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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.



SEVERE CAUTIONCOMFREY
BORAGINACEAE
aka Ass Ear, Assear, Beinwurz (Ger), Blackwort, Boneset, Bruisewort, Consolida, Consoude (Fr), Consound, Gum Plant, Healing Herb,
Knitback, Knitbone, Nipbone, Okopnik (Russ), Salsify, Schwarzwurz (Ger), Slippery Root, Wallwort, Yalluc (Saxon)

(Symphytum officinale)
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A CAUTION note: There has been some concern over comfrey's safety and it is recommended currently for EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Concerns center around its potential for liver damage when consumed even in small amounts over long periods of time. Contains the alkaloid Lasiocarpine which is considered carcinogenic and low levels of echimidine (much higher in Russian and other Comfreys than S. officinale). Contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA's) which damage the veins of the liver and have poisoned humans and livestock. Internal damage appears to occur only when liver metabolizes its most toxic component, which is not found in common comfrey, but IS found in prickly and Russian comfrey (in a Canadian test nearly half of Comfrey products offered commercially contained both). The presence of PA's was reported in the early 1970's. Ingestion of PA's can produce veno-occlusive disease of the liver in which blood flow from liver is shut off. Death follows.
Oddly enough the ancients only used it for external purposes. It was only in more recent times it became popular for internal use. Although there is rumor of a study where the water extract was said to decrease tumor growth. I have been unable to verify.
VARIETY MATTERS! Only S. officinale is used. Russian Comrey and S. asperum are NO-NO's.
• HEPATOXIC! SUSPECTED CARCINOGEN!
• Not taken when PREGNANT!
• Not applied externally to nipples while NURSING!
• Not taken for more than 4 to 6 weeks spread out over the course of a year!
• External applications are of the leaf products only and then limited to 6 weeks!
• Not used on DEEP WOUNDS as rapid surface healing can trap dirt and pus in the wound!
• Leaves can cause contact dermatitis!
• Use is restricted in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany.
• Products containing echimidine are banned in Canada.
• The early spring leaves can be mistaken for Foxglove which is highly poisonous!

FYIAn erect, hairy perennial which is native to Europe and Asia, but naturalized in North America and throughout the world. It is most often found growing in low, moist areas. ROOT is a fleshy and oblong, branched and fibrous, being black on the outside with a whitish interior and contains a glutinous tasteless juice. STEM is thick, angular, hairy, and hollow. Lower LEAVES are large (up to a foot long), hairy and prickly with stem leaves being decurrent. FLOWERS are bell-shaped and terminal, being all on one side of a short stalk in a curving arc and run a gamut of colors from white to pale blue to purplish; corolla is tubular with 5 lobes, 1/2 inch long; calyx is 5-lobed; there are 5 stamens. There is even a yellow variety. SEEDS are 4 black nutlets.

The name Comfrey comes from the Latin 'con firma' meaning with strength. Symphatos means 'to unite'.

Astrologically ruled by Saturn and Capricorn §

CONTAINS: Calcium, iron, silica, potash, phosphorus, steroidal saponins, vitamins A, C, B12 (poor source), allantoin, mucilage, gum, tannin, inulin, protein, cobalt, low levels of echimidine (products containing echimidine are banned in Canada), rosmarinic acid (leaves), mucopolysaccharides (root).
BASED on ZERO MOISTURE the LEAVES contain: 23.7 mg aluminum, 3.6% ash, 1800 mg calcium, 0.18 mg chromium, trace mg colbalt, 1.2 mg iron, 70 mg magnesium, 0.358 mg manganese, 8.1 mg niacin, 220 mg phosphorus, 1700 mg potassium, 14% protein, 0.72 mg riboflavin, 0.12 mg selenium, 0.90 mg silicon, 11.0 mg sodium, 0.22 mg thiamine, 0.67 mg tin, 18,000 IU vitamin A, 80 mg vitamin C, trace mg zinc.

PROPAGATION By SEED (spring; not reliable), DIVISION, or ROOT CUTTINGS (best, most effective). Division and root cuttings done in spring (as soon as leaves appear) and autumn. Plant root cuttings horizontally, 3 to 6 inches deep and 2 to 3 feet apart.
NEEDS Full to part sun. Hardy to zone 3. Will thrive in most any soil, but prefers a rich, moist location. Will flower from May to frost if the plant is cut back slightly before it sets seed.
FLOWERS June-July. White. (There are also pink and yellow blooming varieties good for ornamentation.).
PART USED Fresh or dried Roots and Leaves
HARVEST Root in autumn after first frost (slice, dry and powder). Gather the young growing tips as available and the mature leaves before flowering (older leaves have less PA's). Dried leaves should retain a green color. Leaves that dry poorly and turn brown are useless.
FORM Infusion, decoction, syrup, cordial, poultice, compress, ointment/salve, cream, lotion.
SOLVENT Water
RELATED SPECIES RUSSIAN COMFREY (S. x uplandicum): A cross between S. officinale and S. asperum (Prickly Comfrey) and very high in liver damaging P.A.'s.
VARIEGATED COMFREY (S. officinale 'variegatum': Leaves are edged with white. A nice ornamental.
S. orientale: Has been used mainly as animal fodder.



USES

MEDICINAL:
♦ In Chinese Traditional Medicine the dry roasted root is said to increase 'yang'. Comfrey is both emollient and astringent. A skin herb with a long reputation for its healing abilites. Contains allantoin which promotes healing and helps skin renew itself. NEVER BOIL comfrey as it breaks down the allantoin.

Anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antimitotic, antiviral, expectorant, demulcent, emollient, pectoral, pulmonary tonic, slightly astringent, vulnerary, hemostatic, inhibits prostaglandins, refrigerant, cell regenerator; affects liver and digestive system.
Supportive of cell regeneration and normal tissue replacement. Stimulates production in those cells repsonsible for forming collagen and connective tissue, cartilage, and bone.
Has been used externally for skin problems and infections (extract). A wash has been used for blisters. The salve has been used for cold sores.
A hand and foot bath of comfrey has been used for hand, foot and mouth disease. Has been used in the bath for hives and rashes.
For bruises crushed leaves or the bruised root have been applied directly. The poultice form (dampen the root powder with water until it is a wet gummy mash, then place in a clean cloth and apply) has also been used for cuts, boils, inflammations, scar healing, ulcers, sprains, swellings, carpal tunnel syndrome, insect bites, bed sores, eczema, psoriasis, abrasions, abscesses, bleeding, fractures, burns, bunions, gout (the grated root has also been applied directly), arthritis, rheumatism, varicose veins, gangrenous ulcers, and sores. The hot pulp of the root has been used as a poultice for bronchitis, pleurisy, and painful inflamed tendons. Also used has been a fomentation (using the extract) of the roots and leaves.
Has been used in ointment or salve form for broken and/or bruised bones, inflammations, rashes, varicose veins, abrasions, wounds, burns, swollen breasts and skin problems. Has also been used in Cream form for bone and muscle damage and for ostearthritis.
The powdered root has been used directly on wounds as a hemostat, and on bruises and mild burns. A strong decoction of the root has also been used for any type of bleeding.
Has been used for hemorrhoids (the powdered root moistened with a bit of vegetable oil and applied as a paste); either the ointment or infused oil has been used for diaper rash and perineal tearing.
Has been used for post-menopausal vaginal dryness (an egg white combined with the contents of a vitamin E capsule and a couple drops of Comfrey tincture).
A decoction of the root has been used as a mouthwash for sore throat, hoarseness, bleeding gums.
Has been used as a "cast" for broken bones by pounding the root then binding the mash around a break (or by spreading it on muslin then wrapping it around the break); the mixture sets when dry, but its main purpose is to reduce the swelling around the break thus facilitating the healing process.
Has been used in combination with other antiviral herbs against staph and strep infections.
Has been used internally for lung cancer.
A hot decoction of the root has been used for styes.
Tea of the leaves or decoction of the root was traditionally used for arthritis, respiratory problems, persistent coughs, pleurisy, bronchitis, bronchial pneumonia, lung disease with dry cough, lung congestion, quinsy, whooping cough, consumption, metritis, periostitis, gastrointestinal ulcers, ulcerative colitis, internal hemorrhage (lungs, bowel, stomach), bleeding piles, bloody urine, bladder infections, prostate infections, cystitis, leukorrhea, excessive menstrual flow, scrofula, anemia, wasting disease, digestive and stomach problems, spitting blood, colds, nasal congestion, diarrhea, and dysentary. For bleeding problems the decoction was taken one mouthful at a time every 2 hours until the bleeding stopped. Has also been used to absorb toxins from the bowels and lower transit time through the bowel. Has also been used in combination with other herbs as a douche for yeast infection.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
The German Commission E states the risk of use is too great to recommend its internal use for therapeutic purposes!
GRAINS = 30 to 60
INFUSION = 1 tsp cut up leaves to 1 cup boiling hot water; steeped 30 minutes; taken cold 1 to 2 cups daily, a mouthful at a time. Infusion of the root = 2 tsp cut root per 1/2 cup water, steeped 15 to 20 minutes; taken warm, a mouthful at a time.
DECOCTION (roots) = 1/2 to 1 oz (15 to 30 g) crushed root in 1 quart (1/2 liter) of water simmered 20 minutes (or 2 tsp cut root in 1 cup water); taken a mouthful at a time throughout the day, or a wineglass full (2 oz) 3 times daily.
OINTMENT = The juice of the fresh plant can be used.
FLUID EXTRACT = 1/2 to 2 fluid dram (30 to 120 drops); 1/3 oz (9 g) dried leaf steeped 2 weeks in 3 oz of 100 proof vodka (or 45 ml alcohol + 45 ml water).
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 fluid dram (30 to 60 drops or 2 to 4 ml)
COLD EXTRACT = 3 heaping tsp of fresh or dried root combined with 1 cup cold water; let stand 10 to 12 hours, then strain; take soaked root out and combine with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil, then strain; mix the first liquid with the second liquid; taken a mouthful at a time over the course of a day and every 4 hours in the case of acute disease and internal hemorrhage; taken 3 or 4 times daily for chronic problems.
SYRUP = The juice from 1 lb of Comfrey leaves and 1 lb of plantain leaves; save the juice; to the spent plant material add 1 lb of spring water and boil to half; strain and mix this liquid with the saved juice; weigh and add an equal measure of sugar, then boil to a syrup.
POULTICE = (also see directions for using dry root under discussion of bruises above) Combine fresh chopped root in a little hot water to make a thick mash; spread on cloth and apply; renew every 2 to 4 hours. OR, place chopped leaves or root in a muslin bag then place in a shallow bowl; pour boiling water over the bag to soak; allow to set until cooled enought o handle comfortably; shake off excess water and apply; this produces a good amount of mucilage which should be left to dry on the skin; (bag needs to be boiled before using again so it is advisable to have a spare ready to use); leaves can also be pureed.

HOMEOPATHIC:
The homeopathic tincture made from the plant is used for: Abscess, backache, bone cancer, bone injuries, sore breast, injuries or pain in the eye, non-knitting fractures, enlarged glands, gunshot wounds, hernia, delayed menses, sensitive or painfrul peritonium, psoas abscess, excess of sex, sprains, wounds, gout, neuralgia.

VETERINARY:
Has been used in livestock for the same problems as those in humans.
DRENCH = 1 lb Comfrey simmered in 1½ quarts of water for 1 hour; 1/2 pint taken 3 times daily.

HISTORICAL CULINARY USES:
NO LONGER CONSIDERED SAFE FOR CONSUMPTION!
The young spring leaves were used as a vegetable.
The leaves were once used to flavor cakes. They were also cooked like spinah and mixed with white sauce and grated cheese. Other uses = comfrey leaf fritters (leaves dipped in batter and fried); sprinkle dry crushed leaves over food as a seasoner.
Was once included along with Chickory and Dandelion as a coffee substitute.
Wine was once made from the roots.

COSMETIC:
Is added to lotions and creams for its cell regenerating properties.
An infusion of the leaves is used as a lotion for dry skin.
The salve or cream has been used to reduce wrinkles, crow's feet, and other signs of aging.
The pulped leaves are used as a face pack for dry skin (4 tbsp sterile [boiled] water with a handful of chopped leaves in a blender until well pulped; strain pulp, getting out as much liquid as possible; smooth liquid on face and leave for 10 minutes; wash and rinse with warm water; pat dry; apply moisturizer).
BATH OIL = 3 parts glycerine to 1 part infused herbal oil (include comfrey, elder, chamomile, lavender or any skin herbs of choice to make the oil); add 1 tsp of this mixture to the bath water; can also be rubbed on the body before getting into the bath.
Used in the bath: pour hot water over 1/2 C. of roots or leaves (or both) and steep 10 to 20 minutes; strain and add to bath water (soothing, softening, tonic and astringent for skin).
Used in a cleansing oil for dry skin - (also reduces puffiness and conditions skin). CLEANSING OIL = Add as many leaves as possible to 1 or 1¼ cup of almond oil in a jar; seal and steep in a warm place for 2 to 3 weeks shaking regularly; strain.
For dandruff a couple of drops of the tincture has been added to regular shampoo.

DYE:
Fresh leaves and flowers for yellow-orange; fresh leaves, stalks, and flowers for brown (iron mordant); also gives green.

INSECT:
Soak a bundle of comfrey in rainwater for 3 weeks; strain liquid and use as a spray to control black fly and mildew and as a foliar fertilizer.

GARDENING:
Excellent in the compost pile; helps other materials to break down more rapidly. A good mulch and liquid plant food as it is high in potash. Use decomposed sludge from above (under 'Insect') as a healthy mulch and green compost.

OTHER:
Due to the high tannin content, a strong decoction of Comfrey was once used to tan leather.
A leaf was once placed in the shoe to insure a safe journey.
Was once used by Henry Doubleday as a substitute for gum arabic which was used as a stamp glue.
An old belief was for a woman to bathe in a comfrey bath before marriage in order to restore her hymen, thus restoring her virginity (hard to believe this practice survived with a 100% failure rate).




©2001 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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