COMFREY LEAF

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Herbal Monograph

Herb: COMFREY LEAF (Symphytum officinale; Boraginaceae)

Other Names: Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Boneset, Bruisewort, Consound, Gum Plant, 

              Healing Herb, Knitback, Knitbone, Salsify, Slippery Root, Wallwort  (2)

Blackwort, nipbone, knitbone.    (57)

Character/Energetics: bitter, sweet, cool   (6)  cool, moist, sweet  (15)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  lungs, stomach  (6); bones and muscles, general effects on whole body  (14);  bones, muscles, ligaments  (15)

Part used:  aerial portions (6)    

Identification & Harvesting: Prolific once rooted. (1)

Flowers are dull purple or violet.  The fruit are four smooth, glossy nutlets.

Leaves, Stem and Root:  The plant grows from 30 to 120 cm in height.  The root is fusiform, branched, black on the outside and white on the inside.  The stem is erect and stiff-haired.  The leaves are wrinkly and roughly pubescent;  the lower ones and basal ones are ovate-lanceolate and pulled together in the petiole.  The upper ones are lanceolate and broad.

Indigenous to Europe and temperate Asia and is naturalized in the US.  (2)

Harvest during flowering in early summer.  (15)

Root is brownish black, deeply wrinkled, in pieces 3-6 inches long and 1/2-3/4 inch thick, greyish and horny internally.  Fracture is short.  Transverse section shows a thick bark, short wood bundles and broad medullary rays.  Tastes sweetish, mucilaginous, faintly astringent.  No odor.    (57)

Active constituents: allantoin (.45-1.3%), mucilage, triterpene saponins, tannins (8-9%), silicic acid (4%), pyrrolizidine alkaloids (.03%): including echinatin, lycopsamine, 7-acetyllycopsamine, echimidine, lasiocarpine, symphytine, intermedin, among others  (2)

allantoin, tannins, mucilage, starch, inulin    (6)

mucilage, steroidal saponins, allantoin (mainly flowering tops), tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (mainly root), inulin, vitamin B12, protein.  (15)

Actions:  expectorant, antitussive, demulcent, alterative, astringent, vulnerary (6)

  demulcent, expectorate, mucilage, vulnerary, alterative, astringent, nutritive  (14)

  cell proliferator, astringent, demulcent, heals wounds, expectorant.  (15)

  chiefly demulcent, slightly astringent  (50)

  demulcent, astringent.    (57)

Conditions and Uses: Comfrey leaf moistens the lungs, helps dissolve and expel mucus, soothes the throat, lowers fever, relieves cough, and treats asthma. It is applied externally as a poultice and taken internally to promote healing of injured tissues and bones.   (6)

           Comfrey is a cell proliferator and will help heal broken bones, sprains and slow-healing sores.  (14)

           Rich in allantoin, the leaves and flowering tops are mainly used externally in ointments and infused oils for sprains, arthritic joints, and other injuries.  (15)

External — Has anti-inflammatory and antimitotic properties and promotes the formation of callus… for bruises and sprains… promotes bone growth… a mouthwash and gargle for gum disease, pharyngitis, and angina.  Rheumatism, bronchitis, pleuritis, antidiarrheal. (2) Boils:  poultice, fomentation.  Bruises: poultice, fomentation.  Burns:  poultice, fomentation, salve.  Psoriasis:  salve, fomentation.  Sprains:  poultice or fomentation.  (14)     Greatly esteemed as a remedy for catarrh and pulmonary troubles, and also for diarrhea and dysentery.  An excellent application for fresh wounds, sores, burns and bruises.    (50)

Very highly esteemed as a remedy in all pulmonary complaints, and hemoptysis, and forms an ingredient in a large number of herbal preparations.  Wherever a mucilaginous medicine is required this may be given.  Has been used of late by the medical profession as a poultice to promote healing of obstinate ulcerous wounds.  Comfrey leaves subdue every kind of inflammatory swelling when used as a fomentation.    (57)

Combinations: Add 5-10 drops essential oils, such as thyme, lavender or juniper, to 25 ml infused oil to stimulate blood flow to sprains and ease pain.  When changing diapers, use arrowroot powder instead of Calcium.  After birth, add 2 ml lavender oil for each 20 ml comfrey oil to the bath.  (15)   May be advantageously used for all purposes to which…marshmallow is applied.  (50)

Precautions: …contraindicated in pregnancy and in nursing mothers.

General:  No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.  One should entirely forgo internal administration of the drug, due to the presence, however, small, of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have hepatotoxic and carcinogenic effects.  It has been determined that traces of the alkaloids present a danger.  External administration where skin is intact appears to be defensible.  Nevertheless, no application of daily dosages containing more than 100 mcg pyrrolizidine alkaloids with unsaturated necic structure, to include their n-oxides, should be carried out.  The industrial manufacture of extracts virtually free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids is possible.

     The drug is contraindicated during pregnancy or while nursing.  (2)

     Avoid using on dirty wounds, because rapid healing can trap dirt or pus.  Use is restricted in 

           COMFREY LEAF (Symphytum officinale; Boraginaceae)

Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany.  Not advisable for long term use for sprains and strains.  (15)

Toxic effect of pyrrolizidines worsens if the herb is combined with medicines like Dilantin or phenobarbital, which increase the activity of liver enzymes.    (1b)

Tincturing Process:  Vita Mix: (Speed 7). Place above blades level in container. Process 60 seconds.

                                  50% alcohol.   (1a)

Applications: infusion:  steep 1 tsp. of leaf in 6 oz. water for 30 minutes.  3x daily. (1-1)

Poultice:  Bruise the fresh leaves and apply to burns, wounds, open sore, gangrene and moist ulcers.  Also, fomentation and decoction.  (14)  Puree the leaves only, and apply to minor fractures that would not normally be set in plaster, such as broken toes, ribs, or hairline cracks in the larger bones.  (15)

Cream:  Use for bone or muscle damage, including osteoarthritis.

Infused oil:  Make by the hot infusion method (p. 122 of this reference), and use on arthritic joints, bruises, sprains, and other traumatic injuries;  also for inflamed bunions.  Add the oil to the bath to aid in healing the perineum after giving birth.  Rub cream or infused oil on areas surrounding sprains or strains, as frequently as required.

Ointment:  …speeds healing of wounds by encouraging cell growth;  use only on clean cuts because the rapidly healing skin may trap dirt.  Apply ointment or infused oil frequently as required as a remedy for diaper rash or cradle cap.  Apply cream, oil, or ointment to tears in the perineum after giving birth.  (15)

Divination:        u  (48)

XXI The World

Demulcent, vulnerary (promotes healing), tonic, and alterative, comfrey is used both internally and externally to unite torn flesh and broken bones.  The tea of the leaf  is a cooling alterative against fevers and lung infections.  The root is taken as a demulcent for ulcers, internal injuries, bleeding, as well as to moisten and strengthen the lungs.  (u)

Symbolically used for: Healing.  Pulling things together both within oneself and in    one’s outer circumstances.

Divinatory Meanings: To unite.  To join together.  To encompass the whole.     Supreme feeling of union, healing and success.

Reverse Meanings: Premature assumptions of union and friendship. Making light of genuine differences.  Trying to unite and bring together before conditions are appropriate.  Stagnation.  Inertia.  (52)

Dosage: Daily applied dosage should not exceed 1 mcg of pyrrolizidine alkaloids with 1,2 unsaturated  necine structure, including their N-oxides.  The drug should be used for a maximum of 4 weeks.  (2)

standard infusion or 3-9 gms; tincture, 10‑30 drops   (6)

infusion:  steep 30 minutes.  6 oz. three times daily.  (14)

Leaves are preferably taken as an infusion prepared in the usual manner.  Liquid extract dose 1/2-2 drachms.    (57)

General Notes: …given to drinke against the paine of the backe, gotten by violent motion as wrastling or overmuch use of women…  John Gerard, 1597.

A country name for comfrey was knitbone, a reminder of its traditional use in healing fractures.  The herb contains allantoin, which encourages bone, cartilage, and muscle cells to grow.  When the crushed herb is applied to an injured limb, the allantoin is absorbed through the skin and speeds up healing.  In the past, comfrey baths  were popular before marriage to repair the hymen and thus “restore virginity.” (15)

Despite considerable controversy concerning toxicity of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, actual incidence of toxic effects with comfrey in internal use has been extremely sparse, and non-existent in external use… Extrapolating from the HERP index, which classifies cancer-causing potentials of substances, USDA botanist James Duke calculated that .2 oz. of brown mustard is twice as cancer-causing as a comfrey tea, which has roughly the same cancer potential as a peanut butter sandwich.  (1)

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References:

(1) Joniris Herbals Research Data, “Comfrey” file, Becca Harber, IT, 2/2/95

(1-1) Joniris Herbals Research Data, Silent Thunder’s experiment 11/1/04

(1a)Joniris “Comfrey” Tincture file

(1b) Joniris Herbals Research Data, “If You Take Herbs, Tell Your Doctor”, Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Mar. ’98

(2) PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 1163-1165

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 376-377

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 106-107

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 101, 122, 126-27, 130-31, 170-71, 174-75

(48) The Rulership Book by Rex E. Bills, p. 27

(50) The Practical Herbalist and Astrologer by Ira N. Shaw, p. 36-37

(52) The Herbal Tarot Deck (Created by Michael Tierra and Designed by Candis Cantin), p. 15

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 103-104