Grown in Europe, Asia, and parts of North America, comfrey has been used in healing practices for thousands of years. In the past, comfrey helped to treat stomach problems, but people found that it contained harmful pyrrolizidine alkaloids that damaged liver health and increased one’s risk of death. Within recent years, however, peer-reviewed studies have determined that comfrey is extremely beneficial for the skin when prepared as a salve or cream.
What Is Comfrey?
Comfrey is a fast-growing leafy plant that can be quite invasive. It spreads quickly and can be difficult to control, and it often inhibits new plants from sprouting. All that said, comfrey is popular among permaculture gardening circles because it pulls micronutrients from the soil. Many cultures harvest the roots and leaves of the plant to help treat burns, joint inflammation, bruises, and muscle sprains. European folk medicine has made salves from comfrey because of its ability to sooth gout and arthritis pain.
Comfrey For Joints
According to a clinical research study that was published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine, comfrey is beneficial for people with osteoarthritis. A similar study found that applying a comfrey salve, made from the roots and leaves of the plant, helped relieve lower and upper back pain, ankle sprains, and sore joints.
Comfrey For Sprains
We have established that comfrey has powerful pain-relieving properties, especially when applied to joint sprains. According to one study, topical application of comfrey proved to be as effective as prescription pain-relieving gels. It is important to note that the study did not address whether or not comfrey creams accelerated the healing of sprains; the study only determined the effectiveness on pain symptoms.
Comfrey For Wounds
Preliminary studies found that comfrey has potential wound-healing properties. If you have an abrasion wound, topical application of comfrey is safe to apply. More research is necessary to determine potential risk factors and side effects of comfrey on wounds.
Do not ever ingest comfrey. This plant is not intended for internal use because it can lead to liver poisoning or death if you consume too much. It is possible to have a negative skin reaction to comfrey, so please do a small patch test before applying it liberally. Once again, comfrey is for external use only!
DIY Comfrey Salve
- 1.5 cups fresh comfrey leaves (or 1 cup dried comfrey leaves)
- Olive oil to fill jar (about 10 ounces)
- 1 ounce beeswax
- Add the comfrey leaves to a pint-sized mason jar and cover with olive oil. Make sure that the leaves are submerged by at least one inch of oil.
- Place the jar in a double boiler or saucepan with water over low heat and gently mix the herbs and olive oil. Keep the mixture under 140 degrees F, ensuring that the mixture remains warm for 24 hours. You can also warm the mixture in a crockpot so you don’t have to keep your stove on for a day.
- Strain the herb-infused oil into a heat-safe glass bowl over a double boiler and stir in the beeswax. Once the beeswax melts, remove from heat.
- Pour the comfrey salve into salve tins or small jars and allow the mixture to harden at room temperature before screwing on the lids. Store in a cool dry place and use when ready.