As I’ve been completing my studies with The Herbal Academy, my knowledge of herbs and repertoire of herbal recipes are ever expanding. Comfrey (as well as plantain, but more on that in a later post) is one such herb I have been introduced to during my studies and has quickly become a top go-to healing herbs for me. Tea blends and salves are my favorite herbal items to make. I get so much satisfaction out of the finished products! However, it’s always best when you make an herbal remedy and then find a situation in day-to-day life that calls for your exact herbal creation. My husband and I are expecting our first child in a couple months, and between the two of us currently, cuts and scrapes are fairly rare. It was for this reason that I became very excited when my husband came to me a couple weeks ago with a fairly deep gash in the front of his lower abdominal skin right where belts and waistbands rub. (No wife should be so excited at her husband’s misfortunes, but I’ll admit, I was… purely from a medical perspective, though!)
I’ve been replacing all conventional first aid products in our house with herbal products – like replacing my Neosporin with a homemade herbal salve – so when my husband’s cut occurred, he had no other option but to reach for the unused tin of comfrey salve in our medicine cabinet that I’d prepared for such an occasion as this. Due to the location of the wound, he applied a healthy amount of salve, lay a thick piece of gauze over it, and taped it vertically and horizontally with medical tape; he redressed it every day after showering. My husband generally heals faster than I do, but we were both shocked when only 4 days later a new layer of healthy pink skin had formed! Even with my knowledge of comfrey’s skin healing properties, I was pleasantly surprised (and fairly shocked) to see this herb in action and how quickly and effectively it worked! Where had comfrey been when I was a rough and tumble toddler to teenager growing up and always getting scrapes and scratches? This led me to re-read my notes on this impressive herb.
Comfrey has been renowned for its medicinal properties for over two millennia, the earliest recordings of which came from the Greeks. The plant’s Latin name (symphytum officinale) means “come together”, alluding to how comfrey expertly aids in binding together skin, wounds and even bone after an injury. Comfrey’s incredible healing power on wounds comes from constituents known as allantoin, which encourage the repair and cellular regrowth of new tissues and cells.
From my studies on comfrey and first-hand experience, it is my understanding that comfrey is so potent and powerful that, depending on the type of wound, using comfrey could prove to be too much of a good thing! If the wound is topical and not very deep, comfrey is a good herb to use to aid in healing. However, if the wound is extremely deep – like a stab wound to the leg or something that pierces not only skin but muscle as well or even down to the bone – it is best to let the deeper parts of the wound start the healing process first before applying comfrey. Otherwise, if comfrey is applied right away, new skin could form and heal over superficially before the deeper parts of the wound were healed. This could lead to bacteria being trapped deep in the wound, causing the wound to become septic even though it may appear to be healing on the surface, which could open up a whole new host of problems and possible medical emergencies. For this reason, I personally only use comfrey on topical wounds and for topical/external use, though if one was experienced enough, it could be used on all types of wounds, assuming their healing progression was closely watched and comfrey was employed at the appropriate time.
When it comes to internal use of comfrey, it can be made into a tea, though its safety and possible toxicity have been the subject of debate amongst government health officials and herbalists. For this reason, I personally only use comfrey topically as an infused oil, salve or poultice. Still, it should be noted that comfrey has been used over the centuries – both externally and internally – to treat concerns like dysentery and diarrhea (both because of comfrey’s emollient action), heartburn and female complaints to name a few. Comfrey has vulnerary, antiseptic and nutritive properties as well.
And for anyone interested in how I made my healing comfrey salve, it was quite simple. It was a basic salve with all organic ingredients of solar-infused comfrey in olive oil, beeswax, vitamin E oil, and essential oils of lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus.