Last updated: August 10, 2021

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Herbal medicines are an increasingly popular alternative. There are numerous active ingredients that are supposed to help with a wide range of complaints and diseases. Nevertheless, many people do not know the scientific background and facts about comfrey. We want to give you a good overview of the topic with our guide.

In our large comfrey test 2021 we have summarised all the important information for you. You will learn about the risks as well as the benefits of comfrey in the following.




The most important facts

  • Comfrey is used as a remedy for musculoskeletal injuries such as the back and has been shown to be effective in some studies.
  • You can take comfrey in the form of a tea or rub it into affected areas with creams or ointments.
  • Comfrey also contains toxic substances and should be used with caution. The exact side effects have not been researched enough, especially in pregnant women and children.

The Best Comfrey: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for comfrey

When buying comfrey, you can pay attention to various aspects, such as:

By making the right choice for you, you can save money and also ensure that you are not giving your body anything it does not need. Therefore, always look for high quality and ask to see the manufacturer's certificates if necessary.

Ingredients

The healing effect of comfrey is due to the composition of various substances. However, this can vary depending on the product. The most important ingredients include:

  • Allantoin
  • Choline
  • Silicon

In addition, many comfrey products contain other ingredients. The most common additives include:

  • Vitamin E
  • Calendula
  • Essential oils

Area of application

Comfrey is usually applied externally in the form of ointments, gels or creams.

Comfrey can be used for a variety of diseases and injuries.

Comfrey compresses are also popular.

Comfrey in solid form such as creams are ideal for larger areas such as the back and legs.

However, in liquid form they are more concentrated and good to use for deeper areas.

You can find the exact application in the package leaflet. Please follow the instructions exactly.

Skin compatibility

Certain side effects can always occur with medicines and remedies.

Test the product on your wrist before using it for the first time.

As with any cream, read the risks and side effects carefully before the first application.

Most common comfrey products are made from mostly natural ingredients. Look at them carefully before use and check that you have no known allergies to any of the ingredients.

However, the product is considered safe for the skin and is used to soothe irritated skin.

If you already have allergies or skin conditions, you should check with your doctor first.

Dosage form

Comfrey is now available in many different forms. We have summarised the most important forms so that you can choose the one that suits you best.

  • Comfrey ointment: Comfrey ointment has a firm consistency and is easy to apply to the skin and rub in.
  • Comfrey tea: Comfrey tea is intended for internal use. The substances such as vitamin C and calcium have a cleansing and purifying effect.
  • Comfrey tincture: Comfrey tincture is liquid and is available in glass bottles.

You can choose between the different forms depending on your symptoms. However, caution is advised with internal applications due to the toxic substances.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about comfrey answered in detail

In order to provide you with comprehensive information about the effectiveness of comfrey and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.

What is comfrey and how does it work?

Comfrey, also known as symphytum, is a native medicinal plant. Comfrey has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin diseases and inflammations. The root is mainly used for the production of comfrey products.

Comfrey can be used for many diseases and complaints. These include:

  • Joint pain
  • Bruises
  • Swellings
  • Inflammations
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Scars and skin injuries

Comfrey can be used both internally and externally. In the following we will show you the effects of the different applications.

Effect on injuries to the musculoskeletal system

Comfrey is used particularly frequently for injuries to the musculoskeletal system. Numerous studies have confirmed the effectiveness of comfrey for a wide range of injuries. (12)

Studies have shown that comfrey improves inflammation, swelling, sprains and bruises. Comfrey can be particularly helpful for injuries after sporting activities. (1)

Many people in particular suffer from joint pain, and the causes can be very varied. Comfrey is often used as a remedy here too. Science has researched this well. The studies show that joint complaints can be alleviated by comfrey. (2)

Effect on osteoarthritis

Some joint pain can be attributed to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a painful joint disease that occurs especially in old age. Comfrey has also been researched for this condition.

In a 2007 study, the effect of comfrey root extract ointment was investigated in 220 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee joint (gonarthrosis). The results show a positive efficacy of comfrey in the therapy of gonarthrosis. A reduction in pain and an improvement in knee mobility were achieved. (3)

Effect on wound healing

Because of the special effect of allantoin and choline, comfrey is often used for scars and skin injuries.

In one study, the effect of comfrey as a remedy for skin burns was investigated. The active substances of comfrey are hardly toxic and do not cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. The special anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of comfrey can thus be a good remedy for burns. (4)

Comfrey can also lead to faster wound healing for other wounds on the skin. Particularly in the case of abrasions, a slight improvement could be recognised. (10)

When and for whom is it useful to take comfrey?

Because of its versatile use, comfrey can basically be used by everyone. Young people often suffer injuries during sports, older people often suffer from joint pain.

beinwell-test

Depending on the ailment and the area, you can choose from different forms of comfrey products. (Devin Avery / unsplash)

Comfrey can be used in these cases alongside the usual medicines and can be combined with other therapies. However, the doctor's opinion should be taken into account. (3)

Caution: Pregnant women and children under the age of 3 should not use comfrey. Studies so far have not been able to classify comfrey as safe in these groups.

What do comfrey products cost?

Comfrey products can vary greatly depending on the dosage form and manufacturer. However, in order to save money in the long term, the quantity indicated is decisive.

We have compiled an overview of the price range of comfrey products for you to use as a guide:

dosage form price
Comfrey ointment approx. 10 to 40 euros/100 grams
Comfrey dried approx. 4 to 15 euros/100 grams
Comfrey tincture approx. 15 to 50 euros/100 millilitres

The cheapest is dried comfrey, which can be made into a tea and can also be bought in larger packages. However, this is not easy to use for external application.

The most expensive is comfrey tincture, which costs up to 50 euros. However, it has a much higher concentration.

What types of comfrey are there?

Comfrey is a plant and must therefore first be processed. A distinction is made between different forms of administration. Basically, a distinction can be made between these two types:

  • Classic leg ointment
  • Comfrey in liquid form
    • Tincture
    • Tea
    • Drops

beinwell-test

The leaves of comfrey produce an aromatic tea that tastes relatively sweet. (Lisa Hobbs / unsplash)

For comfrey in liquid form, you can choose between different forms, such as tincture or tea. We will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each form in more detail in the next section.

Comfrey drops, tea and tincture

With the liquid form of comfrey, you can choose between 3 different variants. However, the concentration of comfrey varies depending on the form. The advantages of comfrey in liquid form include:

Advantages
  • Suitable for more serious complaints
  • Usually more concentrated
  • Can also be used for deep-seated problems
Disadvantages
  • More expensive compared to classic ointment
  • Application time max. 6 weeks
  • Rubbing on the skin complicated

When choosing between the forms, you should pay attention to the type of complaint. For severe problems, a tincture is best.

Classic leg ointment

Classic comfrey ointment is the most common form of ointment. It is ideal for minor injuries and complaints. The simple packaging in a tin or tube makes it easy to use, especially for large-area injuries such as on the knee or back.

Advantages
  • Can be used for a wide range of complaints
  • Easier to rub in
  • Firmer consistency
  • Better dosage
Disadvantages
  • Low dosage
  • Usually enriched with additives
  • Rather unsuitable for serious complaints

How should comfrey be dosed and what should I bear in mind?

Comfrey has many positive effects and can be used for many different complaints. Nevertheless, comfrey should not be used without concern.

Unfortunately, we could not find any scientific information on the correct dosage of comfrey. The exact consequences have not yet been researched in detail. Therefore, usually only guidelines are given. A purely external application is classified as harmless by most studies (11).

In general, as with all medicinal plants, it should not be consumed in excessive quantities. In addition to the positive active substances, the comfrey plant also contains toxic substances such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

For most products containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids, use for a maximum of 4 to 6 weeks per year is recommended.

If you are unsure, you can also try external use only, using leg ointment or tincture. However, be careful not to apply the product to open wounds.

What alternatives are there to comfrey?

In Germany, there are many different remedies made from active plant substances. But synthetic substances that help against pain and inflammation can also be used as alternatives.

You can find numerous herbal remedies in pharmacies, drugstores and online shops. In the following, we have summarised the best-known alternatives.

Plant Description
Arnica Arnica may have antibacterial, antitumour and anti-inflammatory activities. (5)
St. John's wort oil Hypericin may counteract bacterial inflammation and thus promote wound healing. However, the studies are not yet conclusive enough. (6)
Peppermint oil The active ingredient is comparable to paracetamol and can help with headaches or muscle cramps, for example. A study was able to show the effectiveness of peppermint oil against tension-type headaches. (7)

What side effects can comfrey have?

Herbal remedies like comfrey also have side effects. Therefore, you should always find out about the side effects before taking them for the first time.

Comfrey can have side effects due to its toxic substances. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are found mainly in the root of the plant. This causes poisoning of the liver and in the worst case can lead to death. (8) Therefore, it should always be taken with caution and used within the specified period of use.

However, the toxic substances can hardly pass through the skin, which makes the external use of comfrey relatively safe.(9)

Cover photo: hikersmurf /123rf

References (12)

1. Staiger C. Comfrey root: from tradition to modern clinical trials. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2013 Feb;163(3-4):58-64. doi: 10.1007/s10354-012-0162-4. Epub 2012 Dec 7. PMID: 23224633; PMCID: PMC3580139.
Source

2. Bleakley C u.a. (2008) Some conservative strategies are effective when added to controlled mobilisation with external support after acute ankle sprain: a systematic review. Aust J Physiother. 2008;54(1):7-20.
Source

3. Staiger, Christiane. (2007). Beinwell - Stand der klinischen Forschung. Zeitschrift für Phytotherapie. 28. 110-114. 10.1055/s-2007-984988.
Source

4. Gokadze S, Barbakadze V, Mulkijanyan K, Bakuridze A, Bakuridze L. FORMULATION AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT OF HERBAL PHENOLIC BIOPOLYMER-CONTAINING FILMS FOR BURN TREATMENT. Georgian Med News. 2017 Jun;(267):119-124. PMID: 28726668.
Source

5. Kriplani P, Guarve K, Baghael US. Arnica montana L. - a plant of healing: review. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2017 Aug;69(8):925-945. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12724. Epub 2017 Apr 11. PMID: 28401567.
Source

6. Okmen G, Balpınar N. THE BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES OF HYPERICUM PERFORATUM L. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2016 Nov 23;14(1):213-218. doi: 10.21010/ajtcam.v14i1.23. PMID: 28480399; PMCID: PMC5411873.
Source

7. H. Göbel · A. Heinze · K. Heinze-Kuhn · A. Göbel · C. Göbel (2016); Deutsche Schmerzgesellschaft e.V. Published by Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg; Oleum menthae piperitae (Pfefferminzöl) in der Akuttherapie des Kopfschmerzes vom Spannungstyp
Source

8. Petzinger E. Pyrrolizidinalkaloide und die Seneciose bei Tieren. Teil 1: Vorkommen, Chemie, Toxikologie [Pyrrolizidine alkaloids and seneciosis in farm animals. Part 1: occurrence, chemistry and toxicology]. Tierarztl Prax Ausg G Grosstiere Nutztiere. 2011;39(4):221-30. German. PMID: 22138830.
Source

9. Kuchta K, Schmidt M. Safety of medicinal comfrey cream preparations (Symphytum officinale s.l.): The pyrrolizidine alkaloid lycopsamine is poorly absorbed through human skin. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2020 Sep 15;118:104784. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2020.104784. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32941922.
Source

10. Barna M, Kucera A, Hladíkova M, Kucera M. Randomized double-blind study: wound-healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytum×uplandicum Nyman) in children. Arzneimittelforschung. 2012 Jun;62(6):285-9. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1308981. Epub 2012 Apr 27. PMID: 22549241.
Source

11. Jedlinszki N, Balázs B, Csányi E, Csupor D. Penetration of lycopsamine from a comfrey ointment through human epidermis. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2017 Feb;83:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2016.11.015. Epub 2016 Nov 11. PMID: 27840092.
Source

12. Frost R, MacPherson H, O'Meara S. A critical scoping review of external uses of comfrey (Symphytum spp.). Complement Ther Med. 2013 Dec;21(6):724-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.09.009. Epub 2013 Oct 8. PMID: 24280482.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Übersichtsarbeit
Staiger C. Comfrey root: from tradition to modern clinical trials. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2013 Feb;163(3-4):58-64. doi: 10.1007/s10354-012-0162-4. Epub 2012 Dec 7. PMID: 23224633; PMCID: PMC3580139.
Go to source
systematische Übersichtsarbeit
Bleakley C u.a. (2008) Some conservative strategies are effective when added to controlled mobilisation with external support after acute ankle sprain: a systematic review. Aust J Physiother. 2008;54(1):7-20.
Go to source
Übersichtsarbeit
Staiger, Christiane. (2007). Beinwell - Stand der klinischen Forschung. Zeitschrift für Phytotherapie. 28. 110-114. 10.1055/s-2007-984988.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Artikel
Gokadze S, Barbakadze V, Mulkijanyan K, Bakuridze A, Bakuridze L. FORMULATION AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT OF HERBAL PHENOLIC BIOPOLYMER-CONTAINING FILMS FOR BURN TREATMENT. Georgian Med News. 2017 Jun;(267):119-124. PMID: 28726668.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Rezension
Kriplani P, Guarve K, Baghael US. Arnica montana L. - a plant of healing: review. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2017 Aug;69(8):925-945. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12724. Epub 2017 Apr 11. PMID: 28401567.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Arbeit
Okmen G, Balpınar N. THE BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES OF HYPERICUM PERFORATUM L. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2016 Nov 23;14(1):213-218. doi: 10.21010/ajtcam.v14i1.23. PMID: 28480399; PMCID: PMC5411873.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Fortbildung
H. Göbel · A. Heinze · K. Heinze-Kuhn · A. Göbel · C. Göbel (2016); Deutsche Schmerzgesellschaft e.V. Published by Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg; Oleum menthae piperitae (Pfefferminzöl) in der Akuttherapie des Kopfschmerzes vom Spannungstyp
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Petzinger E. Pyrrolizidinalkaloide und die Seneciose bei Tieren. Teil 1: Vorkommen, Chemie, Toxikologie [Pyrrolizidine alkaloids and seneciosis in farm animals. Part 1: occurrence, chemistry and toxicology]. Tierarztl Prax Ausg G Grosstiere Nutztiere. 2011;39(4):221-30. German. PMID: 22138830.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Kuchta K, Schmidt M. Safety of medicinal comfrey cream preparations (Symphytum officinale s.l.): The pyrrolizidine alkaloid lycopsamine is poorly absorbed through human skin. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2020 Sep 15;118:104784. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2020.104784. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32941922.
Go to source
Barna M, Kucera A, Hladíkova M, Kucera M. Randomized double-blind study: wound-healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytum×uplandicum Nyman) in children. Arzneimittelforschung. 2012 Jun;62(6):285-9. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1308981. Epub 2012 Apr 27. PMID: 22549241.
Barna M, Kucera A, Hladíkova M, Kucera M. Randomized double-blind study: wound-healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytum×uplandicum Nyman) in children. Arzneimittelforschung. 2012 Jun;62(6):285-9. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1308981. Epub 2012 Apr 27. PMID: 22549241.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Jedlinszki N, Balázs B, Csányi E, Csupor D. Penetration of lycopsamine from a comfrey ointment through human epidermis. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2017 Feb;83:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2016.11.015. Epub 2016 Nov 11. PMID: 27840092.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Review
Frost R, MacPherson H, O'Meara S. A critical scoping review of external uses of comfrey (Symphytum spp.). Complement Ther Med. 2013 Dec;21(6):724-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.09.009. Epub 2013 Oct 8. PMID: 24280482.
Go to source
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