Dear Radiance Swan,
As Paracelsus said, "The dose makes the poison."
There are quite a few controversial remedies discussed on this website that are difficult to find discussed in other places. Borax, for example. I am thankful that there is a place to discuss and learn about their uses even when various organizations might villainize or ban them.
In his tome, "Medical Herbalism, " David Hoffman, FNIMH, AHG says, "Long-term studies with rats have demonstrated that the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in comfrey are hepatotoxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic...The herb must therefore be recognized as a potentially genotoxic carcinogen in man. However, the risk of genetic damage from these PAs appears to be low...To minimize potential risk, lengthy internal use is to be discouraged." He does go on to describe ways to use it internally.
I have found that many herbalists seem to agree with this approach. Few seem to be inclined to completely ban internal use (except for the root, which is generally considered to be used only externally.)
Recently I used fresh comfrey leaves internally when I had a suspected ulcer (from a prescription I was taking.) I felt that the risk of using comfrey internally was probably less than the risk from another prescription. And all ulcer symptoms did resolve in short order.
I would hate to see the feedback about the internal uses erased from this site, as that would reduce our power as consumers to make our decisions about the remedies we use. And the article that mentions comfrey tea does state, "While comfrey is a folk remedy that is still commonly recommended by herbalists, some scientists are concerned about the safety of comfrey, believing it to be harmful to the liver. You should do your own research and use wisdom and common sense about the use of any herbs. A natural practitioner will be able to help you understand any specific concerns about comfrey use for your own situation."
Definitely everyone should do their own research about what works best for them. No one should use a remedy that they are uncomfortable with.
~Mama to Many~
Many years ago, I think it was around 1972 my husband tried to break up our two dogs that had a disagreement and he accidently got bitten on the wrist ---the local DR stitched his wrist and after it healed he was in a lot of pain when he moved his hand ---the Dr wanted to operate on it because he thought he may have stitched the tendon ---I asked him to get a second opinion from my Dr [who was a surgeon] he told him what had happened was that crystals had formed and if it was re opened more crystals would again form. I had just done a herbal medicine course --for the home as I did not want to treat people and I asked him if he would try something out of my witches books [ as he called all my alternate medicine books ] and he said yes so I got some comfrey capsules [ which were available then] and some vitamin E capsules dosage was one in the morning and one at night --- after about 4-5 weeks it had completely healed up and no more pain.
Unfortunately, not long after you could no longer buy the Comfrey capsules.
I also used them for Tennis Elbow, which was also successful.
I had an individual sprain his ankle really bad, it had a huge knot on the side of the ankle and was swelled up the side of the leg. I sent him home with some dried comfrey and told him to make a large kettle of comfrey tea and add some apple cider vinegar. By the end of the evening the swelling was almost all gone. And the next day the swelling was all gone and he could walk on it with no pain, as if nothing had happened.
From a thread on Curezone regarding Comfrey:
"Water01 - Thank you for that great post AND for this opportunity to set the record straight about one of Nature's/God's GREATEST healing plants!
That 'warning letter' was sent to virtually every company that was selling herbs at that time (of which the FDA was aware). What is most frustratingly (to me) is that one of the LARGEST companies with the most money to fight the lies (Dr. Christopher's company, now run by his children), willingly chose to kowtow and remove the Comfrey from all their father's products, rather than fight the FDA. So, with one of the major players 'knocked out of the fight', the smaller players (armed with truth & integrity, but very little money), had to shoulder the burden of the battle. And battle they did, and they WON (even if the court costs for them were astronomical with no way to recoup them). Herbalists ARE still allowed to include comfrey in products for internal use legally.
The unneccesary "warning" (regarding comfrey only being safe for external use) is still widely in place...which is VERY frustrating. It is very rare to find someone familiar enough with herbs & natural health/healing that they are not 'scared away' by a "liver damage" & "cancer" warning...so likely millions of people that could benefit from the healing miracles of comfrey are deprived. :( And this is all very similar to the authorities manipulation of the public concept of the safety of natural Ephedra (not the varieties of sythetic kinds or the products that were mixed with other unsafe plants or chemical stimulants). The "scare" about Ephedra even 'got me' for a time. (Note - it's a true shame we don't have a legitimate organization that will test and oversee the marketing of herbal products. There were truly innocent people hurt very seriously by the use of Ephedra products that were adulterated with chemical toxins. And there have been cases of people having all kinds of abnormal reactions and problems from taking herbs that were grown with the usage of DDT and other incredibly toxic chemicals. Besides being a carcinogen, DDT is also a neurotoxin, so there have been people with neurological illnesses that have worsened after taking the very herbs that should help them heal. :(
When I was researching the FDA/Comfrey/Christopher situation, I found (what appears to be) the "final word on Comfrey" from the FDA's website. It is pasted below in it's entirely (as written), and then there's "my review" of the data AFTER running it through my "Spin Detector" (this document puts a theme park ride to shame with the velocity of spin it contains!).
Let's see how good YOUR "Spin Detector" is! Read the document below and discern what you determine & conclude after reading it. After you've finished, ask yourself: Does it provide factual evidence? Is it legitimate? After reading it, does the use of Comfrey concern you? What do you now know about Comfrey that you didn't know before?
Here it is, straight from the mouth of the FDA:
The use of comfrey in dietary supplements is a serious concern to FDA. These plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances which are firmly established to be hepatotoxins in animals. Reports in the scientific literature clearly associate oral exposure of comfrey and pyrrolizidine alkaloids with the occurrence of veno-occlusive disease (VOD) in animals. Moreover, outbreaks of hepatic VOD have been reported in other countries over the years and the toxicity of these substances in humans is generally accepted. The use of products containing comfrey has also been implicated in serious adverse incidents over the years in the United States and elsewhere. However, while information is generally lacking to establish a cause-effect relationship between comfrey ingestion and observed adverse effects humans, the adverse effects that have been seen are entirely consistent with the known effects of comfrey ingestion that have been described in the scientific literature. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are present in comfrey, in addition to being potent hepatotoxins, have also been shown to be toxic to other tissues as well. There is also evidence that implicates these substances as carcinogens. Taken together, the clear evidence of an association between oral exposure to pyrrolizidine alkaloids and serious adverse health effects and the lack of any valid scientific data that would enable the agency to determine whether there is an exposure, if any, that would present no harm to consumers, indicates that this substance should not be used as an ingredient in dietary supplements.
So now, how ya feelin' about the internal use of Comfrey? Do you feel like you're heard and absorbed the truth? Before you read the "Sarcastic Spin Detector" version below, there's two things you need to know (or remember).
#1 There are pyrrolizzidine alkaloids present in MANY plants, and many are known to cause liver damage, but so far, there is absolutely zero factual evidence that the specific pyrrolizzidine alkaloids in Comfrey have ever caused liver damage or cancer. Here are a few of the plants with PAs that have caused damage:http://lib.bioinfo.pl/pmid:7311596
The inset text below is from this FANTASTIC article of the safey & use of Comfrey:http://www.herbsarespecial.com.au/free-herb-information/comfrey.html
Outbreaks of PA poisoning in humans, in the past, have usually been the result of accidental contamination of food crops, with the toxic seeds of other plants. One such instance was an outbreak of veno-occlusive disease in Afghanistan in 1974. This outbreak followed a severe drought and the people were suffering from acute malnutrition (an important factor). About 22% of the people showed evidence of liver disease when examined in 1975. The cause of the outbreak was traced to bread, contaminated by heliotropium seed (which grew extensively in the wheat fields). Samples of the wheat examined, were found to contain an average of 40 seeds (300 mg) per kg of wheat.
Cases of liver damage, due to people drinking bush teas of seneca and crotalaria, have been reported from a number of places. J. A. Pembery, B.Sc., advisor to the Henry Doubleday Research Association, Essex, U.K. says, in the book ‘The Safety of Comfrey', that there appear to be no cases, in medical history or veterinary records, of humans or animals, showing clinical symptoms, of pyrrolizidine alkaloid poisoning, from the consumption of comfrey. Lawrence D. Hills, in his forward in the book, mentions that the Commonwealth Bureau of Animal Health very kindly carried out a computer search through their records of 137,000 cases of stock poisoning by plants, since 1972, and found only one concerning case: a case of comfrey-nitrate poisoning in pigs from excessive use of fertilisers in Germany.
#2 At some time in school (likely a long time ago in a science class far, far, away), you probably heard the very valid statement that "correlation does not prove causation" (or "association does not prove causation"). This means, that's just because two things happen to be correlated or associated, it doesn't prove that one causes the other. For example, it may be true that almost always when you're trying to take a relaxing soak in the tub, the phone starts ringing or the kids go ballistic. (That's a correlation or an association). But running a bath full of hot water and getting in it does not CAUSE a phone to ring (or children to misbehave). Hence, correlation/association does not prove causation (although it's possible that when things are correlated or associated, one of them does cause another). But two events happening together does not PROVE one causes the other. One has to do more testing and studying to find out how the events are related.
So, here it is - The Comfrey Bomb (FDA in black - me in cool blue :)
The use of comfrey in dietary supplements is a serious concern to FDA.
Perhaps you, the FDA would care to be seriously concerned about the 50,000+ deaths from the drug you approved named Vioxx - or the fact that even without including that drug in the number, more than 100,000-150,000 people actually DIE each year from ingesting, as prescribed, the drugs that you've tested and approved. And before you start researching the dangers of a plant that have been proven to be safe for decades, perhaps you'd like to start dealing with the fact that you allow chemical additives in our food that have already been thoroughly tested and proved to cause cancer and other diseases.
These plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances which are firmly established to be hepatotoxins in animals.
Yes, some of the various pyrrolizidine alkaloids in some plants have been shown to be hepatoxic in animals. But there has NEVER been a verified instance of anyone using Comfrey and developing liver disease because of it. So what you likely meant to say is: "Some plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are firmly established to be hepatotoxins in animals (and humans)...but that has never been established with Comfrey".
Reports in the scientific literature clearly associate oral exposure of comfrey and pyrrolizidine alkaloids with the occurrence of veno-occlusive disease (VOD) in animals.
Yes, there are reports that associate oral exposure to comfrey with VOD, but there are none that prove it...or you (the great and almighty FDA) woulddefinitely be mentioning it. And 'association' is a LONG way from causation...and barely worth mentioning to a critically thinking scientist without other evidence or conclusive studies. Do you HAVE any conclusive studies?
Moreover, outbreaks of hepatic VOD have been reported in other countries over the years...
Well, yes, VOD has many causes...what does that have to do with Comfrey?
...and the toxicity of these substances in humans is generally accepted.
There's absolutely no doubt that some pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and virtually all of those extracted/isolated and injected in large amounts, or synthesized pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are typically use for testing, are toxic at high levels. So yes, that is "generally accepted" as you say...but you still haven't proven that the specific pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Comfrey are hepatotoxic in any way (even though you continue to strongly imply that). And just because you're giving us a major "spin treatment" doesn't mean we're dull enough to fall for it.
The use of products containing comfrey has also been implicated in serious adverse incidents over the years in the United States and elsewhere.
Ahem, taking a bath daily and getting fresh air was implicated as the cause of many diseases and 'adverse incidents' throughout the world for centuries. The 'fact' that the earth was flat and the oceans had sea monsters was implicated in the 'adverse incidents' of ships for centuries. Those turned out to be incorrect implications.
Besides"implicated" is a far cry from "proven". And if you happen to have some "implication" other than heresay or gossip, we'd like to know. Please tell us what else was in those 'products that contained comfrey'; and were those products -and that comfrey in them- grown in third world countries and doused with DDT and other hepatotoxic pesticides? And forgive us for questioning you, but just because "you say" Comfrey has been 'implicated in serious adverse incidents', that doesn't make it true --unless you have evidence, of course. Do you have any evidence? Can we just stick to the facts please?
Drumroll please, from THE mouth of the FDA! However, whileinformation is generally lacking to establish a cause-effect relationship between comfrey ingestion and observed adverse effects humans... well, gosh-golly-gee, you're the FDA, I'm sure you would know if there's any evidence to be found. And since you admit "information is lacking to establish a true cause-effect", then, uh, there's no information to establish one, eh?)
...the adverse effects that have been seen are entirely consistent with the known effects of comfrey ingestion that have been described in the scientific literature. HUH???? You just said there's no information to establish a cause-effect relationship...so how can there even BE adverse effects with known comfrey ingestion, if there's no information to establish a cause-effect??? We're not quite as dumb as you think we are, are you're certainly not as "smooth" as you think you are! (Did you really just put two totally conflicting statements in the same sentence?)
The pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are present in comfrey, in addition to being potent hepatotoxins, have also been shown to be toxic to other tissues as well. No! No! No! You just said that information is generally lacking to establish a cause-effect with Comfrey and adverse effects in humans...and you've NEVER proven or referenced a study that proves Comfrey is a potent hepatotoxin. What you probably MEANT to say, is that some pyrrolizidine alkaloids from some plants are potent hepatotoxins...and you'd like to lump Comfrey in with those, but you'd don't have any evidence to do so. So you're lumping it all together anyway and hoping we'll fall for it.
There is also evidence that implicates these substances as carcinogens. Implicated? or PROVEN? And by 'these substances', do you mean synthetic or extracted/isolated pyrrolizidine alkaloids from the known toxic alkaloids/plants, or from the 'Comfrey substances' which you've already clearly admitted have no proven cause-effect relationship to adverse effects in humans?
Taken together, the clear evidence of an association between oral exposure to pyrrolizidine alkaloids and serious adverse health effects... Again, as we learned in science class: "association" or "correlation" does NOT prove "causation". And again-again :::sigh::: are we talking the PA's from the plants that are KNOWN to contain toxic PA's, or the PA's from Comfrey (that have NEVER been proven to cause ANY harm to man or beast)?
...and the lack of any valid scientific data that would enable the agency to determine whether there is an exposure, if any, that would present no harm to consumers, ... So far you've got "association" -which you're quite aware, means absolutely nothing unless you have valid scientific data that PROVES a correlation. AND you have "lack of any valid scientific data". So exactly what are you going to conclude?
...indicates that this substance should not be used as an ingredient in dietary supplements.
:::in my best Mr. Rodgers voice::: Okay folks, can you say "AGENDA"??? Sure, I knew you could.
Now then, it is any wonder, that after almost a century of this level of "spin & lies" being imbedded into the minds of society and physicians (AND alternative & natural healers), that we're all scared to death to eat plants to heal ourself? (Of course, this doesn't mean that we should be stupid and run out there and stuff our face with anything and everything just because it's "natural" and someone said it was good for us). But it is VERY important to know the the pharmaceutical industry-owned AMA (whose foundational mission is "to protect the legal & financial interest of it's members") and all it's greedy tentacles, have spent BILLIONS of dollars since the late 1890's,,,, hiring the TOP psychologists and advertising PR experts to propagandize & brainwash society and destroy the competition. And you just saw one little blurb that's part of the process. All of us (and all of those we ever try to help) are victims of this 'fear & quackery' campaign...and how deceitful, impactful, and health-destroying their incredible levels of "spin" really are.
Let truth and freedom REIGN!
"Those who know the least obey the best."--George Farquhar
Here is how I make Comfrey Salve:
I usually use dried comfrey leaf from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Sometimes I used dried fresh comfrey leaf. (I always should since I have a comfrey plant but I get lazy.)
Fresh leaves, if you have access to them, can be cleaned and dried in an oven on very low heat. You want them dry but not completely brittle.
I fill a mason jar 2/3 full of comfrey leaves. I then cover that with oil until jar is 3/4 full. It can be all olive oil or almond oil. But I usually add in some castor oil since it is good for pain. (No more than 1/3 of it should be castor. It is pretty greasy and not sure if it extracts the comfrey as well as olive or almond.)
The leaves should be completely submerged in oil.
I allow this to sit for 2 weeks in a cool dry place. OR I put the closed jar on a washcloth (to prevent cracking) in a crock pot and fill the crock pot with water to just below the lid (you don't want water to seep into the mixture.) I put the crock pot on warm or low for 3-4 days. (Low if I will be around enough to keep refilling the water. If it goes dry you may crack the jar.)
After you have infused the oil with one of the above methods, use a square of a clean t shirt or sheet that you can part with. Use this square to strain out the oil into another jar. Squeeze as much oil out as you can. Toss spent herbs or compost or feed to chickens.
Now you have comfrey infused oil. You can use this oil as is. Or you can melt in beeswax to make a salve. I have done both.
To melt in beeswax, first weigh your oil, then use a double boiler and reheat the infused oil. For every 4 ounces (by weight) of oil, add 1 T. beeswax pastilles. (Little granules.) Melt them in and then pour your mixture into a jar or tin. I usually test before pouring by putting a bit in the freezer for a couple of minutes. If it is too soft, add more beesax. If too firm, add a little more olive oil.
You can add vitamin e or essential oils to but I rarely do that anymore unless I have a specific purpose in mind. These infused oils last a good while and I like the simplicity.
Comfrey salve oil is also amazing for skin rashes, burns, hemorrhoids, and chapped lips.
~Mama to Many~
Comfrey leaf for cartilage repair
I have a lipoma and I heard comfrey leaf might help. I ordered some comfrey leaf plantain leaf tea from someone on etsy and comfrey leaf tablets and took them three times a day and drank a pot of tea daily. Well, it did nothing for my lipoma but I had an indented scar on the side tip of my nose that dug into my cartilage from a cancerous growth being removed. After two weeks it started filling in.
I've had this scar for four years, got injections used salves oils and creams and nothing a big hole in my nose. Now its almost filled in and I am shocked. Doctors said I would need an implant.
Well, my smoothie picture today doesn't have a sunny background. It is chilly and drizzly this morning. But I still made a smoothie this morning; it is one of my favorite breakfasts. My son with poison ivy is doing so much better, so I am back to making smoothie that has what I like and think I need in it (Thought I loved the Pina Colada Smoothie). Every day my smoothie is different but here is today's recipe (approximately.)
- 2 medium sized comfrey leaves
- 3/4 cup yogurt
- 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
- 1 Tablespoon Gelatin
- 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup almond milk (maybe a little more)
Blend all in a blender.
It wasn't very sweet; some honey could be added.
Benefits of this smoothie for women:
Comfrey is good for strong and flexible bones, healthy skin and good digestion. Herbalist Susun Weed says it contains special proteins for short term memory brain cells.
Susun Weed also recommends regular consumption of yogurt for menopausal women.
Blueberries are tasty antioxidants.
Chia seeds are good for digestion and give you Omega 3's.
Gelatin is good for the health of joints, skin, hair and nails.
~Mama to Many~
Well, its that time of year again. Everything is growing, including the poison ivy. My 11 year old has it pretty badly. Yesterday his face was quite swollen. Time to continue the tweaking of my poison ivy protocol.
I made a strong plantain/comfrey tea and keep it in the fridge. He uses a cotton ball to apply the tea to his face when it is uncomfortable. I had him wash his face with fels naptha soap. I put dmso on his face and then a plantain/comfrey salve. I had him take a baking soda bath and drink a comfrey smoothie. He thinks the bath helped the most. I think the DMSO helped the most. He said that the DMSO burned (I used 70%) which is why I applied the salve afterwards. I am also giving him bromelain and turmeric capsules to help reduce inflammation.
Today the poison ivy is drying out some and looks less red. I am hopeful that he is on the mend. He has some in the corners of his mouth, making eating uncomfortable. I made him a comfrey Pina Colada which he could drink through the straw. He wasn't thrilled about the comfrey but his little brothers (and I) think it tastes delicious.
I made a large batch in my blender -
- 5 or so comfrey leaves
- 2 small cans pineapple with juice
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 frozen bananas
~Mama to Many~
In 1995, I was living in a small rural town without medical facilities when my bowel ruptured. When my husband got me to the hospital in a neighboring town, they did emergency surgery and removed 14 inches of my descending bowel. Because I had peritonitis, they weren't able to close the incision completely. It had to heal on it's own. I was taught by a home health nurse to pack the opening, which went from my breastbone to my pubic bone and was gaping open about four inces across. Each day I would wet yards and yards of gauze with sterile saline, fill the wound and cover it with a dressing. I was told it would take three months for the sides to pull together and close. I had comfrey growing in my yard, and decided to do what I could to help myself. I made strong comfrey tea with the sterile saline and soaked the gauze in the tea before packing the wound. I don't have to tell you how gross it looked with the green gauze soaked with body fluids, but I watched, each day, facinated, as tiny translucent, flesh colored globes of granulation tissue grew in the bottom of the wound. The home health nurse came ince a week and was amazed at how rapidly the wound was closing and how free of infection it remained. When I went for my six week checkup, the doctor said, "Your nurse has told me what you've been doing. I want to see this. " When he removed the dressing (which I'd put on for his benefit) he said, "Well, I'll be --------. " All that was under the dressing was a clean white scar, completely healed. I've used comfrey, as have these other people, for many purposes, for many years, but this was the most spectacular. Right now I'm using it as a poultice on a biopsy of a cancer on my nose while I'm waiting the results. Whatever the outcome, I know I'll heal well with comfrey.
Sent to Earth Clinic in 2002 by Cloe Jazwinski of Los Angeles, CA. Cloe knows a thing or two about healing a bone fracture. Cloe is a 2nd Dan black belt in karate who has used comfrey salves to heal two bone fractures.
She writes, "Comfrey is one of the most well-known healing plants, especially for its ability to heal tissue and bone (due to its allantoin content, which promotes the growth of connective tissue, bone, and cartilage, and is easily absorbed through the skin). Besides broken bones, these externally poulticed leaves and roots are also used for cuts, bruises and sprains."
Recipe: Comfrey is best used fresh and simmered. Use the sticky paste to make a compress and attach it with an elastic bandage. Use every night. This will speed the healing of the fracture dramatically.
To heal her fractures, every night Cloe would grind several tablespoons of comfrey with a mortar and would bring it to a boil with a few spoons of water. She then would make a paste out of it, spread the paste on a cotton cloth, wrap it around her arm, and put elastic bands or safety pins in to secure it. Even though she had 2 fractures, Cloe decided not to wear a cast but a sling, which is why she could take off the sling at night.
Writes Cloe, "The feeling of that compress was heavenly. Even though everyone said I'd always know where my arm was broken (rain and humidity brings back the pain for the rest of your life), I never felt it and I attribute that to the comfrey compress routine. It's known to heal wounds extremely fast as well (I use a pre-made ointment of comfrey and aloe on scratches and minor wounds and they disappear overnight). I see comfrey as the crazy glue of broken bones and skin..."
Not recommended for internal use as there is some controversy about carcinogenic effects. The controversy around the use of this plant concerns its pyrrolizidine alkaloid components, which are considered carcinogenic to the liver; however, these studies have been performed on rats that were fed up to 33% of their diet in comfrey leaf. Studies done with the whole plant (rather than with isolated constituents) do not show carcinogenic effects but rather the opposite. In fact, the Japanese use comfrey vinegar extracts for treating cirrhosis of the liver.