Comfrey cream is a topical herbal remedy used by herbalists and others who practice alternative medicine. It is commonly available for external use as an ointment, liniment or poultice. The ingredients normally contain the root or leaf of the comfrey plant in fresh or dried form. The remedy may have a wide variety of health benefits, such as speeding the healing of broken bones, easing arthritis and treating ulcers. It can, however, be toxic to the liver.
It is commonly applied to the skin’s surface to reduce the pain of strains, sprains and osteoarthritis. Pulled ligaments and muscles are also frequently treated by comfrey cream. Lesions, burns and wounds reportedly heal faster when this cream is applied to them as well. A significant number of professional medical doctors advise not to use the substance on open wounds based on its toxic properties. Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are hepatotoxic, meaning they can damage the liver.
Fractures were once thought to have been repaired by comfrey creams and ointments. This notion is commonly believed to have evolved from the nickname knitbone that was often applied to comfrey. The herb is now widely thought to only relieve the tenderness and swelling often associated with broken bones.
Allantoin is the predominant active element in comfrey cream as well as in all comfrey-based products, both external and internal forms. Allantoin is frequently believed to encourage new cell growth. The presence of mucilage in the products is also thought to act as a binding agent.
Based on its toxicity, it is generally recommended to only use comfrey cream or related topical comfrey-based ointments for periods of ten days or less, or for no more than six total weeks in a year. Since its toxicity is easily absorbed through the skin, it can cause severe liver damage or even result in death. Most directives advise that it never be used on children or by people with cancer, liver disease or those who suffer from alcoholism.
Even though oral comfrey products have been officially banned for decades in most countries, it is still widely available through dispensers of traditional herbal medicine. These dispensers typically believe ingesting the herb, traditionally in the form of a tea-like drink, will cure a variety of illnesses and ailments. These maladies frequently include ulcers in the liver, gallbladder, stomach and intestines. The comfrey drink has also been prescribed by alternative healers to treat lung and bronchial disorders, and it sometimes is used as a blood purifier as well.
When buying comfrey cream or other products containing the herb, it is frequently advised to purchase it from a reputable company that clearly lists the ingredients on the packaging. Along with children, it is generally recommended that the products not be used by elderly people or females who are breastfeeding or pregnant. The interaction of comfrey with other medicines is not known, so caution is generally advised if other medications are being used at the same time.