Symphytum officinalisphoto by Jeanne Rose


by Jeanne Rose
Herbal Classes & Herbal Studies Course

There is a great a deal of fear now among those who appreciate natural healing methods if they wish to use the herb and root of Comfrey, Symphytum officinale. When I started my Herbalism practice in 1969, Comfrey was one of the mainstays in herbal healing. The leaf was used in green drinks and for internal healing while the root was used as an external application to heal wounds and sores. It is an important herb in organic gardening, having many medicinal and fertilizer uses. Now there is the fear that drinking the tea will cause liver disease. However, only two cases were ever reported and both were found to be from excessive use of the tea.

Years ago, when I wrote the book, Herbs & Things, which is still available and one of the texts of the “Herbal Studies Course, I discussed the use of the plant.

Plant Use: The root and foliage of this plant contains allantoin, a nitrogenous crystalline substance that is a cell proliferant — that is, it increases the speed at which a wound heals and broken bones knit back together. Hence, the country name of ‘knitbone’. Modern science confirms that Comfrey can influence the course of bone ailments. Generally, Comfrey was used to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions. It was thought to have bone and teeth building properties in children.

Internal Use: Taken as a tea, the leaf is considered a superior demulcent and astringent with superior healing qualities. This tea (with other appropriate herbs) is also drunk to relieve the symptoms of asthma and rheumatism and arthritis. Eat a raw leaf daily for an ulcer or use a teaspoon of the powder of the leaves in soup. Remember to take this as a course of treatment not an every day ingestion.

A daily 4 oz drink of Comfrey leaf, Alfalfa plant and Parsley herb mixed with fruit or vegetable juice is a marvelous tonic and efficacious for general health. Just put a leaf or two of each plant in the blender along with the juice and blend until smooth.

External Use: The roots is fresh, are mashed, heated and used as a poultice to relieve the pain of gout, rheumatism and arthritis. It will also heal cuts, and open wounds. A poultice of the fresh bruised leaves laid on a wound or burn will soothe and allay inflammation and cause the edges of the wound to come together and it will heal more quickly. This is a wonderful healing, therapeutic ingredient in Jeanne Rose’s famous Bruise Juice. It is one of the main herbs in the five classifications needed to make the Bruise Juice. [emollient/therapeutic or healing/aromatic/astringent/antiseptic.]

Feminine Use: As a douche it will cleanse the vagina and cure the ‘whites’ which is a term for vaginal discharge. A leaf compress can be used for sore, swollen breasts. In the past, Comfrey was used in treating 'many female disorders’ and especially Comfrey baths were popular to repair the torn hymen and thus 'restore virginity'.

Cosmetic Use: Comfrey is one of the most useful plants in the herbal cosmetic chest. See the formula pages of Herbal Body Book, and on page 69 and page 97 of Kitchen Cosmetics for its many uses. As a cosmetic and bath herb, with continuous use, it regenerates aging skin. Use the herb along with Rosemary. I have been bathing in these two herbs since 1969, and though almost 40 years have passed, I still have firm attractive skin.

Growing: This is an easy plant to grow. It will thrive most anywhere. And if you cannot purchase the dried leaf from an herbal shop, or fear the government taking away your right to use this plant, just grow it. I have a shady corner near my Musk Rose, where it gets up to three feet high and bears bluish-purple flowers most of the summer. Here in San Francisco the summers are cool, wet and foggy. Comfrey grows very well.


Garden Fertilizer: Take some of the plant, and infuse in water for up to 2 weeks. Then use the water as a fertilizer. You will need about 1/2 pound of the fresh pant (or your garden cuttings) to 1-gallon of water. Only use a cup of this at a time to fertilize a garden plant and only 1-ounce for a potted plant. In the Jeanne Rose’s Modern Herbal, page 138, I called it J.R. Famous Herbal Water. It is wonderful for all potted plants or herbaceous plants in the garden.

I have been told that this is an inappropriate fertilizer for Orchids however. But I think that the person used too much, too often. Since Orchids grow in a rather fertilizer deprived environment – probably nothing is better than something.

Comments: “Comfrey tea has been implicated in liver disease, although only two such cases have been reported in the United States. In one instance, a 47-year-old woman developed a liver ailment after consuming up to 10 cups of Comfrey tea a day and taking Comfrey pills by the handful for more than a year in an attempt to cure her stomach pains, fatigue and allergies.” … S. Snider

Constituents of Comfrey also include mucilage, steroidal saponins, tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, inulin, vitamin B12 and proteins.

[Internal usage of Comfrey should be avoided because it may contain liver toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) (Note, there are also non-hepatotoxic (liver toxic) pyrrolizidine alkaloids.). Use of Comfrey can, lead to veno-occlusive disease (VOD because of these particular alkaloids. VOD can in turn lead to liver failure, and Comfrey, taken in extreme amounts, has been implicated in at least one death. In 2001, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against internal usage of herbal products containing Comfrey. … Wikipedia]

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Source: These books are available at Further extensive information is available at the website and in the course work of the Herbal Studies Course.

Rose, Jeanne. Herbs & Things.
Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Body Book
Rose, Jeanne. Kitchen Cosmetics

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