Comfrey oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects
The comfrey oil benefits are abundant and have been deeply researched. Traditionally, it has been used to treat various stomach disorders. The oil is reported to be the best for pain relief. It is widely used for preparing creams and sprays for muscular and joint pains.
On that note, let us understand about comfrey essential oil in detail.
What Is Comfrey Oil?
Comfrey is extracted from its plant, which belongs to the family Boraginaceae. There are about 36 species of comfrey, each contributing to different health benefits.
Generally, comfrey is known to heal broken bones, as it is a rich source of calcium. Besides broken bones and sprains, it is also useful for treating primary infections and skin injuries.
But note that oil is extremely sensitive. Hence, it should not be used orally. In fact, oral administration of comfrey is strictly restricted by FDA. The use of comfrey oil is only permitted in the form of creams and ointment. (1)
Not many know that comfrey oil is an effective lubricant, and used as a vaginal fluid by many women during sexual intercourse. It is often used in lubricating gels to enhance sex performance and attain orgasm or pleasure. (2)
Scientific Name of Comfrey Oil
The Botanical name of comfrey is Symphytum officinale L.
History Of Comfrey Oil
The use of comfrey dates back to ancient times when people used to drink it in the form of herbal tea. The tea from comfrey leaves was used to treat gastrointestinal problems, stomach ulcers, menstrual disorders, diarrhea, blood in urine, old & tough cough, chest pain, and cancer.
But after several clinical and pharmacological studies, comfrey was found unsafe to consume and required a medical prescription.
On phytochemical screening, the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) were discovered and found to be toxic for liver cells. Moreover, if overdosed, it turned out to be fatal. (3)
FDA declared it to be carcinogenic if taken orally. In 2001, FDA published a report and sent a warning to the manufacturer to stop using comfrey in dietary supplements. (4)
Many countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany banned comfrey. They are being used only in creams and ointments.
The leaves and roots of comfrey are used in traditional medicine worldwide. Over 2000 years, Japan is known to be to the best cultivator of comfrey plant and have been using them as traditional medicine. (5)
It has been nicknamed “knit bone,” as it is extremely good for the bones. No wonder it is used in the treatment of sprains, burns, bruises, and joint inflammation.
In Europe, comfrey is well known to treat inflammation in the joints such as gout and arthritis. A few traditional healers use it against diarrhea and stomach ailments. (6)
About the plant:
Comfrey is a perennial shrub, which is commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Its roots look similar to the ones in a turnip. Its leaves are hairy, broad, and large whereas its flowers are small and bell-shaped.
The plant is native to Europe and thrives in damp, grassy locations such as ditches and riverbanks. It is found commonly in the ditches and riverbanks of Ireland & Britain.
It is widely used as a folk medicine by the locals, as a healing agent and to treat various skin infections and wounds. To cultivate comfrey, the pH of the soil must be 6.0 to 7.0, the land where the plant grows should be airy with abundant of sunlight, and a little shade. (7)
It can survive even bad environmental conditions like extreme drought. The plant has a specific rooting pattern being a shrub. The roots grow 2-8 inches horizontally and 2- 6 inches vertically deep in the soil.
This helps the plant to gather enough water from the soil, even from farthest regions, helping it to survive drastic droughts.
The root can grow deeper in sandier soil. While its leaves are rust free, the plant helps keep the environment insect-free. Common names of comfrey are ass ear, blackwork, bruisewort, common comfrey, gum plant, knitback, knit bone, wallwort, consound, consoude, slippery root, Healing Herb, Consolidae Radix, Grande Consoude, Salsify, And Herbe Aux Charpentiers.
Color Consistency, and Smell Of Comfrey Oil
- The color of comfrey oil is black or dark.
- The consistency of comfrey oil is viscous.
- The smell of comfrey oil is much like olive oil.
Properties Of Comfrey Essential Oil
- Antiseptic – Prevents the microorganisms from thriving
- Antioxidant – Inhibits the process of oxidation
- Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation
- Anti-Mennorohagic – Reduces abnormal or heavy bleeding during menstrual cycle
- Anti-spasmodiac – Relieves spasms of the involuntary muscles
- Anti-aging – Lessens the signs of aging
- Antirheumatoidis – Slows down rheumatoid arthritis
- Antipyretic – Reduces or prevents fever
- Analgesic – Helps relieve pain
Chemical Compounds In Comfrey Oil
The chemical constituents of comfrey roots are 0.6–4.7% allantoin, mucilage polysaccharides (present in abundant quantities), fructose, glucose, and phenolic acids like rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and glycopeptides.
Other compounds include amino acids, α-hydroxy caffeic acid, saponins, triterpenes in the form of monodesmosidic and bidesmosidic glycosides, based on the aglycones hederagenin, lithospermic acid, and oleanolic acid. (8)
Benefits Of Comfrey Oil
Though there are multiple health benefits of comfrey oil, the potential ones include:
1. Heals spider bites
Comfrey oil has been proved as an effective remedy in the treatment of bug bites, especially spider bites. Due to its chemical compounds, the oil is reported to be highly effective.
The compound “allantoin” present in comfrey oil helps sublimate the toxic effect of a spider bite. When applied topically on the affected area, it eases irritation and pain, healing the wound much faster. Besides its oil, even the leaves of comfrey can be applied topically in the form of a paste. (9)
2. Purifies the blood
One of the best comfrey oil benefits is its potential to purify the blood. This is due to the presence of rich antioxidants in it. It culminates or removes toxic substances, free radicals, and other harmful effects of metabolism. All these are eliminated via urine. The compound that works the best for this is allantoin. (10)
3. Treats tendinitis
Comfrey oil assists in the treatment of tendinitis. Tendinitis is a condition where the tissues connecting the muscles and the bones become inflamed. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are the most effective components in the treatment of swelling or inflammation of tendons.
These injuries may be caused during games to athletes or can be after effect of some accidents. It may cause internal bruise and inflammation on the tendons. Tendons are the joining tissues of bones and ligaments, a small injury on tendons can cause the painful condition.
Applying the poultice of comfrey leaves blended with jojoba oil or organic olive oil can do a great deed. This is mainly due to the presence of rosmaric acid that is found in abundance in comfrey oil. (11)
4. Eases menstrual disorders
Comfrey oil eases the excess blood flow during a menstrual cycle. Since comfrey is fortified with saponin and allantoin, it helps regulate over secretion of progesterone.
Oversecretion of progesterone in blood is responsible for heavy menstruation. Comfrey oil regulates the progesterone, which, in turn, helps control excessive bleeding.
5. Remedy for osteoarthritis
Applying comfrey extract ointment combined with other ingredients like eucalyptus oil, Aloe vera gel, tannic acid, and frankincense oil on the affected area for about 6-10 weeks can help heal osteoarthritis.
Comfrey is a rich source of tannins, saponins, and rosemaric acid, which together play a significant role in decreasing inflammation. Osteoarthritis is a condition where joints become inflamed once the connective tissues wear off. Due to this reason, a gap generally appears between the bones, causing inflammation and pain in the joints. (12, 13)
6. Cures cancer
Being a potent antioxidant drug, comfrey is also considered as one of the best remedies for cancer. It scavenges the free radicals, which include O2- and O2—ions. These ions cause damage to the cell walls of the infected cells. However, comfrey oil has good amounts of tannins, alkaloids, and saponins. Alkaloids and tannins are a good source of antioxidants and work as an anti-cancerous remedy. (14)
7. Effective for bruises
Bruises are the consequences of accidents and injuries. However, comfrey oil, when applied directly on the affected part for 2 weeks, helps decrease the pain and tenderness. You can also apply the poultice of comfrey leaves. Besides leaves, its stems and roots also cure bruises.
8. Cures hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are also called piles. It is a health condition, where the veins in the anus and lower rectum swell, causing bleeding and discomfort. It causes immense pain during fecal discharge.
When the intensity of pain increases, it may also cause trouble while sitting. However, the oil of comfrey applied twice in a day with cotton (but diluted with a carrier oil). Else you might end up worsening the condition) can heal piles.
Though many over-the-counter comfrey creams are available, we recommend you to consult a physician first.
While rosemaric acid in comfrey reduces the inflammations of the anal veins, the compound allantoin helps reform the ruptured veins. Comfrey has a cooling effect when applied to the damaged tissues in the anus and soothes the sensation of burning. (15)
9. Relieves pain
On applying comfrey-based ointment to the affected area for 5 days, it helps decrease the intensity of lower or upper back pain. Allantoin plays a significant role in getting rid of pain, as they tend to work directly on the pain receptors and soothes the muscles.
Few researchers claimed that applying comfrey ointment on the affected area up to 2 weeks improves mobility, controls pain, reduces tenderness, and soothes swelling.
The effect of comfrey ointment as pain relevant and reducing inflammation can be compared with the results of diclofenac gel.
10. Prevents skin problems
Comfrey is also capable of curing different skin problems like darkening, wrinkles, eczema, psoriasis, and dermal ulcers. When a comfrey-based cream is applied topically, it can heal psoriasis. While the allantoins in it heal the sores, rosemaric acid reduces the inflammation.
It also helps in tightening the facial muscles and remove the wrinkles. It also adds moisture and gives a cooling effect. It moisturizes the skin deeply and relieves itching and swelling, especially in the case of eczema.
Note: Topical application of comfrey for long-term on open wounds in strictly restricted.
What Blends With Comfrey Oil?
Comfrey oil blends best with:
- Calendula oil
- Arnica oil
- St. John’s Wort oil
- Almond oil
- Aloe vera
- Olive oil
- Vitamin E oil
- Jojoba oil
- Frankincense oil
- Eucalyptus oil
How To Use Comfrey Oil?
After proper research and years of study about the compounds in comfrey through phytochemical screening, comfrey has been proved toxic. Therefore, it can only be used as a spray or a cream for muscular sprains, joint inflammation, and others (if a physician prescribes it).
Only topical application of comfrey oil is permitted. It is strictly not for consumption. On blending with arnica oil, it also shows an excellent nourishing effect for hair. It is also proven effective against dandruff.
This oil must always be used topically, another important use of this oil is as a vaginal lubricant (but diluted with a carrier oil). It lubricates the vagina during sexual intercourse and has been used in gels for vaginal lubrication.
Side Effects Of Comfrey Oil
- Comfrey is not advised for pregnant or lactating mothers. Though it does not affect the mother, it can turn toxic for the unborn. It badly affects the undeveloped liver of fetus and causes venous-occlusive disease. This oil is considered toxic for liver due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
- Using comfrey orally and on open wounds are strictly restricted by the FDA. Earlier it was used a dietary supplement, but later, FDA banned it by claiming that the pyrrolizidine alkaloids present in it are a potent carcinogenic.