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What is Comfrey Ointment?

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  • Written By: J. Leach
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Comfrey ointment is used for treating sprains and broken limbs. The comfrey plant, or Symphytum officinale, has been included in the herbalist’s pharmacopeia for a very long time, and is often known as knitbone. The plant contains allantoin, which is a chemical compound that encourages cell growth. Ointments containing comfrey should be used with caution because the plant also contains pyrrolizidine — a chemical that is a heptotoxin. Heptotoxins are chemical substances that are toxic to the liver, and can damage it.

Native to Europe, comfrey has a large, turnip-like root, hairy leaves, and bell-shaped flowers that may be pink, white, yellow, blue, or purple. The plant is perennial, and the roots are often harvested in the spring or fall, when the allatoin levels are higher. The leaves and flowers are usually harvested when the plant starts flowering in early summer.

Homemade comfrey ointment is quite simple to make, and there are many different ways to prepare it. In one method, just use an oil, like olive oil, and infuse it with the herb by steeping leaves and flowers in it over low heat. Once the oil is infused, strain the plant matter out and mix some beeswax into the oil to create a thicker consistency.

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Studies have shown that comfrey ointment is very effective in healing broken bones, back pain, muscle pain, and relieving pain from arthritis. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that the ointment is not applied to an area with broken skin. Also, pyrrolizidine can be absorbed through the skin, and continual use can cause the chemical to build up in the body. The ointment should only be used for a short time, and under a doctor’s supervision.

Some experts warn that comfrey ointment made from the roots should be avoided entirely because it is too dangerous. They suggest that patients should stick with formulations that are composed of the leaves and flowers only. People who have cancer, alcoholism, or liver disease should not use a comfrey ointment. It should never be used on a child.

In the past, comfrey was used for gastrointestinal issues but, because it is a heptotoxin, it can cause liver failure or death when ingested. The use of comfrey is heavily restricted in many countries, like New Zealand, Canada, Germany, and the United States. In 2001, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered that all oral supplements containing comfrey be removed from store shelves.

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myharley
Post 4

When my daughter was playing volleyball at a family reunion, she got a bad ankle sprain. It swelled up very quickly and was very bruised and sore.

My grandmother immediately got out the comfrey salve to apply to her ankle. She put this salve on some cotton cloth before she wrapped her ankle with it.

She sent us home with the comfrey and told us to repeat this a couple times a day and this should help with the healing.

I also started applying comfrey to minor cuts and scratches because they seemed to heal faster using that than anything else.

My grandma never did get that jar of comfrey back, but I replaced hers with a new jar. She doesn't like to be without it very long.

ddljohn
Post 3

I've never used comfrey ointment on myself before but I use it on my horses and pets a lot when they're injured. It seems to relieve their pain and speed up healing time. It does cost a lot, especially for the amount required for a horse's injury, but I buy it from a natural pet store in bulk who make it themselves and that's a lot more affordable.

It's a bit harder to apply on small pets. I wanted to use it on my dog once for his leg injury but decided not to when I realized he would probably lick it all off and eat it. But it's a great ointment for larger animals, especially horses and cattle.

serenesurface
Post 2

@ysmina-- I'm also a diabetic and I do use comfrey ointment for sprains and burns and it does wonders!

I don't know much about the effects of comfrey on the liver, the only risk I've heard about it is infection if it is applied on open wounds and burns without disinfecting it first. Comfrey doesn't have any antibiotic properties, so you do have to make sure that any wounds or burns are free from germs before applying.

I had a terrible fall on the ice last year and badly sprained my ankle. It took weeks for it to get better so that I could walk on it and I used comfrey ointment during that time. If I hadn't, I'm sure that the healing time would have been 2 or 3 months in the least. It's also fantastic on burns, especially sunburns.

ysmina
Post 1

I have heard many good things about comfrey ointment from my friend who happens to grow comfrey and make the ointment at home.

I suffer from arthritis and I'm constantly on the lookout for new creams and ointments that could help with the chronic pain of arthritis.

I've however not tried this ointment because of the potential damage to the liver. I have fattening in my liver, probably due to diabetes and I'm very worried about facing complications with my liver health in the future. So I'd rather not take any risks with this since the effects of comfrey ointment will probably not be known until after using it. At that point, my liver might have already become damaged.

Although if any diabetes patients or individuals with liver fattening have used the ointment without any problems and complications, I would love to hear about it.

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