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What is comfrey?
Comfrey is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia. It
grows up to four feet tall in some regions and contains purple-white
flowers arranged in dense clusters. Its root is slimy and
has a horn-like appearance, with a black exterior and a fleshy
Why do we need comfrey? What is
it used for?
Comfrey has traditionally been used to treat superficial
wounds, as well as the inflammation that accompanies sprains
and broken bones. Recent studies conducted in animals show
that comfrey has healing and pain-relieving properties and
stimulates the actions of certain liver enzymes. Other studies
suggest that comfrey may be useful in treating gastrointestinal
disorders and peptic ulcers.
How much comfrey should I take?
Daily dosage of comfrey products should not exceed 100 micrograms
of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) for more than four to six
weeks per year. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are poisonous compounds
that can cause severe liver damage.
What forms of comfrey are available?
Comfrey is available via ointments (containing between 5-20%
comfrey), creams, poultices and liniments. You should use
only products that are made from the leaves of common comfrey.
What can happen if I take too much
comfrey? Are there any interactions I should be aware of?
What precautions should I take?
While some people think comfrey is a beneficial herb, studies
have shown that it can be quite toxic. Other comfrey species
have dangerously high levels of a compound called echimidine.
Some comfrey preparations, especially those taken internally,
can lead to atropine poisoning (or even death).
When taking comfrey, always make sure to use reputable commercial
brands that employ good quality manufacturing practices. Use
only the amount recommended on the label. Never use any comfrey
preparation on broken skin. If you are pregnant or nursing,
do not use any comfrey products. Do not use products made
from comfrey root, and do not use comfrey remedies for more
than four to six weeks in any given year.
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
Furmanowa M, et al. Mutagenic effects
of aqueous extracts of symphytum officinale L. and
of its alkaloidal fractions. J Appl Toxico1983;Jun;3(3):127-30.
Goldman RS, et al. Wound healing
and analgesic effect of crude extracts of symphytum officinale.
Olinescu A, et al. Action of
some proteic and carbohydrate components of symphytum officinale
upon normal and neoplastic cells. Roum Arch Microbiol Immunol
Ridker PM, et al. Hepatic venocclusive
disease associated with the consumption of pyrrolizidine-containing
dietary supplements. Gastroenterology 1985;(88):10501054.
Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy:
A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine, 3rd ed. Berlin: