Last updated: August 10, 2021

Comfrey root is a herbal remedy. Comfrey is a common plant that contains allantoin, especially in its root. It is used for minor injuries to support healing. It is also used as a herbal painkiller for sports injuries. Its effect is considered to be the same as that of diclofenac. Used correctly, the root has hardly any side effects.

Comfrey root is available in many different varieties. With our comfrey root test 2021 we would like to help you find the comfrey root product that is right for you.




The most important facts

  • Comfrey root is an alternative remedy that can promote healing in a wide range of different injuries. The main active ingredient is allantoin.
  • There are many different versions of comfrey root for its many uses. The best known are dried comfrey root, ointment and oil.
  • Used correctly, comfrey root is a locally acting painkiller and a good alternative for diclofenac. When used for a short time, the medicinal plant has hardly any side effects.

The Best Comfrey Root: Our Picks

Guide: Questions to ask yourself before buying comfrey root

What is comfrey root?

Comfrey is a traditional medicinal plant, also known as comfrey root. Its Latin name is Symphytum officinale. While many years ago the leaves of comfrey were also used, nowadays it is mainly its root (Symphyti radix) that is used.

Beinwellwurzel

The comfrey plant grows mainly in Asia, but it can also be found in Europe and North America, especially in humid areas. (Image source: 123rf.com / 100380860)

Comfrey is primarily used as a herbal alternative to synthetic medicines. It can be used as a local painkiller for minor sports injuries. It is almost exclusively used externally.

Comfrey has its origins in Asia, but can also be found in many places in Europe and North America. The plant, which grows up to 1.5 metres high, grows more in humid areas. It has narrow, dark green leaves with rough hairs. From May to July it flowers in Germany either reddish or yellow.

How does comfrey root work?

Comfrey root is known to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It also supports wound healing and has a wound cleansing effect. It can promote blood circulation locally and also have a bacterial effect.

Comfrey root contains between 0.6% and 0.8% allantoin. Allantoin is an important ingredient in many creams and ointments and has the effect of accelerating cell formation and cell regeneration.

Other substances contained in the root are irritation-relieving mucilages. Tannins and rosmarinic acid have an anti-inflammatory effect. All these substances make comfrey root a very effective remedy.

How is comfrey root used?

While comfrey root was also used internally in teas, for example, it is now mainly used externally because of its side effects.

It is often used for minor bruises, strains or sprains. It can also be used to treat acute back pain and joint arthrosis and relieve discomfort.

Due to its toxic ingredients, products containing comfrey root should not be used on open wounds. In addition, the treatment period should not exceed 4-6 weeks per year.

An exception is made for ready-to-use medicines, as the toxins have often been extracted from these. Comfrey root should also not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding or in children under 3 years of age.

Is comfrey root poisonous?

Comfrey root contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can be harmful to the liver and possibly cause cancer. Another consequence of the toxic ingredients is that they can change the genetic make-up.

Because of this toxicity, the medicinal use of comfrey root is only permitted in Germany under restrictions. Other side effects are, in very rare cases, reddening of the skin in the treated areas.

We strongly advise against collecting wild comfrey root yourself, as it has a high concentration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and can also be easily confused.

For the pharmaceutical production of medicines, either plants low in pyrrolizidine alkaloids are used or the toxic ingredients are filtered out.

How much does comfrey root cost?

The price range for comfrey root or comfrey root preparations is very wide. The following table shows an approximate orientation framework for the different products.

Product type Price
Cut and dried 4-12€/100g
Powder 7-10€/100g
Ointment 6-15€/100g
Oil 7-30€/100ml
Mouthwash 8-25€/100ml

When purchasing comfrey products, there are many factors that should be considered. This explains the sometimes very different prices.

What alternatives are there to comfrey root?

A widely used alternative for comfrey root preparations is diclofenac. Diclofenac is a very well-known medicine that is used to inhibit pain and relieve inflammation.

There are many different uses of diclofenac, but the drug also has many side effects.

Kastanien

Medicines containing horse chestnut preparations are a good herbal alternative to comfrey root. (Image source: unsplash.com / Waldemar Brandt)

Another herbal alternative is horse chestnut preparations. These can be used for minor injuries and swelling. The active ingredient used is aescin. Aescin is an anti-inflammatory substance that comes from the horse chestnut.

Decision: What types of comfrey root are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, we distinguish between these types of comfrey root:

  • dried comfrey root
  • Comfrey root powder
  • Comfrey ointment
  • Comfrey oil
  • Comfrey root mouthwash

In the following, we explain the different types and their respective advantages and disadvantages. In this way, we want to help you find the comfrey root product that is best suited to you.

What distinguishes dried comfrey root and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Dried comfrey root is the most common product. It is the basis for poultices that are applied to the affected area. It can also be ground into powder from which other medicines can be made. .

Another advantage is its long shelf life. The root should be stored in a cool and dry place. Under these circumstances, the plant can be stored for a long time without spoiling. Dried comfrey root is also one of the cheapest products.

Advantages
  • Versatile uses
  • Long shelf life
  • Good value for money
Disadvantages
  • Contains toxic ingredients
  • Unsafe quality

But this form of root also has its disadvantages. The most important one is that the toxic ingredients are not filtered out. This process only happens with finished medicines. Therefore, the use should be restricted.

Another disadvantage is the unmanageable market. Especially on the internet, dried comfrey root is offered in many online shops. The seriousness of the traders cannot always be guaranteed, which of course also has an effect on the quality.

What distinguishes comfrey root powder and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

If you do not want to grind comfrey root yourself, you can also buy comfrey root powder directly. This is probably more finely ground than if you make it yourself. It also saves you a lot of work. Just like the dried comfrey root, the powder is the basic product for many forms of application.

Another advantage is the low price. Comfrey root powder is slightly more expensive than dried root, but the price-performance ratio is still very good.

The powder has the advantage that it does not have high storage requirements. It should not be exposed to direct sunlight and should be stored in a dry place. Comfrey root powder has an even longer shelf life than the dried root.

Advantages
  • Versatile
  • Cheap
  • Long shelf life
Disadvantages
  • Partly dubious traders
  • Active ingredients are lost

Like every product, comfrey root powder has its bad sides. One of them is that the market is very opaque. Large and well-known brands mainly sell ready-made medicines. Comfrey powder is mostly sold by private traders, some of whom appear somewhat dubious.

Another disadvantage is that the healing ingredients may be lost when the root is crushed, making the plant ineffective. It might be more effective to use whole root pieces.

What are the characteristics of comfrey ointment and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The application of comfrey root ointment is very simple and self-explanatory. There are no complicated application guidelines and it does not take long to apply.

The ointment is also one of the cheaper comfrey root products. The price range differs depending on whether a pure root ointment or one with additional active ingredients is purchased.

During the production process, other healing or healing-supporting ingredients are usually added to the root.

The interaction of these ingredients allows for the best possible result. There are ointments in which comfrey root is the main active ingredient and those in which comfrey root is only responsible for a small part of the healing process.

Advantages
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Additional active ingredients
Disadvantages
  • Additional ingredients
  • Must be refrigerated
  • Limited shelf life

However, the additional ingredients can also be a disadvantage. Additional ingredients lead to additional side effects. There is no pure ointment that contains only products of the plant.

In addition, ointments usually have to be stored refrigerated and used up within a few weeks of first use. Some ointments are produced without preservatives, which has a negative effect on shelf life.

What are the characteristics of comfrey oil and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Comfrey oil consists of the root of comfrey as well as the leaves. Like all other products, it is only suitable for external use.

It can be used in many different ways. The oil serves as a basis for making your own ointments and creams, but can also be applied pure to the affected area and rubbed in.

In addition, the oil is often used as a massage oil. It can also be used as a shower or bath additive. Comfrey oil rarely contains artificial preservatives, fragrances or colourings.

Advantages
  • Wide range of applications
  • Mostly without artificial additives
Disadvantages
  • Not very inexpensive
  • Not a pure comfrey product

In most cases it is a natural herbal product. This is particularly important when it comes to further processing in creams.

The oil is the most expensive of the products presented here. With high-quality products, the price per 100ml can easily exceed the 20 euro mark. Another disadvantage is that there is no pure comfrey oil. It is produced with the help of other oils, mostly rapeseed, olive or almond oil.

What distinguishes comfrey root mouthwash and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Mouthwashes based on comfrey extract are known to be very effective against mouth ailments. They are also said to prevent tooth discolouration and dissolve existing discolouration.

Unlike conventional painkillers, mouthwash works locally, which has a positive effect on possible side effects. It is easy to use: Rinse once in the morning and once in the evening after brushing your teeth.

Advantages
  • Helps against toothache and discolouration
  • Works locally
  • Easy to use
Disadvantages
  • Expensive
  • Must not be swallowed
  • Contains alcohol

As comfrey root is only to be used externally, it is not entirely safe to use. The mouthwash should not be swallowed under any circumstances. The application on open wounds is also not foreseen, therefore it is also questionable whether possibly toxic substances are absorbed through the oral mucous membranes.

The mouthwash also belongs to the more expensive comfrey root products with a price of up to 25 euros per 100 ml. In addition, the mouthwash contains alcohol, so it is not suitable for children.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate comfrey root products

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate comfrey root products. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular comfrey root product is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • Toxicity
  • Concentration
  • Additives and ingredients
  • Shelf life

Toxicity

The plant comfrey has been classified as slightly toxic. It contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids in all plant parts. These have been shown in long-term studies to be liver-toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic (mutagenic).

Verletzung

For blunt sports injuries, comfrey root accelerates healing. However, the treatment should not last too long because of the toxins it contains. (Image source: unsplash.com / Hanson Lu)

The concentration of the toxins is between 0.04% and 0.06%, which is why the treatment should only be applied externally and should not last longer than 4-6 weeks a year.

Comfrey root is toxic in its natural form, both fresh and dried.

In finished medicinal products, mostly ointments/creams, the toxins are sometimes filtered out or plants low in pyrrolizidine alkaloids are used. This information can be found in the package leaflet.

Concentration

The concentration is a very important purchase criterion. A concentration that is too low leads to ineffectiveness. If the concentration is too high, health can be endangered.

Dried comfrey root and comfrey root powder should always be 100% comfrey root. The mouthwash has the highest concentration. The essence should definitely always be mixed with water. The oil also usually has a very high concentration.

When choosing the right product, the planned duration of use should always be considered. For a short period of time, a high concentration is not a concern, but for a continuous treatment, it is better to use low concentration medicines or products low in pyrrolizidine alkaloid.

Additives and ingredients

The additional ingredients should also be considered. There are product-specific ingredients such as lanolin for ointments or water. These do not necessarily need to be considered further.

Many ointments also contain preservatives, fragrances and dyes. Alcohol is also often added, which can cause the skin to dry out. Additional additives that can enhance the effect of comfrey root are often calendula oil, avocado oil and jojoba oil.

Shelf life

All products can be roughly divided into 3 groups with regard to shelf life:

basic products that are further processed medicines without chemical additives medicines with chemical additives
have a shelf life of several years if stored correctly. Examples are dried or powdered legwort easily perishable due to the lack of preservatives. They should be refrigerated and used within a few weeks longer shelf life. Refrigerated, they can be stored for up to half a year after opening

Facts worth knowing about comfrey root

How can I use comfrey root?

There are many different recipes. Here we will present two simple recipes for a poultice and for a comfrey root ointment, the ingredients can of course be changed as desired.

Bienenwachs

You can easily make your own ointment with beeswax and oil. (Image source: unsplash.com / Bee Naturalles)

Comfrey root compresses:

  • Preparation: boil 50-100 g dried comfrey root for 10 minutes
  • allow the extract to cool until lukewarm
  • Dip gauze cloths in it and apply to the area to be treated

Ointment with comfrey root:

  • heat 100 ml of comfrey root oil in a water bath
  • Add 12-15 g beeswax and let it melt
  • Add beeswax or oil until the desired texture is reached
  • Fill the ointment into an ointment jar and refrigerate it

Image source: 123rf.com / 108878896

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