herb in any form should not be consumed or used by the following people
- Pregnant women or mothers who still breastfeed their babies.
- People who are already taking medication for any disease.
- People who are currently undergoing treatment for a chronic disease.
- People who are allergic to any of the contents present in the Comfrey plant.
- Children under the age of five.
- People who are alcoholics or chain smokers.
Although many people throughout the world consume and use this herb regularly, reports performed on humans and animals by experts, state that Comfrey is safe only used or consumed under proper medical supervision.
If used wisely and carefully science works wonders. If it is not applied wisely, it could cause much harm and damage. Likewise, Comfrey works best as a medicine when it is taken under medical supervision. As per the studies conducted recently, external application of Comfrey in any form is safe whereas internal consumption might have risks.
More than 3,000 years ago, Roman and Greek physicians used Comfrey as the main ingredient in their medicines. They also suggested that potions and beverages be made out of these herbs for a healthy life. Teas or concoctions made using Comfrey leaves was considered the best medication for any injury, wound or health problem.
Steps to prepare Comfrey tea powder
- Either grow or collect a few Comfrey leaves from your neighborhood. This herb is also available in many stores located throughout the US. Those living in other parts of the world can place an order with any of the online stores.
- Wash the Comfrey leaves well, tie the stems together with a string and let them dry in your backyard. Let them dry in the sun for a couple of days until they become stiff and hard. Another way to dry the leaves quickly is to set them on a pan and place them in an oven. Set the temperature to medium and place the pan in the oven. Check on them every 3-4 minutes and take them out when they are dry and crisp.
- Once the leaves are dry, crush them including the midrib of the leaves. Crushing them into a fine powder is recommended. You may use a coffee grinder or a spice mill for this purpose. Store the powder in an airtight container at room temperature.
Steps to prepare Comfrey concoction
- Add two tablespoons of Comfrey powder (tea) to 2 cups of boiling water in a stainless steel or glass vessel. Cover the container and let it steep for a few minutes.
- After steeping, strain the tea through a thin cloth into another container.
- Dip a clean, sterilized cloth into this tea and apply to wounds and injuries for quick relief.
Consumption of Comfrey tea is still a big question. Due to its toxic ingredients, medical practitioners have placed a hold on the ingestion of this concoction. Comfrey tea helps in healing cuts, wounds, sprains, bruises and acne. This herbal tea is also used as an organic fertilizer.
Comfrey as Organic Fertilizer
You can increase the fertility of the soil in your garden by using Comfrey as an organic Fertilizer. It is easy to prepare liquid Comfrey, which increases the quality of the soil. Collect Comfrey leaves and crush them. Add a little water to make a fine paste. Once a paste is formed, add more water to liquefy the mixture.
Pour it into the compost pit or compost mound for a better decomposition process. Comfrey contains nitrogen, which enriches the quality of the soil. If you wish to spread the herbal fertilizer in the garden, dilute it further and spread it all over your garden. This recipe works better than manure, as the potassium content in this enables better flowering and growth of the plants.
Once the Comfrey organic liquid is prepared, you can store or transport it easily. See that you spread the liquid in small quantities as lot of nutrients are contained in a small dose. Tomato and pepper plants are the ones, which benefit the most from Comfrey fertilizer. The nitrogen content helps in overall growth of your plants, especially in flowering and fruit bearing ones. This fertilizer should be used on plants that are mature and have enough leaves.
Young and sprouting plants could die or have adverse effects if Comfrey fertilizer is used on them. Potato plants and flowers grow well if a Comfrey concoction is used.
How Do You Grow Comfrey?
If you wish to benefit from the medical magic of Comfrey, try to plant it in your backyard or garden. Spring and fall are the seasons suitable for planting Comfrey. Plants grown before winter give a better yield. If you can get a hold of some fresh Comfrey roots, just follow the steps below and watch your Comfrey grow.
- Pull up any weeds by the roots and clean up the soil making it suitable for plant growth.
- Take some root cuttings of a Comfrey plant and plant them in a row.
- Comfrey plants require sun with partial shade for effective growth. Plant each cutting at the depth of about 4-5 inches. Leave a space of 3 feet between each plant.
- Add a layer of manure or compost to the area and water it regularly. Remove weeds that grow in between the plants.
- If the aim of growing the plant is for its leaves, keep cutting the leaves from the bottom, as this will control flower growth and promote more leaf growth.
You can expect 4-5 harvests in a season. Remember that the plants grow deep into the soil. If you ever wish to clear the growth, make sure all the roots are out of the soil. A single root can lead to the growth of the herb once again. It might take a few months for this process.
Oral Comfrey medications are banned in the US and Europe. Yet contemporary preparations are available in a few stores. Ointments, lotions, poultices and creams made of Comfrey must be tested for skin adaptability before using. If you intend to buy any Comfrey products, make sure you purchase them from a licensed provider who deals in genuine medications.
It is better to avoid any external or internal application in infants and children below five years of age. A child’s skin is very sensitive to chemicals and the Comfrey medication could cause damage to young delicate skin. Even adult who use it are not immune from danger. Avoid oral doses of Comfrey and avoid applying Comfrey directly on open wounds.
You may either buy Comfrey products from nearby stores if available or place an order on any of the websites that sell Comfrey. Just go to any of the search engines and enter “Comfrey products” in the search column and you will get a long list of suppliers and products. You can select the one you want and proceed to place the order. Most of the sites accept credit cards and electronic transfers. Once again, just be careful and check if the supplier is genuine and the products are safe before purchasing the goods.
Comfrey products include face powder, ointments, oils, creams and pills. Follow the instructions given on the box carefully and maintain the doses accordingly to avoid any side effects. Though the sites claim that oral medications supplied by them are authentic and real, consult your doctor before consuming them. You should not take any Comfrey medication continuously for more than 4-6 weeks per year. Excess usage or the wrong prescription could lead to disastrous consequences in any healthy human being.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid any kind of Comfrey application. Keep all medicines, potions, creams and ointments away from children. Store them at the right temperature and preserve them in an airtight container. At times, a toxic reaction happens when Belladonna leaves are mixed with Comfrey leaves by mistake. Both of them look similar. So see that you buy raw materials or the medicinal form of Comfrey from reliable sources only.