Comfrey Uses + Soothing Comfrey Cream Recipe (2024)

I started growing comfrey a couple of years ago, but my reasons were NOT strictly altruistic. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of my herbs, but I particularly love perennial herbs like comfrey that are well suited to a pot and can be brought indoors during our cold Kansas winter.

There is Comfort in Comfrey

Comfrey (Symphytum officianale), a member of the borage family, is a fast-growing, leafy perennial. The Latin name is from the Greek symphis, which means “growing together of bones” or “knit together.” Comfrey has appeared in the Materia Medica since the Middle Ages and some references to the plant date back as far as 50 AD. True to its Latin name, comfrey was applied externally as a poultice for bruises, sprains and fractures. It was taken internally for a variety of medical aliments ranging from broken bones and gastric ulcers to the treatment of female disorders.

Comfrey contains allantoin, a substance commonly used in the cosmetic industry. Allantoin promotes granulation and cell formation which aids in healing at the cellular level. It has both anti-inflamatory and keratinolytic effects and is useful in the treatment of skin conditions following post radiation in cancer patients. It is now formulated synthetically. Comfrey also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), a known hepatotoxic agent. Overuse of substances containing PAs can lead to severe liver damage and for that reason Australia placed Comfrey on the Poison Advisory List in 1984. Germany and Canada followed suit and in 2001, the FDA asked major manufacturers to remove comfrey from their standard list of ingredients.

(Note from Editor: It should be noted that the studies that led to this decision involved isolating PAs and injecting them at high concentrations into rats. Since a chemical in isolation behaves differently than when present in a whole plant, rats are different than humans, and it is unclear whether common comfrey (S. officinale) or Russian comfrey (S. uplandicum) was used, there is dissension among herbalists regarding this decision and whether comfrey is indeed toxic. We err on the side of caution and recommend avoiding comfrey for internal use particularly in the case of preexisting liver conditions, and if considering internal use we recommend researching this matter for yourself so you have all the facts.)

Comfrey Uses + Soothing Comfrey Cream Recipe (1)

Growing Comfrey in the Garden

Comfrey is also useful in organic gardening due to its rich nitrogen content. When mulched,the fast-growing leaves make a great compost activator. The leaves are so fast-growing that I can harvest comfrey leaves and within a week they have already grown back by half to their pre-cut size. Needless to say, I am definitely comfortable with comfrey.

Comfrey Uses inFirst Aid

Remember when I said that my reasons for growing comfrey were not altruistic? Well, it turns out that I am a bit of a rebel at heart. I’ve done extensive reading on comfrey and concluded that when used externally, comfrey is a useful and beneficial herb. As it turns out, I was correct.

Last summer, my husband and I were moving one of my failure-to-thrive beehives. We’d had a delayed and wet spring, and one of my more aggressive hives appeared sickly. I decided to isolate them on a friend’s property away from my healthy hives. After a month of quarantine and a good dose of sunshine, they bounced back and were ready to return to the bee yard. Moving is very stressful to bees. We usually try and move them as near to or after sunset in order to give all the foragers a chance to return to the hive. A rumble or two of thunder is usually enough to send them scurrying back home. I knew the forecast of an impending storm would further aggravate the aggressive nature of this particular hive. I pulled on my Bug Baffler, a protective mesh shirt and a long gloves, but I confess, in my hurry to beat the storm, I opted to forgo my protective pants.

As a beekeeper, stings are to be expected, especially in times of high stress. I got stung on the tender flesh of my inner thigh, not just once, but twice. Normally, I get a localized reaction from a sting, swelling and then itching for 2-3 days. But sensitive areas like the face or inner thigh can be painful and I expected a fair amount of swelling and itching.

I quickly took stock of my herbs and remembered the comfrey leaves I was in the process of drying. Recalling comfrey’s anti-inflammatory effects when applied externally, I decided to make a quick poultice from the steeped comfrey leaves.

Comfrey Uses + Soothing Comfrey Cream Recipe (2)

Making a Comfrey Poultice

Comfrey leaves should be harvested right before the flower blooms and be used dried or fresh. Steep fresh chopped leaves in water that has been brought to a boil for 20-30 minutes. Strain with a kitchen strainer. I prefer to use a French Press for my herbal teas or tisanes.

Wrap the steeped leaves in cheesecloth, muslin or felt to make a poultice and apply externally. Do NOT apply to broken skin or open wounds. Reapply every 10-15 minutes over the next hour, as needed. Much to my surprise, I had instant relief from the comfrey poultice (more on poultices here)! I then soaked a cotton ball with comfrey and taped it on the sting overnight, and the swelling was gone the next morning.

The tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months for cool, soothing use. Do not take internally. Use comfrey for no more than 10 days in a row. Do not use comfrey in the presence of active liver disease or in conjunction with medications that impair liver function.

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Soothing Comfrey Cream

Comfrey can also be made into a lovely soothing cream. My husband uses comfrey cream for skeletal muscle pain with great results. And of course, I keep my comfrey cream handy for the pesky bee stings. The following is a recipe for Soothing Comfrey Cream that I make here at home.

Soothing Comfrey Cream

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2 cups dried, crushed comfrey leaves (order here)
2 cups organic olive oil
1/2 cup beeswax pastilles
1 ounce organic emulsifying wax (or another ounce of beeswax)
2 ounces shea butter or lanolin (your choice)
2-1000 mg vitamin E capsules
5-6 drops essential oil of choice


  • Loosely pack a 1 quart mason jar with comfrey leaves. Fill with the olive oil, or enough to cover the comfrey leaves, and allow to infuse for at least 30 days.
  • Strain comfrey leaves, yielding approximately 1 1/2 cups of infused oil.
  • Place the 1 1/2 cup of infused oil in the top of a double boiler which has been brought to a boil. Turn down heat to a low simmer.
  • Slowly add beeswax pastilles and emulsifying wax. I use an organic beeswax/emulsifying wax combination of about 2/3 cup.
  • Blend in shea butter or lanolin until melted. Lanolin will produce a slightly greasier formula which can be easier to apply.
  • Puncture vitamin E capsules and add oil to the mixture. Vitamin E is soothing to skin and is a natural antioxidant that prevents oxidation and rancidity.
  • Add 5-6 drops of essential oil depending on the use. Your choice, but my favorites are lavender to soothe tension and/or lemongrass to aid in healing ligament and muscle tears. Wintergreen is useful for sore muscles and chamomille aids in the reduction of swelling and bruising. You can add a combination that works for you or 2-3 drops to each individual container.
  • Pour the melted mixture into containers with lids. Allow to solidify and cool before capping with lids. Label and date.

Using herbs is a personal choice. The use of medicinal herbs has been well documented as an alternative treatment for disease and acute injuries across the world. In many cultures, herbs are used to promote health and restore the human body to a state of balance in order to facilitate the healing process.

Learn more about the internal use of comfrey in our post The Comfrey Controversy: Can and Should One Use Comfrey Internally?

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To learn more about the medicinal uses of herbs, consider enrolling in the Introductory Herbalism Course or the Intermediate Herbalism Course. Or check out The Herbarium for extensive plant monographs and articles on herbalism, and learn how to integrate herbal medicine into your daily life.

Bee the Change!

Rebecca O’Bea is a beekeeper and avid gardener from Kansas. A budding herbalist and student at HANE, she can be found most days knee-deep in compost and blogging about her daily life atThe Bee Queen. Some photos provided byRebecca O’Bea, used with permission for this article.

Comfrey Uses + Soothing Comfrey Cream Recipe (2024)


How do you make comfrey cream? ›

Making comfrey ointment: this is how it works
  1. Clean and grate the comfrey roots.
  2. Make oil extract with coconut oil: simmer for 1 to 2 hours on a low heat and then sieve.
  3. Melt the beeswax and mix with the oil extract.
  4. Fill the ointment and leave to cool.
May 12, 2023

How do you make comfrey oil for arthritis? ›

The steps
  1. Gently remove dried comfrey leaves from their stems; crumble into mason jar.
  2. Pour carrier oil over dried comfrey leaves to the top of the jar. Cover with tight lid.
  3. Shake gently every day, strain after 3 weeks; it is good for 3 months.

What are the ingredients in comfrey ointment? ›

Comfrey cream combines ingredients like oils or water and glyceryl stearate with Symphytum officinale (comfrey) extracts. Comfrey is an herb in the Boraginaceae family and has small purple flowers.

How do you use comfrey for inflammation? ›

For arthritis relief, try creating a poultice of comfrey with pain-relieving essential oils such as peppermint oil and applying it to the painful areas two to three times a day. Please note: comfrey should only be used topically up to 10 consecutive days, in order to avoid bioaccumulation.

How do you make the best comfrey salve? ›

  1. Place crushed comfrey leaves in an empty honey jar and cover with oil.
  2. Stand jar (without lid) in a pan of warm water – make sure the water reaches half way up the jar.
  3. Gently heat the water and allow to simmer for 20 mins.
  4. Strain out the comfrey and return jar (with now infused oil) to the water pan.
Sep 7, 2023

What should you not do with comfrey? ›

You should never take comfrey by mouth. The toxic substances in comfrey can be absorbed by the skin. Even creams and ointments should be used for only a short time, and only under a doctor's supervision. DO NOT use comfrey on open wounds or broken skin.

Is comfrey cream good for arthritis pain? ›

Joint pain

According to the same research review, results also suggested that comfrey can help treat osteoarthritis, as well as some injuries, such as ankle sprains. A study reported in Phytotherapy Research also suggests that creams containing comfrey root can help relieve upper and lower back pain.

What is the best oil to make comfrey oil with? ›

Description: Comfrey is a plant that has been renowned for its healing properties for centuries. Comfrey promotes the growth of new skin cells and helps to increase the resilience of sensitive skin. This oil is produced by steeping Comrey in Sunflower oil for a period before removing the plant matter.

Does comfrey help with joint pain? ›

Forty patients suffering from knee joint injuries, sprains and bruises were treated with ointment containing comfrey extract, achieving a significant reduction of pain (pain at rest and on movement) and swelling. The mobility of the affected joint increased significantly.

How do you use comfrey cream? ›

Topical creams containing comfrey root extract have most often been applied to the skin by adults for up to 3 weeks. Don't apply comfrey products to broken skin or use large amounts on the skin, long-term. The poisonous chemicals in comfrey can be absorbed through the skin.

What is the best way to use comfrey? ›

7 Best Uses for Comfrey
  1. Plant Up Shady Areas. ...
  2. Bulk up Compost. ...
  3. Feed the Bees. ...
  4. Use Comfrey as Mulch. ...
  5. Ferment Comfrey into Fertilizer. ...
  6. Make a Comfrey Poultice. ...
  7. Comfrey Tea for Houseplants.
Oct 22, 2020

How do you make ointment? ›

A base for your ointment is simply made from 800ml olive oil (other oil can be used if desired but olive is awesome) to 150gm beeswax. First gently boil the herbs of choice in the oil until it stops steaming and frothing. Remove the heat immediately and allow to cool. Strain through nylon stockings or suitable filter.

How did Native Americans use comfrey? ›

It will act as cataplasm in the case of inflammation. Army medics relied on comfrey to treat wounds from Alexander the Great to World War I. Native Americans considered comfrey a sacred healing plant and drank it as a tea as well as using it topically. Comfrey was used in cooking for feeding livestock.

How do you use comfrey for back pain? ›

Extract of comfrey root can be used to quickly and effectively relieve chronic back pain, latest study results suggest. German researchers studied 120 people with upper and lower back pain. Half used an ointment containing extract of comfrey root – 4g applied three to five times a day - and the rest used a placebo.

Can I put comfrey on my face? ›

Comfrey is recommended for external use and is very beneficial for skincare products. However, studies have shown that comfrey is not safe to be taken for internal use as the plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are toxic to the liver. A. Vogel Comfrey Cream is safe to use externally.

What is comfrey cream good for? ›

Several recent randomized clinical trials substantiate the efficacy of topical comfrey preparations in the treatment of pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in the case of degenerative arthritis, acute myalgia in the back, sprains, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents, also in ...

Is comfrey safe to use topically? ›

Topical creams containing comfrey root extract have most often been applied to the skin by adults for up to 3 weeks. Don't apply comfrey products to broken skin or use large amounts on the skin, long-term. The poisonous chemicals in comfrey can be absorbed through the skin.

What are the side effects of comfrey cream? ›

Common side effects of comfrey include:
  • abdominal distension.
  • abdominal pain.
  • loss of appetite.
  • lack of energy.
  • liver enlargement.
  • decreased urine output.
  • obstruction of small veins in the liver (veno-occlusive disease)

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