Terry's Blog

Terry's Blog

The Wonders of Healing Comfrey


If someone asked me to recommend the most healing plant of all times, I would have to recommend comfrey. However, I’d have to qualify that to some extent, because due to certain alkaloids found in most comfrey, it should not be taken internally.

But for topical use there is nothing better. Added to a cream base, studies prove that it even outperforms conventional topical medications. So, when should you use it?

  • For trauma, bruises, sprains, strains, back pain, minor wounds, bee stings, insect bites, and pain or burns of any kind. While all comfrey can be beneficial, look for a comfrey cream made with a special cultivar called (Symphytum x uplandicum NYMAN), otherwise known as “Trauma Comfrey.”
  • To relieve swelling and inflammation
  • For blunt or open injuries. Trauma Comfrey is especially safe for open wounds, because it provides highly concentrated healing compounds but does not contain any toxic alkaloids.

Comfrey has been recognized for its healing properties since medieval times. It grows wild where I live, and I have used it in the past, but only after learning how to prepare it properly. However, comfrey became much less popular in the last few years with the recognition that this plant – especially the roots – contains compounds which can be extremely toxic to the liver.

In the past, comfrey’s use has been limited because of compounds common to the root of comfrey called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). These natural chemicals are part of a plant’s defenses, and are known to be toxic to the liver.

But now, thanks to a wonderful blend of age-old wisdom and modern plant science, there is a type of comfrey that avoids this problem altogether. As I mentioned, this variety of comfrey, known as Symphytum x uplandicum NYMAN, has been designated as Trauma Comfrey by the German Health authorities as a specialized species similar to issuing a patent.

Knowing of both the amazing healing properties of comfrey, yet aware of the potential toxicity issues as well, I was excited to finally find a comfrey cream made in Europe that is free of the toxic liver compounds and yet contains all the healing properties of comfrey.  I was able to visit the researchers in Germany who are responsible for the development and research of this special plant. 

Trauma Comfrey is specifically cultivated in the fields of a former monastery to be completely free of PA content. Additionally, only the juice from the aerial parts – leaves, stems and flowers, which are naturally PA-free to begin with – are used. The roots are not used.

In a 2008 medical journal article, researchers reported that when analyzed with the latest techniques and equipment – including liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry – not even a trace of PAs was found in either the leaves and flowers of Trauma Comfrey or its extract. Although the comfrey cream isn’t intended to be eaten or used internally, you certainly could do so with no harm.

These specialized leaves, stems, and flowers are then processed into a potent whole plant juice within hours after harvesting. Meanwhile, the carefully-tended plants remaining in the field are continuously checked and double-checked to detect any toxic heavy metals, pesticides, cancer-causing aflatoxins, or contamination from any other less-rigidly cultivated comfrey plants that could be growing within distance of the monastery grounds in which the comfrey is grown.

So, how does comfrey actually work? It does many things, and addresses wounds and bruises – even bone damage – in a variety of ways.

Aside from soothing pain, comfrey slows down damage to tissues and boosts tissue regeneration. It quickly and efficiently rebuilds damaged blood, bone and flesh – the exact response you need for wounds, sores, burns, cuts, scrapes, bites, stings, rashes, swollen tissue, sprains and broken bones. In fact, the popular folklore names for comfrey give you a pretty good idea of what it has been used for in the past: knitback, bruisewort (wort meaning plant), knitbone, and boneset.

Three of the major players in Trauma Comfrey’s team of winning compounds are allantoin, choline, and rosamarinic acid.

  • Allantoin quickly stimulates the rebuilding of cells and regenerates damaged tissue. It can actually travel through the skin all the way to tendons, cartilage and bone.
  • Choline helps injured blood vessels and nerve endings recover faster, and improves the pumping of healing blood through inflamed tissues.
  • Rosmarinic acid fights inflammation, stops fluid loss as a result of injury, and slows down cell damage. 

This comfrey cream has shown remarkable abilities for treating blunt sports injuries and bruises, healing open wounds (and in one study reduced pain by 50 percent and reduced the healing time in  half), easing muscle pain and improving mobility, and soothing knee and ankle sprains and strains.

In fact, in a controlled, double-blind, randomized, multi-center study of 203 patients suffering from acute ankle sprain and pain, this comfrey cream reduced pain by half in just three days.

Another study involved men and eight women with “contusions and distortions of the knee joint” – bruised and sprained knees – who were treated with Trauma comfrey cream 12 hours after getting injured, on average. 

They were told to rub the ointment into the wounded area at least four to five times a day – a relatively high dose – and then to bandage the wound and wrap it in gauze. The patients reported that when they put the ointment on, there was immediately a pleasant cooling sensation in the wounded area, followed by a distinct and prolonged drop in pain.

Within four days, swelling and pain were markedly lowered. By day seven, none of the patients had pain while resting. Nineteen were completely pain-free even during movement by day 10 and the last three patients by day 14. No patient experienced any unpleasant reactions such as reddening, itching or drying out of the skin, and no systemic reactions in other parts of their bodies were observed. The study author noted that the quick drop in pain levels allowed the patients to move their knees sooner, diminishing the possibility of further muscle damage due to immobility.

Trauma comfrey is also tested safe for children. This is great news for many parents with active kids who just can’t resist getting a scraped knee or elbow when they’re out playing with friends.  

In a German study, 386 children as young as 3 and as old as 12 who had suffered bruises, sprains, strains and muscle pain while playing sports were treated with Trauma comfrey. It was 90 percent effective and more importantly, there were no reactions or adverse effects.

In another study, a total of 361 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 12 who came to eight German clinics were treated with Trauma comfrey for sprains, strains and bruises that had occurred in the previous 48 hours.  Significant improvement occurred in just three days for sprains and in just four days for strains and bruises. It was found to be both safe and effective.

And, in a third study, 196 children between 4 and 12 were treated with Trauma comfrey for sprains, strains and bruises. Within eight days, pain while in motion and while being touched were both reduced an average of 86 percent, swelling was reduced 94 percent, and general impairment was reduced by 90 percent. Here again, there were no adverse reactions. Because Trauma Comfrey is PA-free, it can be applied directly to abrasions and open wounds.

The Many Benefits of Trauma Comfrey:

Anti-bacterialKills or slows down growth of bacteria
Anti-exudativeStops fluid loss from cells from inflammation or injury
Anti-fungalFights fungal invaders
Anti-inflammatoryPrevents, stops, or reduces inflammation
AnodyneRelieves pain
AntisepticKills or retards the growth of infection-causing microorganisms
AstringentDraws tissue together, restricting the flow of blood, and speeds healing
EmollientSoftens the skin
HomeostaticHelps the body balance internal and external stress
StypticArrests bleeding by contracting blood vessels
TonicInvigorates and restores health
VulneraryHeals fresh wounds

 

I think that Trauma Comfrey is one of the most amazing healing botanicals available in the world. For anyone needing relief and healing from everyday bumps and bruises, or more serious injuries and trauma, this clinically tested topical is the one I recommend.

In clinical studies, comfrey cream has been shown to heal abrasions, relieve injuries and sprains in the shoulders and knees, and reduces swelling as effectively as prescription medications and without side effects.  It has been accepted as safe and effective by the German health authorities similar to our FDA. It is safe for children age 4 and older, so parents and kids alike can use it with confidence. To me, it’s like having an entire medical kit from just one plant.

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