Comfrey – Grow your own treatment for back pain, sprains and strains

Hello Herb Lovers,

Recently a good friend of mine sprained her ankle very badly. To help ease her discomfort and speed healing I made some comfrey poultices she could apply to the affected area. Comfrey – Symphytum officinale L.- is a brilliantly useful herb to have in your garden. And yes, it can take over so watch where you plant it as you’ll NEVER get rid of it again.

Here is an excerpt from the Herbology Home Herbal – Practical A-Z Guide to Medicinal and Culinary Herbs for the Home….(dont look for it in the shops – it’s a work in progress)….

Comfrey is known for its unparalleled healing properties. Traditionally used to aid in the healing of wounds, fractures, as well as ulcers.

Comfrey has been known to have been used medicinally since at least the Middle Ages. In the past it was freely used externally to speed healing of wounds and internally to aid cell production and recovery from illness and surgery.In the early 1900’s it was proven to contain a cell-proliferant substance known to promote healing of bone and tissue.  However in the 1980’s some scientists reported that contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (in the root more so than the leaves) shown to cause liver damage in lab animals which were injected with large quantities.

Some sources now caution against the INTERNAL use of comfrey.  There are many other sources that argue the wisdom behind this caution, as comfrey is usually consumed in much smaller doses and they suggest that perhaps only people with a predisposition to liver problems should stay away from internal use.  I personally continue to use comfrey but I limit my use to the leaves, not the root.

A perennial growing from 60cm to 1.2m in height. Although it prefers a damp soil, it can flourish under almost any condition.

Provided there is no drought. Once established it is hard to get rid of.  It’s a great soil conditioner and stops running grasses in their tracks. Propagate by root division.

Harvesting and Storage
Comfrey should be harvested at least 3 times a year.  Just cut it down to a little above the ground and collect the stalks and leaves (wear gloves). Harvesting can take place when the plant reaches a height of 2 foot and before it flowers. It grows back very quickly. Dry the leaves and stalks – store in air tight containers until ready to use.

If you harvest the root be aware that even the smallest sliver of root left in the ground will grow into a full plant in no time.

Current Standard Precaution
Young children, pregnant women and people suffering from liver problems should avoid INTERNAL use. (see History above).

For EXTERNAL use care should be taken with very deep wounds as Comfrey may cause them to close up on the surface before they are healed further down. Do not use on dirty wounds as rapid healing may trap dirt.

Consult a qualified Herbalist for more advice if you are concerned.

Parts Used
Roots have similar properties to the leaves. May contain more pyrrolizidine alkaloids than leaves. More nourishing than leaves.

Leaves are mainly used externally in oils and salves for the treatment of sprains, sore joints and other injuries. Contain large amounts of allantoin.

Vulnerary, demulcent, astringent, expectorant, emollient, pectoral, tonic

Mucilage, gum, allantoin, tannin, alkaloids, resin, volatile oil


A poultice of pureed leaves can be applied to speed the healing of minor broken bones e.g. toes, ribs etc. Ointments of comfrey (and often in combination of other herbs) can be used for muscle damage and many skin disorders.

When combined with Marshmallow and Meadowsweet it is useful when treating Gastric inflammations & ulcers. For chest and bronchial troubles use it with Coltsfoot, White Horehound or Elecampane



19 Responses to Comfrey – Grow your own treatment for back pain, sprains and strains

  1. I found your topic “” when i was searching for Alkaloids and it is really intresting for me. If its OK for you i would like to translate your topic and post it on my german blog about Alkaloids. I link back to your topic of course!

  2. Pingback: Herbs

  3. erik Berens says:

    Hi, I can’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please 🙂

  4. Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is more than I expected for when I stumpled upon a link on Delicious telling that the info here is awesome. Thanks.

  5. Yes, applying Comfrey has proven time and time again, that it helps with muscle damage and skin disorders. My grandma made use of it many times, when I was a kid.

  6. Jackie says:

    I have made a tea of comfrey leaf, strawberry leaves and mint from my garden for my daughter who has very bad menstral cramps. It’s the only thing that gives her relief. A friend got this remedy from a lady in Kentucky.

    • anke says:

      Hi Jackie, that’s an interesting remedy. I have never heard of using comfrey for menstrual cramps, must look into it.

      I do know that you have to be very careful when using comfrey internally to prevent liver toxicity and damage, and for this reason, this herb is subject to legal restriction in certain countries.
      If your daughter suffers from this every month, have you tried using cramp bark instead of the comfrey? It helps ease uterine cramps but as a muscle relaxant also works on other areas of the body. If menstrual cramps continue there is also black haw bark which helps with more intense radiating pain.

  7. S says:

    I am loving comfrey. We made a salve that’s so much easier to use (and neater) than the poultice, although we do have frozen poultices in plastic bags in the freezer, which Ive used for burns.

  8. brandy says:

    i would love to know how to make a salve of comfrey. if you can direct me to a recipe i would greatly appreciate it

    • anke says:

      Hi Brandy,

      Comfrey ointment/salves are great to have on hand around the home. On the Herbology site you can see a step by step article on how to make salves. Basically there are two different techniques involved with this method – first infusing the oil, then using the oil to make your salve. Another article will show you how to infuse oils.
      If you would like all the base recipes/method and techniques to make your own remedies you might like to invest in the Herbology At Home: Making Herbal Remedies book which has all this kind of information in one place for you.

    • Sylvia says:

      It’s fairly easy to make a salve of Comfrey. Take Comfrey root and leaves, and chop them up fine (wash the root first)Or you can put root and leaves into a blender.
      Then get a pot of Vaseline, or you can use a pack of lard if available. A few drops of scented oil can be added if liked. Something like Lavender or Rose oil.
      Then add the chopped Comfrey to the lard or Vaseline in an enamelled pan (enamelled so that bare metal doesn’t come into contact with the herb as it can “spoil” the herb) and melt over a low heat. Let this mixture cook on this low heat for about an hour stirring very regularly. Do not allow it to boil or burn in the pan!
      When ready, strain and pour the strained mix into glass or ceramic pots or jam-jars(warm these first by standing in hot water so they won’t crack when the hot mixture is poured in.
      The mix in the pots will slowly solidify into an ointment. Cap well to keep air out and best to keep in the refrigerator.

  9. sometimes i get backaches due to long hours of working at computers.“’

  10. michelle says:

    I have a filly with a badly lacerated leg that got infected and she was on three legs. I made a large poultice with comfrey, honey, colloidial silver, and 4 cloves of garlic. She was on three legs and had a large pus pocket developing. After the poultice was applied (3 tbsp honey, 6 comfrey leaves, 1tbsp silver, 4 cloves garlic) and had vet wrap applied to hold it on, 20 hours later, the infection was gone, filly was not lame at a walk, and stood quietly for treatment with no flinching. I also gave her 15 cc of penicillin, but the penicillin would not have worked that well, that quickly.

    • anke says:

      That is amazing.
      I have heard some wonderful healing stories where comfrey is involved.

      I hope your filly made a full and blissful recovery 🙂

  11. i also have backaches due to my blue collar job. stretching also helps reduce backaches;:-

  12. i have some slight back pain and stretching helps a bit to reduce its severity”.;

  13. Katya says:

    Comfrey is a plant that you will appreciate having in your yard, because you never know when you might need it. For instance, last night I sprained my foot and ankle painfully while walking down some stairs, and I immediately iced the foot and ankle and took some ibuprofen. Today I am alternating ice and a soothing comfrey compress from the plants I have in the back yard. Comfrey works well on bruises and sprains.

    Years ago a friend of mine fell off a horse and was badly bruised from her hip to her ankle. I gave her some comfrey salve and some leaves for a poultice. It was startling to see how three days later, her bruises were nearly gone. Bruises don’t heal that quickly on their own.

    Comfrey is an attractive plant, with rounded, deep green leaves and pretty pink flowers. Bees are attracted to the flowers. I grow two kinds, the common kind and “Russian” comfrey, which has narrower, lighter-colored leaves. Both kinds are therapeutic in my experience. It’s a comfort knowing that this kind and beneficial plant is ready to help whenever it’s needed. Plant some; you will be glad you did.

    • myles says:

      i have been drinking comfrey since i was a baby 45 yrs now. it is great for asthma. blended in pineapple juice or realy nice in cloudy apple juice. strain it nice cold.

  14. Pingback: Been around for thousands of years – COMFREY | Just ME in T's Health Stuff

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