Comfrey Medicinal Uses: The Herbalist's Notebook

This seasonal guide to medicinal herbs highlights the uses, collection, and dosages of comfrey.

| June/July 1992

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale

Every year comfrey leaves are a main ingredient in a healing salve we use for wounds, scratches, sunburn and a variety of other skin irritations experienced in a typically busy summer. And the leaves and roots go into tea along with other herbs for coughs and congestion—and especially for an asthma tea for my daughter.

Several years ago, when I was both working and going to school, I started to develop ulcer symptoms. Comfrey tea became part of my daily regimen and within just a few weeks, all my symptoms were gone. It's hard to imagine our home medicine chest without comfrey in one form or another.

Comfrey Medicinal Uses

Comfrey has several medicinal actions. It is known as a vulnerary and as an astringent. These properties make it useful in the healing of minor wounds, both internal and external. Comfrey can be used for minor injuries of the skin, where it will work to increase cell production, causing wounds to heal over rapidly. It can be used internally for stomach and duodenal ulcers, where it will have the same effect. Comfrey is also demulcent, producing a mucilage that coats and soothes irritated tissues. It will help reduce inflammation, and at the same time lessen scarring.

Comfrey also has expectorant properties and has a relaxing effect on the respiratory membranes. Since it helps relax and soothe membranes, it is useful in coughs, asthma, and bronchitis. As an astringent, comfrey can also help control slow bleeding, as in the case of ulcers.

Comfrey Plant Description

Comfrey is a tall, rough-leaved plant found growing in waste places and old fields. It can become a nuisance since it reproduces rapidly—even from just a tiny bit of root.

Comfrey roots grow deep in the soil and are covered with a dark brown bark that reveals a white inner core when cut. The stems and leaves are covered with coarse, bristly hairs. Leaves are large near the bottom of the plants, up to 12 inches long, and get smaller toward the top. The stalks of lower leaves are long, and when torn, they produce tough and rubbery fibers that stretch before tearing. The leaves are lance- or oval-shaped, with softly pointed tips. They occur alternately along the stem and have simple, smooth margins. Generally, the leaves, stems, and roots all produce a extremely mucilaginous juice when broken. Plant height is up to 3 or 4 feet.

4/1/2016 11:50:05 AM

I have a facial injury which did not heal properly and has been ulcerated for several years. I had been using, with limited success, another herbal treatment at night to gradually re-open the wound and draw the unhealed portion to the surface of the skin so that it can reach the air and heal properly. Of course, the sight of a small scar gradually opening to expose a very noticeable deep injury is not pretty. I did not want to place toxic makeup ingredients on a healing wound, and I discovered that comfrey powder mixed with 2 parts baking soda matches my skin color for adequate coverage in public. Thanks to this article, I learned that comfrey powder, though useful for cosmetic purposes, may have been promoting continued ulceration of the injury in this case by healing the surface too rapidly when the wound had reached a point when it really needs to stay open to be exposed to the air for a few days so that it can heal completely.

8/30/2014 1:29:13 AM

Please note that any herb that can be used as a medicine should be taken with care. I have heard of at least one woman who uses Comfrey regularly who says that only one cup of tea should be made and that cup is to be drank throughout the day. Three to four times a day. I personally would not drink three to four cups of this tea per day.

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