How Poisonous Is Comfrey And How Can I Use It?

June 15th, 2015

Natural Remedy

Have you ever heard of anybody who has been poisoned, either from eating Comfrey, or from drinking Comfrey tea?  I haven’t at least not with the common garden variety known as Symphytum officinalis.

It is possible that some Comfreys should be avoided. Dr Vogel mentions in his book ‘The Nature Doctor’ that there are 20 varieties of Comfrey, and that the wild Comfrey which grows across Europe should be taken only in small amounts because of its action on the central nervous system.

However, Dr Vogel feels so strongly about the herb, he says that Comfrey should be ‘lifted from obscurity and used more widely’, ‘because of its excellent medicinal effects.’

Nature provides us with a cocktail of wonderful compounds in traditional Comfrey which work together in a synergistic way to heal all manner of diseases, so long as the herb is used sensibly and with respect.

To my knowledge, no case has EVER been reported to our national poisons centre.  Because no-one has ever ‘mis-used’ Comfrey to a disastrous effect.

I believe the hype about Comfrey is really to stop us from using this herb as an alternative to pharmaceutical preparations.  Some of Comfrey’s healing components have been isolated by pharmaceutical companies, who are profitting from Comfrey’s healing agents, whilst discouraging the use of natural Comfrey herb.

Interesting to note that a ‘Soil and Health’ article from around 2000-2006 stated that the newer varieties of Comfrey lack that invaluable ingredient, allantoin, which is a cell-proliferant.  They are also apparently much lower in silica than traditional types of Comfrey.  This is probably the reason why traditional Comfrey was banned in NZ and Australia for a time – it is high in silica and allantoin, which both can help prevent and heal degenerative diseases such as cancer, and also bowel problems such as colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.  My belief is that ‘research’ determined that a new type of Comfrey be developed which was not going to compete with modern day pharmaceutical drugs in any way.  Modern hybridized Comfrey is virtually useless as a healing commodity in my opinion.

I would put traditional Comfrey at the top of the list of healing herbs.  An invaluable healing herb, Comfrey has been used for centuries, if not thousands of years, as a healing agent, both for external and internal uses.

It is high in silica, mucilage, potassium, phosphorous, nitrogen, and other nutrients, including germanium, cobalt, and allantoin which is a cell-proliferant. This last, as well as the rich silica levels, give it the capacity to repair damaged cells very quickly.

Comfrey tea used externally as a hair rinse, and as a tea taken internally, say one cup a day, will help hair growth.

Traditional Comfrey was known as ‘Knitbone’, or ‘Stitchwort’, whose names attest to its ability in healing broken bones.  It is also renowned for its healing effect on wounds, burns and cancer.

The germanium and cobalt in Comfrey are thought to be of especial help in treating cancer.

The mucilage in Comfrey, plus its other healing agents, can help in cases of bowel diseases such as stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.

Natural Health

John Heinerman quotes a Soviet Medical Journal, ‘Vutreshi Bolesti’, June, 1981 which reported that Comfrey and Calendula tea, in equal quantities, was effective in curing 90% of 170 hospital patients who had severe gastrointestinal ulcers.  Two cups of the Comfrey-Calendula tea was taken twice a day until healed. (see p.112, Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Fruits Vegetables and Herbs, Parker Publishing Company, New York, 1988)

Dr Vogel is another herbalist who recommends Comfrey for treating inflammations of the stomach and intestinal walls.  He uses a mucilaginous tincture, made from Comfrey, which he calls ‘Symphosan’.  He has also used this remedy successfully for treating inflammation of the nerves.

Yet, for all the history on the herb and the wonderful successes people have had with it, sometime around the 1990’s Comfrey was declared to be a toxic weed which needed eradicating from our gardens.  It was banned in New Zealand and Australia around then, and the only people allowed to grow it were the registered herbalists.

I remember the wee article in the paper, which said that Comfrey had caused cancer in pigs. On the strength of this example, Comfrey was then banned for household use.

What did they do to get this result – of using Comfrey to cause cancer in pigs?  Feed pigs a steady diet of Comfrey, and nothing else, until they had developed cancer?

If you were to feed pigs a steady diet of either potatoes or carrots,  to the exclusion of all other food, I think you would find a terrible thing happening to your pigs.  They would get very sick.

Potatoes have a naturally occuring poison in them called Solanum, which intensifies once the potatoes start to go green.  Potatoes which have begun to go green are potentially very harmful to the liver. But have potatoes ever been banned because people might ‘mis-use’ them?  No.

If potatoes are eaten before their skin goes green, and you sensibly combine them with other foods in your meal, then you will not get sick from eating them.

People have poisoned themselves from eating only carrots, so I have read.  The carotene content in carrots is a healthful thing for the eyes, and the general health, but in overdoses, it can be extremely damaging to the liver and the kidneys.  If you eat carrots for a long time, to the exclusion of all other foods, then you will undoubtedly become ill with some disease.

It is true that some of the constituents of Comfrey could have the potential for trouble, if you were to eat too much of it.  So – how many people, I wonder, would ever want to eat copious amounts of Comfrey?  People generally use it as a tea, rather than as a vegetable, although I sometimes used a leaf or two in with the silver beet when my children were young.  This never made us sick.

When copious amounts of the raw herb is fed to animals over a period of time, no doubt the allantoin present in Comfrey could produce some ill effects, such as cancer.  But we do not ever use Comfrey to the excusion of other herbs or foods, just as we do not eat only potatoes, or carrots, for months on end. So this risk of cancer from Comfrey is almost non-existent in human experience.

In recent years, Comfrey has reappeared in our plant shops.  But these are hybridized plants, devoid of the wonderful healing agent allantoin which is found in old-fashioned Comfrey.  The hybridized versions are also likely to contain lesser amounts of silica, and not so nutrient-rich as the traditional sort.

So for best healing results, stick to the traditional type of Comfrey, Comfrey officinalis.

2 Responses to “How Poisonous Is Comfrey And How Can I Use It?”

  1. Jane says:

    Hi, Im a young healthy female, livng an organic self-sustainable life, farming and enjoying every min, but ive had UC for years, it first struck me 10yr ago, now its come back, and i refuse to go to the Doctors, for many reasons really. My friend recently had surgery on his UC and said if he ate better and took herbs he would have not have needed surgery. ~Doctors like to swish you in to surgery, i want to give it a try using comfrey, just would like to know quantities…. onelove

  2. Merrilyn says:

    Hi, Jane,
    I would seek the advice of a reputable naturopath or homeopath, or doctor, for advice on your cancer.
    Best Wishes,
    Merrilyn

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