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Of the Comfrey (Symphytum) does not bear its name for nothing, because its good healing properties for injuries in the leg area have been known since ancient times. Comfrey can also help with other wound ailments that are not necessarily limited to the legs. Despite its healing properties, there are a few things to consider when using it.
Wanted poster for comfrey
Plant genus: Comfrey (Symphytum)
Plant family: Raubattgewächse (Boraginaceae)
Popular names: Leg root, bee root, root root, rabbit bread, rabbit leaves, sky bread, Hinigblum, Komfrei, chickweed, milk root, harmful root, narrow root, black salsify, soldier root, bacon root, wall root, wottel, wound healing, wound damage
Occurrence: Africa, Asia, Europe
Parts of plants used: Leaves, roots
medically relevant type: Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
- Wound treatment
- Skin diseases
- Broken bones and lesions
- Bone and joint diseases
- Muscle pain and joint pain
- rheumatic diseases
- Vascular diseases
- Respiratory diseases
useful information: When it comes to the name of the comfrey in association with its healing properties, one must first know that the word "leg" was also used in Old German as a term for "bone". The addition "well" in turn derives from the old German "wallen". The starting point for naming the medicinal herb was the property of the comfrey to positively influence the formation of new bone mass (e.g. after a broken bone). The scientific name of the comfrey, which comes from ancient Greek, Symphytum, also refers to this mode of action, since the term translates as much as "growing together".
"For all wounds / tears and breaks / outside and inside a very healing root [...]. Each surgeon / should target Wallwurtz / it is very healing and comfortable for all wounds / broken legs and damage. "(Lonicerus - natural scientist, doctor and botanist)
Comfrey is a herbaceous and deciduous plant that can grow up to one meter in good location conditions. Its bristly stem is lined with large, lanceolate leaf blades, which - as is common for saplings - have a rough leaf surface. Depending on the species, the lancet leaves are more or less roughly serrated at the margin. The underside of the leaf has fine hair and is traversed by a strong leaf vein pattern.
During its heyday from May to October, comfrey also wears ornamental bell flowers, which can shine in numerous colors from white and yellow to pink to blue-violet and, in addition to their suitability as medicinal herbs, make Symphytum an ornamental plant. Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale), which is in the foreground for medical use, usually has purple-purple flowers, although there are also variants with yellowish-white flowers.
Comfrey is mainly found in moist, nutrient-rich and loamy locations with a sunny to partially shaded location
- Riverside locations,
- swampy and damp ditches,
- Marsh meadows
- and wet roadsides
are particularly fond of the herb. It is therefore hardly surprising that the most important subspecies of the real comfrey is called swamp comfrey (Symphytum officinale subsp. Ulginosum). Symphytum is also considered an indicator of nitrogen in the soil, which the plant is extremely happy to absorb due to its hunger for nutrients. This plant trait is very advantageous for herb gardeners or gardeners in general, since comfrey can be used wonderfully in this regard to normalize soil pH values.
The areas of application of comfrey today range from wound treatment and treatment of broken bones to specific diseases of the vessels, muscles, bones and joints. Symphytum is officially approved as a medicinal plant for the treatment of the following complaints:
- General wound treatment such as Treatment of poorly healing wounds, broken bones, scar treatment, bruises, bruises, cuts, abrasions or stab wounds,
- Vascular disorders such as Circulatory disorders, varicose veins, phlebitis or arteriosclerosis,
- Skin complaints such as inflammatory skin diseases, ulcers, itching or periostitis,
- Muscle and joint problems such as Sore muscles, tears, strains, rheumatism, tendonitis, bursitis, sprains, sprains or osteoarthritis.
Unofficially, comfrey is used for far more health complaints, which is primarily due to the long history of use of the herb in folk medicine. Because Symphytum is one of the oldest medicinal herbs in Europe and was used medicinally more than 2000 years ago. The famous Greek doctor and scholar Dioskurides already used the plant to treat ulcers, broken bones and other wound ailments and injuries.
In the Middle Ages comfrey became a traditional herb for wound treatment in Germany. Hildegard von Bingen is considered to be the pioneer in the application, who recommended comfrey extract in combination with honey and extracts of marigold for the treatment of varicose veins and ulcers.
Caution: liver toxins!
Hildegard von Bingen is not only one of the first to make comfrey known in German-speaking countries. At the same time, the "mother of all herbal witches" also issued a warning against the use of the herb for internal use:
“The internal use of comfrey disrupts the entire order of the body fluids. But applied to the skin, it heals limb ulcers. "
The ingredient that confuses the order of the body fluids is known to medicine today. It is a poisonous ingredient in the comfrey called pyrrolizidine alkaloid. The secondary plant substance belonging to the alkaloids occurs in many leaves of the rag leaf family and usually serves the plants as a natural insect repellent. Animals, too, usually feel put off by the bitter taste of the alkaloids, which ensures better chances of survival outdoors.
What is vital for comfrey can, however, be life-threatening for humans when used internally. During the breakdown of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the liver, liver-toxic breakdown products are formed, which can lead to dangerous disturbances in liver function. In the worst case, there is a risk of liver closure, which can not only lead to an enlargement of the liver and jaundice, but also to liver and kidney failure. We would therefore like to expressly point out that comfrey is only suitable for external use. Application to open wounds is also not recommended, as the alkaloids could get into the liver via the bloodstream.
Caution: The toxic potential of comfrey is often underestimated by users. This is also the result of researchers from Utah who compared the poisonous effects of the plant with other poison extracts. For comparison, lycopsamine, a plant poison, such as that found in the common ox tongue, and Intermedin were used. The result of the study showed that even reduced leg wave extract is even more toxic than the two substances. With this in mind, we can only advise against preparations such as comfrey tea or comfrey tablets for internal use. At best, the use of sufficiently diluted comfrey tincture for mouth rinsing, for example for the treatment of mouth ulcers or the like, can still be represented medically.
Ingredients and effects
In addition to its pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which exclude comfrey for internal use, the medicinal herb is filled with relatively useful and healing ingredients. These have an accelerating effect, in particular on processes of wound healing.
According to a survey by the Institute of Health Sciences at the University of New York, comfrey is one of the most commonly used herbs for treating broken bones, burns, varicose veins, and muscle and tendon problems. Athletes, in particular, rely on comfrey ointment almost as a standard when it comes to typical sports injuries such as strains, sprains, tendon tears, sore muscles or breaks. Among other things, the active ingredient allantoin is essential for the good healing properties of comfrey in the case of such complaints. It is a herbal substance that is very similar to human urea (urea).
People suffering from chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis or neurodermatitis are very familiar with the term 'urea' because urea is an important component of numerous skin ointments with a highly effective effect in dermal diseases. The same applies to allantoin, which is known for it
- to calm the skin
- to support the cell structure,
- to stimulate cell formation
- and accelerate cell regeneration.
The plant substance is used both in the field of cosmetics (e.g. in skin creams, sunscreens and aftershave) as well as for the production of medical healing ointments. The best example of this is the famous comfrey ointment itself, which was considered the best wound healing ointment in the 20th century. And special ointments for the treatment of skin irritation often contain allantoin as an ingredient.
The cell regenerative properties of allantoin are also important for the healing of broken bones. It is always important here that the fragments of fragments grow together again as quickly as possible, which is only guaranteed if sufficient new bone tissue is formed shortly after the fracture (so-called callus formation). Otherwise there could be adhesions which extremely impair the shape and the functionality of the affected bone. The positive influence of allantoin on new cell formation is also a useful help here. Overall, the urea-like substance helps with the following complaints:
- Skin injuries,
- injury-related pain,
- Broken bones,
- Joint inflammation,
- Muscle or tendon injuries
Important: Allantoin is relatively heat-resistant, but breaks down extremely quickly when it comes into contact with metals. It is therefore not advisable to store home-made ointments and creams from comfrey in metal containers.
When it comes to the blood circulation-promoting properties of comfrey, the ingredient choline is of particular importance. The substance has a vitamin-like character and is therefore often mixed into food supplements and animal feed. On the other hand, choline is also of medical interest. For example, it is used as an ingredient in medicines for liver damage. The blood circulation-promoting properties of choline on the liver tissue play an extremely important role here. And these properties are also beneficial in wound healing, as they can be
- reduce the leakage of tissue fluid,
- improve blood flow to wound tissue
- and accelerate the breakdown of bruising.
tip: The high choline content in comfrey is particularly beneficial for bruises, severe bruises and other lesions, because thanks to the ingredient bruises can be kept within limits.
The fact that comfrey has a wound-healing effect that has been real has been confirmed several times in various studies, including a Brazilian study which, in addition to promoting Symphytum's wound healing, also demonstrated its anti-inflammatory properties. The responsible scientists applied comfrey extract to cells damaged by inflammation. The result showed that the inflammation rate of these cells decreased by up to 46 percent, whereas the regeneration rate of the tested connective tissue cells was up to 240 percent after 28 days. A healing effect, which the comfrey receives mainly through an abundance of vegetable tannins, so-called tannins. Especially rosemary acid is very abundant in the medicinal herb. Basically, all tannins have one
- and an anti-sore effect.
For this reason, they are traditionally used for tanning leather in order to free it from harmful germs before further processing. In medicine, tannins are more used to inhibit inflammation and treat infections. So they are made as part of a medicinal plant, used for wound treatment.
The good protection of tannins against germs is based on their property of narrowing the skin pores and dermal blood vessels. In this way, the skin tissue thickens and becomes impermeable to possible infectious agents. The risk of wound infection is thus significantly reduced to completely eliminated. In addition, the contracting (astringent) effect of comfrey tannins also inhibits wound secretion, which stops bleeding and reduces bruises. Overall, tannins in the Symphytum promote the following healing effects:
- Wound disinfection,
- Prevention of gangrene,
- Reduction of wound bleeding,
- Reduction of hematomas,
- Strengthening the skin barrier against germs.
By the way: The astringent effect of tannins is also interesting for patients with varicose veins. These come from bulging veins that show through the skin. If the skin and vessels contract, the unsightly varicose veins can be alleviated very well.
Speaking of varicose veins: Another active ingredient in comfrey, which also helps against this venous disease, is silica. These are acid extracts from the semimetal silicon, which is used in medicine to treat all kinds of health complaints, including:
- Connective tissue weakness,
- Vascular diseases,
- Skin inflammation,
- Skin folds,
- Muscle discomfort,
- Scar treatment,
- and rheumatism.
In the vascular area in particular, silica can help both the arteries and the veins. Because silicon is a natural part of the connective tissue in the body and keeps it elastic. Vascular diseases such as varicose veins (varices) and vascular calcification (arteriosclerosis), which result in the sagging of the vascular connective tissue, benefit from additional silicon gifts, which make the vessel walls more elastic again. In addition, silica also lowers blood pressure, which brings additional relief to vascular diseases. Regularly rubbing troubled blood vessels with comfrey has its advantages. On the way to the vessels, the silica contained in the medicinal herb also strengthens the skin tissue.
Combustion of silica on joints, skin, bones and muscles makes comfrey an important emergency herb for athletes. Whether muscle strains, sprains, tendonitis, bone or joint lesions - as an essential component of the body's own tissue structures, silicon actively helps to awaken the regenerative forces in the affected parts of the body. The anti-inflammatory and stimulating effect of silica intensifies the healing effects of comfrey in the event of injuries and broken bones. While the chemical successfully binds inflammation secretions in terms of inflammation and stimulates the production of antibodies for immune defense, it stimulates the bones by forming the bone matrix and can thus accelerate fracture healing. The secret here lies in the special nature of silica to improve the storage of the mineral calcium, which is essential for bone building. Overall, the silica can be
- vascular and connective tissue firming,
- tissue regenerating,
- bone and joint strengthening
Certify the effect that comfrey not only makes it a good wound herb, but also a medicinal insider tip for skin problems and vascular diseases.
Since broken bones and injuries also cause pain, the soothing mucilages in the comfrey are an additional bonus. They are a special type of multiple sugars that, when added to water, take on a slimy consistency and, when applied to the skin, develop their pain-relieving effect perfectly. Thanks to their viscous nature, the mucilage wraps around the wound like a protective film and then works
- and even detoxifying.
The latter property also helps in the event of injury to remove toxins from the wound area or to keep them away from the wound, which prevents blood poisoning (sepsis).
The detoxifying effect of the plant's own mucilage predestines comfrey for further uses in the skin area. For example, it can be used to treat insect bites and local symptoms of poisoning, or to treat animal bites that are prone to infection and poisoning. In addition, the detoxification effect of the mucilage ensures cleaner skin, which is particularly interesting for people who suffer from acne, blackheads or similar blemishes.
Application and dosage
As already shown, Symphytum is only suitable for external use due to its pyrrolizidine alkaloids. In addition to the leaves of the comfrey, which already contain an abundance of medically relevant ingredients, the beet-shaped roots of the comfrey are also important for medical treatment. The up to 50 cm long rhizome can be recognized by its purple-brown color and, like the herb of the plant, is first dried before it is used for medicinal purposes.
After drying, leaf and root herbs of the comfrey can be further processed, for example, into oil extracts or tinctures, which in turn can serve as the basis for healing ointments. Alternatively, it is also possible to apply the comfrey herbs directly to affected areas of the body, for example in the form of an envelope or herbal porridge.
Comfrey tinctures are particularly suitable for very serious complaints because they contain a high concentration of active ingredients. However, it should be noted that the tincture may only be applied to closed wound and skin areas to avoid poisoning from pyrrolizidine alkaloid. It is therefore advisable to use the comfrey tincture more for problem areas located under the skin, for example:
- Varicose veins,
- Muscle and joint problems,
- Broken bones without an open wound.
An exception to these treatment areas is the use of alcohol-based comfrey extract for wound disinfection. In combination with the plant's own active ingredients, alcohol can convert the wound into a sterile state and accelerate wound healing. However, you should be very careful here and dose the tincture well and apply it only around the wound area.
Application note: Ideal tools for this are swabs or cotton swabs for careful work. With a view to the duration of use of comfrey tincture, a maximum treatment time of a maximum of six weeks per year is indicated.
Production of comfrey tincture
The root herbs of the plant are usually used to produce a tincture from comfrey. The active ingredients of the hard herbal ingredients can be wonderfully dissolved in alcohol and also offer a particularly intensive active ingredient concentration.
- 30 g comfrey root
- 250 ml clear alcohol (e.g. vodka)
- 1 screw jar
- Put the cut comfrey root in a screw-top jar and fill up with alcohol.
- Next, the glass is sealed airtight and placed in the sunlight (e.g. on the windowsill) for about two to four weeks to mature.
- After the ripening period, filter the tincture through a sieve and then keep the extract cool in a dark bottle. Remember that metallic vessels destroy the active ingredient allantoin, so it is best to use a glass bottle.
Comfrey ointment and comfrey oil
Superficial wounds are best rubbed with comfrey oil or comfrey ointment, but the oil must never get into an open wound. The use of the oil is harmless for:
- Wounds with closed wound surface,
- Skin irritation,
- and insect bites.
Of course, it can also be used for vascular disorders, fractures, muscle and joint problems. Since not everyone has a comfrey tincture in the house, comfrey ointments from the pharmacy offer an uncomplicated alternative. Nevertheless, the preparation of comfrey oil or ointment is not a problem.
Application note: Ointments and oils of the comfrey can be applied to affected skin areas one to three times a day. In total, however, the application should not exceed four to six weeks a year.
Make your own oil or ointment from comfrey:
If you are interested in stocking up your medicine chest with your own products, you can process the dried comfrey herbs into an oil. Simply put 300 to 500 g of the herbs in a bright bottle, pour them with cooking oil (it is best to use tasteless oil such as sunflower oil) and let them ripen in the sun for about 40 weeks, similar to comfrey tincture. The oil extract is then filtered and stored in a dark glass bottle or used to make an ointment. As an alternative to comfrey oil, a previously manufactured comfrey tincture can also be used.
- 20 ml comfrey tincture and 35 ml olive oil
- alternatively: 50 ml comfrey oil
- and 45 g wool wax (lanolin)
- Heat the oil together with the wool wax gently in a water bath. Be sure to wait until the wax has completely melted and combined with the oil to form a homogeneous mass.
- If you used olive oil instead of comfrey oil, add the tincture with constant stirring. After a good viscous ointment consistency, you can take the mixture off the stove and let it cool. The comfrey ointment is then kept in a dark ointment jar, which should also be made of glass and not metal.
With proper use and dosage, comfrey generally does not cause any side effects. But if you don't follow the instructions for use and dosage, you risk poisoning with pyrrolizidine alkaloid. (Ma)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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