Comfrey - Uses and Benefits
Scientific Name: Symphytum Officinale
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a perennial herb of the family Boraginaceae with a black, turnip-like root and large, hairy broad leaves that are about 2 to 3 feet high, is stout, angular and hollow, broadly winged at the top and covered with bristly hairs. The lower, radical leaves are very large, up to 10 inches long, ovate in shape and covered with rough hairs which promote itching when touched.
The stem-leaves are decurrent, i.e. a portion of them runs down the stem, the body of the leaf being continued beyond its base and point of attachment with the stem. Comfrey is mainly grows in Europe in damp, grassy places, and is widespread throughout the British Isles on river banks and ditches.
Although comfrey has been used as a food crop, and as a forage crop, in the past 20 years scientific studies reported that comfrey may be carcinogenic, since it appeared to cause liver damage and cancerous tumors in rats. Comfrey-pepsin capsules, which are sold as a digestive aid in herbal and health-food stores in the USA, have been analyzed and found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
Uses and Benefits of Comfrey
Comfrey leaves are of much value as an external remedy, both in the form of fomentations, for sprains, swellings and bruises, and as a poultice, to severe cuts, to promote suppuration of boils and abscesses, and gangrenous and ill-conditioned ulcers. The whole plant, beaten to a cataplasm and applied hot as a poultice, has always been deemed excellent for soothing pain in any tender, inflamed or suppurating part.
It is useful in any kind of inflammatory swelling.
Fresh leaves are eaten by pigs, sheep, and poultry, but are frequently unpalatable to cattle and rabbits. Cattle and rabbits will eat the wilted forage. Horses, goats, chinchillas, and caged birds are also fed this forage.
Comfrey may be eaten as a cooking green, used as an herb, or planted as an ornamental. Many medical remedies have been proclaimed for this plant, and its advocates associate an assortment of health benefits with it.
Comfrey leaves and stems rot very easily and rapidly turn to a black yucky liquid.
Layers of comfrey can be placed on the compost heap from time to time to act as a compost accelerant.
Spread a layer in the sweat pea, potato or bean trench.
Comfrey (both the above-ground plant and the roots) has been used on the skin for the relief of swelling (inflammatory disorders such as bruises, sprains, pulled muscles or ligaments). Some herbal/diet supplement products have been found to contain possibly harmful impurities/additives. Check with your pharmacist for more details regarding the particular brand you use. The FDA has not reviewed this product for safety or effectiveness. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
Preparations and Dosage for Comfrey
Preparations of root and leaf parts are now less readily available. Tablets and other herbal extracts have been employed, but very dilute teas or decoctions are safer - however, internal use is not recommended. The herb is used in topical preparations including lotions, creams, salves, and poultices, and it is sometimes used as a gargle. Herbal authorities recommend that it can be employed externally for contusions, bruises, and sprains for up to 6 weeks during a year, but such use is rarely justified.
What Happens if I Overdose?
In such a case, the thing you can do is seek immidiate medical attention as symptoms of a comfrey overdose are not known.
Side Effects of Comfrey
Side effects from correctly administered Comfrey usage are thought to be minimal. Some think that comfrey is a beneficial herb, but scientific studies show that this herb can sometimes prove to be very toxic. If you drink comfrey preparations or take it internally in other forms you run the risk of being poisoned. Below, there is given some list of side effects, if you experience any of the side effects below, stop usage immediately and report them to your family doctor
Do not use preparations containing Comfrey root. Ointments containing Comfrey leaf are considered safe when applied to unbroken skin for limited periods of time.
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