Can Comfrey be used safely?
In short, yes and no!
Comfrey is a very powerful medicinal plant that has been used for centuries to heal and "knit" bone back together. Allantoin is a naturally occurring chemical which is found within the plant that has been shown to promote healthy bone and cartilage growth. I can speak from personal experience on how well Comfrey can knit bone back together. Back in 2015 my husband had reconstructive surgery on his left arm and elbow to fix a bad break that he had experienced when he was a young teenager. The arm was now causing him a lot of pain to the point where it was interfering with the quality of his life, and mine!
After the surgery, which was considered a success, my husband began months of rehabilitation and healing. Six months later my husbands surgeon followed up with x-rays to assess how well his bones were healing and coming back together (my husband now has a few screws helping to hold his arm bones together). Both my husband and myself were very disappointed with the x-ray results. His arm was not healing. There was very little to no new bone growth in his arm. At this point I thought it might be a good time to dig out the comfrey salve. Comfrey should never be used for more then 10 days in a row (we kept it at 7 days for my husband) and it should only be used for a maximum of 5 weeks within a full year. This is because of the strain that Comfrey can place on the liver. The natural chemicals within Comfrey are so powerful and potent that a massive strain is placed onto the liver. Comfrey has been shown in laboratory studies to cause liver cancer. If Comfrey is applied to unbroken skin (and it is highly recommended that it never be ingested) at the intervals stated above then it can be safely used. After only two months of using the Comfrey Salve (a total of 21 days with breaks in between) my husband was scheduled for x-rays again. The bones in his arm had gone from showing virtually no progress in healing to being more then 95% healed! He was finished with x-rays and wished a good life by the surgeon and staff. So yes, Comfrey is absolutely incredible in how well it can heal and regenerate.
This brings me to the main point of this blog post. If Comfrey is that powerful should we perhaps not respect it for this power and use it in moderation only when really required? I think about this because I do see more and more natural body and face care products containing Comfrey. This worries me because I know how powerful Comfrey is and I am aware of the risks involved when using it everyday. Just because something is 100% natural and from the Earth, does not mean that it is safe for us to use.
As a consumer I ask you to think about these risks and be aware of products that contain Comfrey. If you see an ingredient listed and you are not familiar with it, look it up, understand what it is and ask yourself if it is safe for you to use.
If you are reading this and you are a maker of natural body care products and you do use Comfrey as one of your ingredients, I ask you to consider these questions. Do you put warnings on your product(s)? Do you think it is fare to use a product that could pose a danger to your clients health without disclosing this danger to them? Some people will argue that the recommendations for the safe use of Comfrey are too strict, but are the regulations for the use of Comfrey too strict for a person who already has a damaged liver or has a history of liver cancer in their family? I think we can all answer no to that question.
Consumers deserve to make their own choice about their health and well being. I believe that all manufacturers (big or small) should put that choice into the hands of their clients and warn them about the possible risks involved when using Comfrey or other natural and plant based products that may have detrimental side effects.
Comfrey is absolutely wonderful and I can't recommend it enough to help heal broken bones and cartilage, but I do not believe that it is a safe choice in the pursuit of natural everyday body care products.