For those familiar with natural medicine and chronic pain, comfrey is likely on their list of remedies. This herb has been used for centuries to treat various issues related to pain and inflammation.
Comfrey: a natural ally for health
Among its clinical uses, comfrey may help relieve pain , reduce inflammation in muscles and joints , speed healing of bruises and contusions , and possibly aid in the treatment of fibromyalgia .
In the UK, researchers found that practitioners prescribed it in around 15% of all consultations for tendon, ligament and muscle problems, fractures and injuries.
Comfrey remains very useful in external use . It can serve as a powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory . It can even speed up wound healing.
How does comfrey work?
Common comfrey is known in Latin as Symphytum officinale and has a "hairy" exterior. It grows as a root stick with branches extending from the stem and only reaches about 2 to 3 feet tall.
Some varieties produce yellow or purplish flowers alongside the large, downy leaves. The most commonly grown species is Russian comfrey ( Symphytum x uplandicum ).
Comfrey plants can grow in almost any climate and soil and prefer shade. In medicine, most folk remedies suggest using the leaves, although the roots are also very beneficial.
In large quantities, mucilage (a gelatinous compound derived from the plant) is the main component of comfrey.
1. May relieve muscle and joint pain
A large study published in 2013 on the medicinal uses of comfrey indicates the following:
It is clinically proven to relieve pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in degenerative arthritis , acute myalgia in the back, sprains, bruises and strains after sports injuries and accidents , also in children aged 3 and over.
Application of comfrey improves the healing and pain response of bruises, sprains, and sore muscles and joints , especially those related to exercise.
In a randomized, single-blind clinical trial involving 164 participants and comparing the effectiveness of comfrey to that of an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), commonly used to treat sprains and ankle pain, the results showed been better than those of diclofenac gel, prompting researchers to claim that this natural product is a safe and effective alternative to standard treatment.
2. Effective in relieving lower back pain
Finding relief from lower back pain can be an exhausting and daunting task for the 31 million Americans who struggle with this pain at any given time.
However, comfrey may offer an alternative method for this chronic condition.
Two double-blind randomized controlled clinical trials have shown significant pain relief compared to placebo when externally applying comfrey root extract gel to the back.
3. May Help Reduce Arthritic Pain
One in five people in the United States suffer from arthritis pain . Wear and tear of cartilage and connective tissue causes bones to rub together and cause chronic pain.
Due to the possible side effects of most arthritis medications, such as heartburn, stomach ulcers, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, cataracts, bone loss and many more, many people are looking for alternative solutions to safely relieve their pain.
It turns out that using a topical comfrey ointment or poultice can help significantly reduce the pain associated with arthritis.
Various studies have shown results comparable, in some cases, to topical NSAIDs and even arnica, all without negative side effects.
4. Reduces skin irritation
Probably thanks in part to the presence of Allantoin in comfrey , folk medicine also uses it to soothe inflamed and irritated skin .
Two controlled clinical studies showed that the curative effect on irritation caused by UV-B rays (a mild sunburn) was equal to or greater with comfrey than with diclofenac, one of the over-the-counter medications most often used to soothe the skin.
In another study, researchers intentionally irritated the skin of healthy young adults and then tested a liquid comfrey extract on the skin.
They found that topical applications of "comfrey extract may be of great use in the treatment of skin irritation "