ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

COMFREY: Friend or Foe, A Herbalists Friend.

Updated on March 9, 2011

Include in Every First Aid Kit, Human or Animal

Comfrey plant showing flowers
Comfrey plant showing flowers
Comfrey plant showing chopped and dried root
Comfrey plant showing chopped and dried root

One of Nature's Wonders and Free

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale), the herbalist friend. Also more commonly known as knitbone, is a plant belonging to the Borage family. Comfrey has also been known as gum plant, slippery root and blackwort. It can be found growing in rich, deep soil in moist, marshy places in Europe and other countries like the United States of America where there is a temperate climate. This plant is easy to recognise, it stands approximately 4' tall with pale green/grey leaves of a prickly nature, due to the amount of hairs growing on them. The plant also displays small bell like flowers of white, pink and mauve, although less common colours are pale yellow and red. The roots are very thick and deep seated, they are oblong and fleshy, of a dark colour on the outside, resembling bark, and white on the inside, and more commonly used for liquid compresses, whilst the leaves can be used for cosmetic purposes.

For thousands of years, herbalists have used this perennial herb to help heal bruises, sprains and broken bones. But it also has many more uses, and is a good addition to all first aid boxes, human and animal. For over 2,000 years this plant has been harvested in Asia where it has been used in folk medicine to heal wounds, rashes, burns, and trauma induced swellings. Comfrey begins to grow in April with the flowers starting to appear in late May. The leaves can grow as long as 12" and the flowers come in a profusion of colour. Both the root and the leaves are suitable to harvest and can be made into several lotions and potions containing store cupboard oils.

Comfrey roots contain allantoin which helps to break down red blood cells and increases the white blood cells in an aid to healing wounds by accelerating new tissue growth. They also contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, making comfrey unsuitable for ingestion as the action of the properties have been linked to liver cancer. Neither should comfrey be used on open, deep or dirty wounds, as like ingestion, this too has been linked to liver cancer.

In the cosmetic industry, comfrey is now widely used as a skin moisturiser and wrinkle deterrent, and to diminish scarring and stretch marks. It is also used as a bath oil to soothe eczema and other itchy skin conditions.It has also been proven effective when applied to an itchy scalp and added to shampoo for dull and lifeless hair. If added to warmed beeswax, comfrey makes a brilliant cream for nappy rash, and sore hands due to hard work. Comfrey has analgesic properties and has been used successfully as a rub for sore joints and degenerative diseases like arthritis and rheumatismn.

How to make Comfrey Oil.

Harvest the roots and leaves before the plant flowers, the best time is early morning when the due is starting to disappear. Wash carefully to remove the loose hairs and dirt and gently pat dry with kitchen towel. Chop the root and leaves roughly into small pieces, or for a finer mixture use a pestle and mortar to grind the components with a small amount of olive oil into a paste. Place this mixture into a warm jar, cover with warm olive oil. Seal the jar and place in a cool dark place overnight. Every few days shake the jar to remove any air bubbles, continue to leave in a cool dark place for 6 weeks, strain the oil and then it is ready for use. This solution can be added directly to a bath or applied to the skin and minor cuts. To make a salve, mix 3/4 cup of oil with 1/2 ounce of beeswax. Heat them both in a bowl over a simmering pan, being careful not to let any of the steam mix with the oil. Once mixed together, place the warmed mixture in a jar and allow to cool. At this stage you can mix with an infusion of lavender or calendula oil.

Comfrey leaves can be used be used like a bandage, dampened and applied directly to the skin to help reduce the swelling associated with sprains, small cuts and burns. Making a poultice is easy. Using a casserole bowl place a handful of chopped roots and leaves in approximately 1 1/2 pints of water. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven 180 degrees for 45 mins. Allow to cool and strain into a bottle for use later. This is a great method for helping horses with sprained tendons and muscles, by soaking bandages in the solution and bandaging the swollen limb leaving the soaked bandages on overnight.

Personal Experience with Comfrey Oil.

I have always been a great advocate of using alternative therapies with my animals, especially my horses. My mare Rowan many years ago severed her sesamoid ligament from the sesamoid bone causing her to be extremely lame. My vet advised box rest for a minimum of 6 weeks. I decided to use comfrey root as a poultice described above intermittently with cold water compresses. The mare could hardly move and was resting her foot on the shavings bank around her stable. Over the first week I noticed that Rowan was becoming more inclined to put a little weight on the affected foot and gradually started to walk around her stable. The 2nd week, against all advise from my vet, I started to put her outside for an hour a day in the small paddock on her own. I continued to use the comfrey poultice in exactly the same way. The healing process was extremely fast and within the 6 week box rest period, Rowan was fully recovered and ready to bring back into work. We entered a major jumping competition 3 months later to take home 3rd place. My vet was amazed and on x -raying Rowans leg again, could not believe how fast the injury had healed. I have also found this method of using comfrey poultice to be of good use for taking down splint bones.

As an active 7 year old farmers daughter, bumps and bruises were very common and taken forgranted. I remember very badly spraining my ankle. My mother who had been a nurse before her illness, decided to make a cold comfrey compress and bandaged my ankle each day with bandages soaked in the comfrey solution. The smell was horrific and I remember viewing this horrible dark brown mixture with some concern. As the bandages began to dry out, they did not tighten on my ankle like you would have thought they would. Instead, the bandages remained slack and comfortable and the pain soon passed. Each new compress relieved the pain more and more although my ankle was a dirty shade of brown for a few weeks, it worked.

Russian Comfrey
Russian Comfrey


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Jess B-C 

      4 years ago

      So nice to see someone advocating the use of a plant that has thousands of years of history instead of advertising liver damage it can cause (very rare and in high doses though others don't seem to think that this is important). thank you

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Hi Leelee, thank you for stopping by. I am really interested in alternative medicine, I think I should have been born a witch lol

    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      How interesting and good to know.

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thanks b. I am struggling a little at the moment for topics to write about, so just to keep my hand in so to speak I decided to write this hub. Wish I could get my mojo back thou lol

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      7 years ago

      How very interesting and informative BlueStar. I had never heard of Comfrey before. It has so many wonderful uses...I'm impressed. Thanks for this great Hub, it's one to print out and share with friends and family. Thumbs up!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)