Use Comfrey with Caution


| December/January 2005

  • Brian Orr

Comfrey’s gotten a bad rap in recent years. Even my dermatologist, who’s not particularly interested in herbs, cautioned recently that “comfrey shouldn’t even be used topically; it’s just too dangerous.” I think he brought it up because he recalled from years before that I make myself a bit of fresh comfrey salve after my visits to him. I go about once a year to have him freeze off any sunspots I’ve developed. My salve is a simple mixture: several young, tender comfrey leaves, 1/2 cup aloe vera gel and about 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, all put into a blender and blended until it’s a thick, green, goopy salve, which I then cover and refrigerate.

When I return from my trip to the dermatologist, I put little dollops of the green stuff on each place he’s frozen, twice a day, which rapidly promotes healing.

There’s evidence that comfrey shouldn’t be taken internally, at least not on a sustained basis. And there’s also evidence that regular, repeated topical use might negatively affect your liver. It is, of course, good to err on the side of caution. But comfrey is an impressive healer that I feel safe using and recommending for occasional use.

Several summers ago, I hired a teenage guy to mow my lawn weekly. His goal was to earn enough money during the summer to buy a car, and he was intent on quickly mowing and getting on to his next job.

One morning, soon after he had arrived for his weekly mowing, Bobby came over to where I was working in the herb garden. He held up the palm of his hand and explained that he’d cut it a few days ago and that pushing on the lawnmower handle with that hand kept reopening the wound.

“Got anything I can put on it?” he asked. Remembering my military training as a medic, I examined his hand and saw it was a clean wound — not infected, just uncomfortable. Of course, what Bobby probably meant was a bandage, but he didn’t ask for that and I decided it was a good opportunity to teach him about comfrey. I picked a couple of tender comfrey leaves.

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