common Comfrey


Common Comfrey is a perennial plant, 30-100 cm tall. The whole plant is coarsely hairy. Rhizome short, black with long, branched roots. Stem strong, erect, solitary. The leaves are 10-15 cm long, consecutive, the veining is strongly visible at the bottom. The lower leaves are elongated ovate, the upper ones are softer, lanceolate, approximated and sessile. Flowers actinomorphic, bisexual, collected in complex inflorescences. The color of the flowers is usually purple to blue!

Only insects with long snouts can pollinate flowers. The structure of the flower is built in a peculiar way, which forces the insect to crawl into the flower in such a way that the pollen ends up on its head, instead of on its stomach, as usual. The fruit is dry, when ripe it splits into 4 nut-like parts. Blooms from May to July, fruits ripen from July to September.

In official medicine, the Common Comfrey is not used, it is more commonly known in folk medicine and homeopathy. The roots of the plant, rarely the leaves, are collected for medicinal purposes. The highest content of alkaloid-allantoin in the roots of the plant is in winter! Allantoin accumulates in the roots in autumn, where it is stored until the beginning of vegetation. Therefore, the roots of the plant are harvested in late fall or early spring, before the plant leaves.

The roots are dug up, cleaned from the ground, quickly rinsed in cold water and cut into pieces of 20 cm. The roots are dried on sieves or in forced dryers, not exceeding a temperature of 40C. Stored in wooden or cardboard boxes for 3 years. You should always think about what the use of the fatty root will be in the future, because the pieces of the root remain rock hard when they dry - 20 cm pieces are not always convenient to use.

Earlier, this plant was recognized by the official medicine of many countries, later it was recognized as toxic and dangerous. The roots of this plant were used as one of the components of various anti-oncology mixtures that were dispensed by prescription. Currently, this plant is being repeatedly studied and an attempt is made to find a solution, how it could be used in medicine - starting from the selection of the plant, ending with the specific processing of finished drugs.

The medicinal effect of the plant is simply justified - the plant contains many biologically active substances. The alkaloid allantoin present in the plant, which is present in a large amount in this plant, can be considered the most important component for which the plant is used in medicine. It tends to reach up to 4.27% in the roots, up to 0.5% in the surface parts. In addition, the roots of the plant also accumulate pyrrolizidine alkaloids: heliotridine, viridiflorine and echinatine, laziocarpine, symphytine (anadolin), simladin, ehimidine, cynoglossophine (heliosupine) and their N-oxides (echymidine N-oxide, heliosupine (lycopsamine) n-oxide), 7 - acetyllycopsamine, as well as cynoglossine (symphytocynoglossine).

The total content of alkaloids in the plant is on average 0.19%, in the roots 0.30%. The roots of the plant contain mono- and polyphenolic compounds, among which are phenolcarbonic acid and its derivatives (antihormonal compounds - lithospermic acid, as well as hydrocinnamic acid, chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid), polysaccharides (mucilage, pectins, hemicellulose A, hemicellulose B, free fructose and glucose residues - up to 29%), phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterin, triterpene alcohol isobaurenol (in the form of glucose)), steroidal saponins, tannins from the pyrocatechin group (up to 2.4%), amino acids (from 1-3% asparagine), traces of carotene (0.063%), as well as pyrocatechin tannins (4-6.5%), gallic and digalic acids, gums, resins, traces of essential oils, starch, inulin, iridoids, choline, monoterpentine glycosides, coumarins.

Medicinal significance

Triterpene saponins and oleic acid glycoside derivatives were extracted from the alcoholic extract of the Common Comfrey .

Common Comfrey preparations mainly act as wound-healing and anti-inflammatory agents, enhancing reparative regeneration in tissues. A decoction of the roots of the Common Comfrey stimulates tissue regeneration in case of traumatic injuries and burns, 5-10% ointment effectively accelerates the healing of non-infected wounds. The wound-healing effect is promoted by the plant's biogenic amine allantoin. It has regenerative, keratoplastic and possibly antitumor properties. Although there is an opinion that the antitumor properties are provided by the plant's alkaloids from the pyrrolizidine group, specifically laziocarpine. Anti-inflammatory properties are associated with the presence of rosmarinic acid.

The Common Comfrey extract of S. officinale contains allantoin and phenolic acids (e.g., rosmarinic, p -hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, chlorogenic, and p -coumaric acids) and has significant antioxidant activity and has positive effects on human skin fibroblasts.

The decoction also reduces arterial pressure, stimulates the respiratory center, and also strengthens the contraction of the intestinal and uterine muscles - thanks to cynoglossophin, (heliosupin), which is found in the roots. Antigonadotropic activity is attributed to the plant due to the presence of polyphenolic acids, especially polymers of oxidized lithospermic acid. It has also been proven that the oxidized lithospermic acid product has hypoglycemic properties. Common Comfrey preparations have a pronounced immunostimulating effect.

Medicinal preparations of Common Comfrey are effective in the treatment of upper and lower back pain, gonarthrosis (deforming arthrosis of the knee joint), even moderate effectiveness of Common Comfrey cream in osteoarthritis has been found. Reduces pain, swelling and promotes tissue regeneration. Can also be used for sprains and bruises. The Common Comfrey is also used in the treatment of tendonitis (tendinitis), insect bites, mastitis, fractures. Historically, the Common Comfrey is used to treat gout, ulcers, gastritis, hematomas and thrombophlebitis.

Various literature mentions that plant extracts are able to act against phytopathogenic fungal diseases. It is related to the content of phenolic compounds in the root of the Common Comfrey.

However, although the plant has many medicinal properties, its preparations intended for oral use were removed from production. This is justified by the fact that the roots of the plant contain alkaloids of the pyrrolizidine group, which are known to be toxic, mutagenic and have a carcinogenic effect.

In folk medicine, the healing properties of the Common Comfrey are widely used, especially in cases of bone diseases - fractures, bruises, dislocations, amputated limbs.

A decoction of the root of the plant on milk is used orally as an anti-inflammatory agent, in case of respiratory diseases, including pulmonary tuberculosis. Externally, a water decoction is used to promote healing processes in cases of fractures, wounds and bruises.

Common Comfrey is also used in case of diarrhea, as an astringent.

It is also used in powder form and fresh juice is also obtained from the plant, which is used as a means to stop bleeding - externally, in the form of compresses. In case of radiculitis, sciatica, rub the painful areas with alcohol extract. A decoction is made from the leaves to flush the female system in case of fungal vaginitis.

Not recommended for use 

As you have already read, the plant has certain toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic effects, therefore, I personally recommend not to use this plant orally, but only externally. Preparations containing the plant should be handled carefully, if you use it in its pure form, then the maximum course of use could be no longer than one month - daily. However, if the plant is a component of some external remedies, then it will be practically impossible to overdose and harm yourself!

Alkaloids have been shown to cause veno-occlusive liver disease (one documented case in humans and rats).

The current debate about the use of Symphytum internally is related to concerns about the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, especially the alkaloid echymidine, which is mainly found in the root. Toxicity reports are based on individual compounds, not the use of the entire plant. The plant has been used for centuries with beneficial results.

When used on dirty skin or deep wounds (the wound may heal too quickly by trapping dirt and pus).