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Comfrey: A healing herb, but for external use only

The plant world offers us many healing herbs, and you’ll find many of them in our salves and other products.

But there are some herbs which are healing when used externally, but are not safe for ingestion.  One such herb is Comfrey.

We often hear from mothers who have questions and concerns about the use of comfrey in breast compresses and nipple creams, so we thought we’d share this information to clear up some of the confusion.

Comfrey is an herb recognized for its value as both a fertilizer and a healing herb.  It’s native to Europe, grows in damp, grassy locations, and has a bell shaped flower often in a blue or purple color.

Comfrey has long been valued for its ability to reduce skin inflammation.  It is also thought to stimulate cell growth and repair.  One of Comfrey’s nicknames is “knitbone” because it was traditionally used to aid the healing of bone fractures.

While healing when used externally, Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause veno-occlusive disease if used internally.

The Botanical Safety Handbook, published by the American Herbal Products Association, classifies Comfrey as Class 2a - for external use only, Class - 2b not to be used [internally] while pregnant and Class 2c not to be used [internally] while nursing (parentheses ours, for clarification).  In 2001, the US Food and Drug Administration advised makers of dietary supplements containing Comfrey to remove their products from the market and label products that contain Comfrey ‘for external use only.’

Comfrey has great value as a healing herb, but should not be included in any product that could possibly be ingested by a baby.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons