|Back to Herb Menu Back to Index|
|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.|
|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!
An 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).
|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.|
|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.