Comfrey

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is sometimes used on the skin to treat wounds and reduce inflammation from sprains and broken bones. Comfrey roots and leaves contain allantoin, a substance that helps new skin cells grow, along with other substances that reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy. Comfrey ointments have been used to heal bruises as well as pulled muscles and ligaments, fractures, sprains, strains, and osteoarthritis.

In the past, comfrey was also used to treat stomach problems. However, it has toxic substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that damage the liver and can lead to death. Comfrey is no longer sold in the U.S., except in creams or ointments. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany also have banned the sale of oral products containing comfrey.

The dangerous substances in comfrey are also absorbed through the skin, so harmful amounts may build up in the body. Be careful if you use an ointment containing comfrey (see How to Take It section), and never use comfrey on broken skin.

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Review Date: 3/23/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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