Comfrey was one of my first choices when setting up my herbal garden, perfect for accident prone moments! And, well it provided the inspiration for this post!
Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is a member of the Boraginacea family. My grandma introduced me to this herb as a small child. If I jolted my knee joint it would fracture. She would get some comfy leaves from the garden, make an infusion, and wrap them around my knee. I would always fall asleep for a few hours and wake up to reduced swelling and very little pain, ready to take on another day.
Beneifical for sore joints, weak bones, sprained muscles and tendons and pain relief - no wonder it was commonly referred to as 'Knitbone'.
First mentioned by Pliny the Elder as a treatment for bruises. Traditionally used in the treatment of joint and bone inflammation and there are many scientific studies with Comfry (included the links below). In one study comfrey was found to be as effective as a diclofenac topical gel. Science now knows some of the compounds responsible for these healing properties. The polysaccharides provide a soothing effect, the tannins make it an astringent, rosmarinic acid has anti-inflammatory constituents, as well as caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. And, the compound allantoin - known for bone proliferation and likely why comfrey is amazing at speeding healing!
Traditionally, it was taken internally but this is now frowned upon and considered safe only for external use. This is due to a high and varying content of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which may be liver toxic. The leaves contain less than the root and absorption is less via the skin and therefore still used externally.
It also makes a great organic fertiliser; made from the leaves it works well for tomato plants, particularly!
Does anyone else use comfrey topically on their sore joints already? #herbalism
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, placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2007 01, 14(1):2-10
Frost R., H. MacPherson, S. O’Meara (2013). A critical scoping review of external uses of comfrey (Symphytum spp.),Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21, 6: 724-745.
Mei N, Guo L, Fu PP, Fuscoe JC, Luan Y, Chen T. (2010) Metabolism, genotoxicity, and carcinogenicity of comfrey. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 10. 13(7-8):509-26.
Predel HG, Giannetti B, Koll R, Bulitta M, Staiger C. (2005) Efficacy of a comfrey root extract ointment in comparison to a diclofenac gel in the treatment of ankle distortions: results of an observer-blind, randomized, multicenter study. Phytomedicine.11: 12(10): 707-1