Symphytum officinale

From Health Facts
Jump to: navigation, search
Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-18 (EDT)

See Also Botanical Monographs

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has a number of uses, but it is best known for its ability to heal wounds. To explore the characteristics, medicinal uses and prescribing considerations of this herb in more detail, check out the references indicated.[1], [2]


  • Common Names: Comfrey
  • Family: Boraginaceae
  • Habitat: Symphytum officinale is native to Europe and the U.K. but is naturalized in North American gardens.
  • Parts Used: Leaf (40% alcohol), Root (90% alcohol)
  • Constituents: Leaf: mucilage, tannins, allantoin, unsaturated pyrolizidine alkaloids, rosmarinic acid; Root: includes all the constituents found in the leaf plus inulin, saturated pyrolizidine alkaloids
  • Medicinal Actions: vulnerary, demulcent, emollient, tonic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory topically


Historical Uses:

Heavily used in World War I for wounds infested with maggots. The healing is due to the constituent, allantoin.

Medicinal Uses:

External (Fresh Leaf)

  • Poultice or compress on leg ulcers (decubitus (bedsores) and diabetic, only when there is still healthy, pink granulation tissue present; if gangrenous or necrotic tissue is present, it is necessary to use a debriding herb such as Sanguinaria canadensis first)
  • Bruises, sprains, wounds, trauma, especially with suppuration or infection, thrombophlebitis
  • Mastitis or trauma to the breast (compress)
  • Other Conditions
  • Fractures or osteomyelitis (topical)
  • Gingivitis or pharyngitis (infusion of leaf for gargle)

Internal (Root)

  • Bleeding Conditions
  • Dysentery or diarrhea, often bloody
  • Uterine, bowel, and kidney bleeding
  • Cough with hemoptysis (blood), or with pulmonary exudate of mucous and blood (TB, pneumonia, cough is persistent and difficult to stop)

Internal (Root and/or Leaf)

  • Gastrointestinal ulcers, especially in the stomach

Homeopathically this remedy is referred to as Symphytum.

Prescribing Considerations

The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Formulations and Preparation


  • Tincture - 5-20 drops three times daily
  • Fluid extract or tincture - use in a compress
  • Infusion from leaf - 1 Tbsp/cup, drink as soothing tea three times daily
  • Fresh leaf - can be applied topically after bruising leaves or by immersing leaves in boiling water; place in a food processor, and apply as a compress wrapped in place on the skin


  • Decoction - 100g in 250mL of water; soak gauze and apply topically until epithelium (skin) forms


The safety and prescribing considerations for this herb include:[3] [4]

  • Generally regarded as safe when used topically.
  • Side-effects are veno-occlusive disease leading to liver damage due to unsaturated pyrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs); limit UPA intake to 100 mcg/year, for a maximum of 4-6 weeks/year
  • Drug-Herb Interactions are rare.


  1. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide Second Edition, Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
  2. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
  3. Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies
  4. Brinker Francis 1997 Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.