Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is one of the most effective remedies for external use I know and recommended many times often with great results. It is used on the skin to treat wounds, ulcers, and heal bruises as well as pulled muscles and ligaments. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also very effective in regenerating damaged tissues and treating painful conditions such as arthritis or backaches >.


It grows as a root stick with branches coming from the stalk and only gets to about 2–3 feet tall. Some varieties produce yellow or purplish flowers alongside the broad, fuzzy leaves.

Comfrey plants can grow in almost any climate or soil and prefer the shade. Both, leaves and roots of comfrey are high in its active ingredients and are used for medicinal benefits.


In folk medicine, comfrey was known as “knitbone,” it was used for the speeding of bone growth, nausea, acne, diarrhea and lung problems such as whooping cough. Root decoctions have been effectively used internally to treat gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers.



According to a large 2013 review based on available studies, “Comfrey is clinically proven to relieve pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in the case of degenerative arthritis, acute myalgia in the back, sprains, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents, also in children aged 3 years and older” (>).

In numerous studies, various comfrey applications reduced pain and inflammation and improved regeneration and healing of cuts, wounds, bruises, sprains muscle and joint aches (>).

In one clinical trial involving 164 participants the efficacy of comfrey was compared to NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used for ankle sprains and pain. According to the results, comfrey applications were more effective than diclofenac gel. Researchers stated that comfrey can be regarded as safe and effective alternative to the standard treatment. (>)


Two clinical trials have concluded that using comfrey root extract gel can produce a significant and fast pain relief effect when applied on the back (>, >).


Comfrey cream or poultice was found to significantly decrease the pain associated with arthritis without any negative side effects (>, >, >).


Since comfrey is such an effective pain reliever, it is often recommended for external use in fibromyalgia pain. It works even better when combined with other remedies such as Serrapeptase.


Two clinical studies reported a healing effect comfrey on irritated and inflamed skin caused by a mild sunburn (excessive UV-B rays exposure) (>).

According to another study, “comfrey extract may have a great application in the treatment of skin irritation” (>).


Comfrey contains rosmarinic acid, tannins and allantoin, which speeds up the regeneration of skin (>). Researchers have seen an improvement in collagen production and wound healing when applying comfrey topically (>).


Traditionally, external comfrey applications were often recommended for people with broken bones as this herb has been believed to speed up bone healing. For this very reason one of the common comfrey folk names is “knitbone”. In Poland, for instance, comfrey is known as “zywokost” which refers to its ability to feed bones.


In order to prepare a Comfrey compress you need to make a strong tea or concoction. Take about 4 tablespoons of comfrey root or leaf and place it in about 1 litre of boiling hot water. Cover it and steep or simmer for at least 30 minutes (simmering will make the tea stronger). Strain, soak a clean cloth or gauze in this strong comfrey water extract (concoction) and apply directly to the affected painful area of the body that need treatment leaving it overnight or at least two hours (the longer the better). Make sure the compress is wet all the time. In order to prevent it from drying cover it with cling film or another material. Do it in the morning and evening or at least once a day until the pain is gone.

You can also try comfrey oil or creme.


Unfortunately, this excellent herb has been demonised and effectively discouraged many from using it even externally due to some biased and controversial animal studies. According to those studies, taken orally, Comfrey is supposed to be toxic to the liver and as a result is no longer sold in many countries except in creams or ointments. Read more about it here >

Comfrey has been regarded as toxic because it contains a substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (>). The main concern with this chemical is liver toxicity (>, >).

Fortunately, there have been no cases of toxicity resulting from skin applications, as only minuscule amount of PAs can pass through the skin (>).

Most sources agree that comfrey is safe externally for children over 3 years of age. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use it.



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