Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) can be used topically to treat wounds, inflammation, common skin ailments, and has even proven strong enough to expedite the healing of sprains, strains, osteoarthritis, and broken bones. Comfrey is considered nature’s little miracle worker due to its containing compounds including allantoin, rosmarinic acid, and tannins. Combined, these substances help with cellular regeneration including skin regrowth. Comfrey skin benefits are medicinal, anti-aging, and can create significant improvements in all skin types.
There was a time Comfrey was taken orally in the U.S. until it was discovered that it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids–a chemical that is extremely hard for the liver to filter. Now, it’s safe, skin-rejuvenating compounds are concentrated to make creams, gels, serums, balms, and lotions. In this article, I’ll unveil how this wild medicinal plant may be just what your skin needs to look and feel its best.
The Healing History of Comfrey
Comfrey preparations have been staples in Russian, European, and North American herbology for centuries. The leaves and stems would be used to infuse creams for lotion or beeswax for salve. Additionally, the stems and leaves would steep along with other tea blends or put into warm bath water for relaxation. Comfrey was used to soothe aches and pains, soothe skin, and was considered a natural beautifier.
In a time where beauty products and skin medications were limited, Allantoin, a compound responsible for the anti-redness and antiinflammatory effects of comfrey. The healing history of Comfrey left behind unexpected results that we can now apply to the world of beauty and skincare.
Comfrey Skin Benefits
Comfrey is a wonder for all skin types. Its healing properties are gentle and repairing for sensitive skin, anti-inflammatory and soothing for acne-prone skin, protective for youthful skin, and contain anti-aging benefits for mature skin. Here’s how.
It’s never too soon (or too late!) to start adding a healthy boost of antioxidants to your skincare routine. Recent studies have demonstrated that comfrey extracts have strong antioxidant benefits potentially potent enough to have anti-cancer effects. The skin is constantly exposed to pollutants and UV rays the can damage skin cells causing them to replicate abnormally, increase oxidation and free radicals, and in some cases–develop cancer cells. Along with the regular use of SPF, Comfrey can protect and reverse the damage that occurs regularly on the surface of the skin.
Hydration and Repair
Comfrey root extracts contain active compounds including rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, polysaccharides, mucilage, allantoin, and protein complexes. Rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid inhibit the synthesis of compounds that create inflammation, irritation, redness, and itchiness.
This is what makes comfrey and effective treatment for ulcers, acne, and sunburn. Additionally, the polysaccharides and mucilage hydrate and moisturize your skin while cooling it down by calming the nerve endings.
Allantoin is a substance you will hear a lot about when unfolding scientifically supported comfrey skin benefits. It is responsible for the most notable effective results of comfrey skin benefits due to its ability to stimulate the proliferation of healthy skin cells. This can aid in treating psoriasis, acne, eczema, allergic reactions, insect bites, and scarring.
It’s not all science and medicine when it comes to comfrey skin benefits. There are plenty of beautifying side effects to incorporating comfrey oil, balm, salve, lotion, or cream into your skincare routine. Besides the undeniable softness left behind when comfrey infused products are applied, there are also collagen-boosting effects. Collagen makes up 30% of your body’s protein count and is responsible for:
- Maintaining the structure, elasticity, and moisture in your skin
- Strengthening the fibrous connective tissue to muscles and bones
- The functionality of joint cartilage
- Makes up 90% of bone mass to which calcium and other minerals are anchored
All of which heavily impact how your fact, neck, and chest age. Studies report an increase in collagen deposit (about 8%) when consistently applied topically. This is why it was once used to treat wounds to prevent scarring. There are now medical treatments more effective for wounds but few conventional antiaging products can boast collagen-producing results like comfrey can.
DIY Comfrey Recipes
Comfrey is a fast-growing leafy plant that is even considered invasive in some areas. So it won’t require a green thumb to have an abundance of comfrey. You’ll need soil that’s rich in nitrogen (organic matter is essential) and no risk of frost. Growing comfrey from the seed may take longer for germination to occur but replanting from root cuttings is simple and require very little to no maintenance. Comfrey leaves can be harnessed and dried at any time.
Comfrey skin benefits can come from a variety of comfrey-infused products. But if you want to tap into your inner herbologist-cosmetologist (say that 5x fast!), growing, harvesting, and making your own DIY comfrey recipes is pretty simple. Here are a couple of recipes for face application and all-over topical use.
DIY Comfrey Salve and Topical Oil
Comfrey salve can be used to superficially treat eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, rashes, burns, and viral skin infections. The making of a salve starts with infusing a skin-friendly oil with dried comfrey leaves or stems.
To infuse the oil, fill a clean and dry jar about 2/3rds with dried comfrey, cover with a neutral oil like olive, jojoba, perilla, almond, or avocado. You can let this sit for 4-6 weeks in the cabinet. If you want an “instant” infusion, place dry or fresh comfrey in a crockpot on low heat with the oil and let it steep for 24 hours the strain completely.
You now have comfrey-infused oil that you can use. If you stop here, the infused oil can be stored in a glass dropper and used as desired.
To turn the comfrey infused oil into a salve, use a 1 to 8 ratio of oil to beeswax (by weight) to make a dreamy salve consistency. A typical batch can be 8 ounces of infused oil and 1 ounce of beeswax. Using a double-boiler, gently melt the two together and pour into salve tins that commonly hold 2 ounces. Allow the salve to cool and thicken then apply as desired.
Used over the centuries, clinically tested, easy to grow, abundant in nature, cheap and effective — comfrey deserves its enduring spot in nature’s medicine chest and in your skincare routine.