Comfrey

Symphytum officinale

Comfrey is a perennial flowering plant that can grow up to 60 cm tall. This plant species belongs to the Boraginaceae family.

Comfrey has a cluster of numerous purple-petalled flowers arranged at the end of the stem. The name of the plant derives from the Greek term ‘symphyton’, which means ‘to grow together’. This also refers to the past use of this species to facilitate bone healing.   

Comfrey is highly opportunistic and successful at establishing itself in the urban landscape. The plant is often seen growing out of old buildings, in parks and along railway tracks.

Traditional uses
  • Roots and aerial parts of Comfrey have been used on the skin for the relief of swelling1
  • A plant extract has been used to treat injuries, particularly bone fractures1,2
  • Comfrey leaves are a traditional remedy for respiratory complaints and disorders1
Properties
  • Topical formulations including Comfrey showed some antioxidant activity3 (in vitro)
  • Experiments indicate that Comfrey extracts have a vasoprotective effect on vein cells5 (in vitro)
  • The plant contains allantoin, a substance that speeds up the healing process2
How it can be used
  • Topical cream of Comfrey is used for the treatment of contusions, strains and distortions6,4
  • Oil extract from Comfrey is used to treat bruises and wounds7,4 
Precautions
  • May cause loss of appetite9
  • May cause abdominal pain9
  • May cause vomiting9
  • Do not combine with Agrimony, Alpine Ragwort, Tansy, Ragwort9
  • Do not use while pregnant or while breastfeeding
The information provided here is only intended to augment people awareness and knowledge of the properties and uses of some plants. This information is not intended to substitute advice from a physician and is not a substitute for professional medical care. Although references are provided and information has been compiled with care, errors may be present. The remedies listed here should not be used without prior consultation with a qualified healthcare professional.

The authors do not recommend collecting and using wild plants from an urban environment as these can be contaminated by several types of pollutants that are harmful to human health. The authors are not responsible for any adverse effect or consequences resulting from the use of the information published in this website.
References
  • In vitro evidence: evidence from studies using isolated components of living organisms such as cells or purified molecules
  • In vivo evidence: evidence from studies with whole living organisms
  • Clinical trial evidence: evidence from clinical trials conducted with humans
  1. Hatfield, G.2007 Hatfield’s herbal. Penguin/Allen Lane.
  2. Allen, D. E. & Hatfield, G. 2012 Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition. (Timber Press, Incorporated.
  3. Di Mambro, V. M. and Fonseca, M. J. 2005 Assays of physical stability and antioxidant activity of a topical formulation added with different plant extracts. J Pharm Biomed Anal 37:287-295.
  4. Blumenthal, M., Ph.D, W. R. B. & Goldberg, A. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. (Elsevier Health Sciences, 1999).
  5. Dolganiuc, A., Radu, L. D., and Olinescu, A. 1997 The effect of products of plant and microbial origin on phagocytic function and on the release of oxygen free radicals by mouse peritoneal macrophages. Bacteriol Virusol Parazitol Epidemiol 42:65-69.
  6. Staiger C. 2012 Comfrey: A Clinical Overview Phytother. Res. 26: 1441–1448.
  7. Niedner R. 1989. Beeinflussung der Epithelialisierung durch einen Wirkstoffkomplex aus Symphytum. Acta Ther 15: 289–297.
  8. Grube B, Grünwald J, Krug L, Staiger C. 2007. Efficacy of a comfrey root (Symphyti offic. radix) extract ointment in the treatment of patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee: Results of a double-blind, randomised, bicenter, placebocontrolled trial. Phytomedicine 14: 2–10.
  9. Plants For A Future : 7000 Edible, Medicinal & Useful Plants. at http://www.pfaf.org/user/default.asp
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