Comfrey has been used and trusted as both a food plant and a medicinal plant for over 2000 years. In the late 1970’s, Comfrey fell into disrepute and was listed as a dangerous poison in 1984. These days, Comfrey is mainly used in organic farming as a fertilizer and soil improver.
The truth about comfrey and its history is quite interesting and no plant has ever suffered the same treatment by authorities. The Australian poison listing followed an overseas study on baby rats. The rats were injected with pyrrolidine alkaloids, a chemical found in Comfrey. The report stated that the rats eventually developed liver failure or died.
Over the years, the truth about the study has been revealed, or at least part of the truth, but the listing has never been removed. In the original study, the alkaloid was injected into 28 baby rats every day for 600 days and at the end of the study, one rat had developed one liver tumour. A human would need to ingest 19,888 leaves for 16 years to obtain a comparative dose or consume 5 to 6 leaves everyday for 150 years. No human has ever developed liver tumours from consuming Comfrey.
Most of the original study was never released and the reasons behind the campaign to ban comfrey may never be known, but the fear remains, and its use in society is limited. Recent studies have discovered many benefits of using comfrey, both internally and externally, with no side effects.
Comfrey is high in Allantoin, an important ingredient in commercial skin treatments, moisturisers and anti aging preparations. All skin conditions, including bruises, boils, cuts, grazed, insect bites, varicose veins and muscle pain will benefit from applications of comfrey. Poultices and ointments are said to halve the healing time when applied to broken bones, tendon damage and bad backs.
Decoctions and infused oils, made from the leaves and roots, are the basis for many external preparations. Make a strong tea and apply it as a simple wash or add it to your bath water.
The listed benefits for internal use are extensive, but if you choose to take it internally, you should investigate comfrey for yourself.
To grow comfrey, take a root cutting anytime of the year and plant it about 5cm beneath the soil surface. The plant likes moist compost rich soil and loves cow manure tossed around the surface. In dry period, make sure your comfrey gets plenty of water, as they hate to dry out.
Organic gardeners can use the leaves in the compost or make a nutrient rich tea to apply as a liquid fertiliser. The leaves are safe to feed to livestock and are an excellent green feed for poultry.
Although it is against the law to sell comfrey preparations for medicinal internal use, they have not banned growing the plant. Comfrey makes my list as a ‘must grow plant’ in your garden, I recommend planting comfrey and learning to make your own creams, ointments and poultices.
I will post links to research data shortly.