Comfrey Versus Pharmaceutical Anti-Inflammatories
As we get older, we tend to experience more joint and muscle pain because these parts of our bodies become inflamed from overuse. But it can also happen as a result of withering cartilage, which naturally occurs over time.
For decades it’s been standard medical practice to treat pain with anti-inflammatory drugs. But now studies show that this short-term fix could lead to longer-term pain, says a study from McGill University.
In our rush to put out the inflammation blaze, we forget that the condition actually occurs for a reason, and it looks like it’s dangerous to interfere with it, says Professor Mogil, a member of the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain.
How bad can it get? Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids like dexamethasone and diclofenac work, but not for long. In the end, studies show that their use prolongs pain up to ten times the normal duration. In fact, these findings are also supported by a separate analysis of 500,000 people in the United Kingdom that showed that those taking anti-inflammatory drugs to treat pain is more likely to have pain two to ten years later.
These finding suggest that we are going about fighting acute pain the wrong way, by interfering with the active biological process of inflammation. That process is present for a reason and so we should look at natural means of fighting pain.
“…IT MAY BE TIME TO RECONSIDER THE WAY WE TREAT ACUTE PAIN.”
Natural Pain Relief
For centuries, comfrey has been used as a traditional medicinal plant for the treatment of painful muscle and joint complaints.
The roots of the comfrey plant contains a compound called rosmarinic acid which is said to be responsible for its pain-relieving effects. In studies, rosmarinic acid has significantly reduced inflammation in participants when applied topically, leading to relief of pain. Because of this, many ointments, creams, salves, and lotions are fortified with its extract to help reduce joint pain and inflammation.
Results from one review of studies suggest that it may be a promising treatment for pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in degenerative arthritis, acute myalgia in the back, sprains, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents. (Kothmann, 2003; Englert et al., 2005). The same review found comfrey to be effective for muscle or tendon injuries like a sprained ankle, or even to help relieve upper and lower back pain.
How complex is comfrey? Check out its constituents:
Mucilage polysaccharides (about 29%)
Phenolic acids such as rosmarinic acid (up to 0.2%)
Chlorogenic acid (0.012%)
Caffeic acid (0.004%) and α-hydroxy caffeic acid
Glycopeptides and amino acids
The therapeutic properties of comfrey are based on its anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) effects. Wound healing was also remarkable with only a 10% active ingredient from leaves. After 2 to 3 days, a significant initial reduction in wound size was found, with complete wound healing almost 3 days faster. (Niedner, 1989)
Comfrey cream (root extract) is said to be beneficial for contusions, painful joint complaints, sprains and painful muscle complaints; Tschaikin, 2004). The median duration of treatment was 11.5 days, with tenderness, impaired mobility, painful muscle complaints and swellings improving markedly.
Comfrey paste was applied a similar preparation. Again, symptoms of pain at rest and pain during movement, impaired mobility, swelling and painful muscle complaints improved markedly during the observation period. Morning stiffness of investigated joints decreased by 90% from 20 min initially to 2 min.
Other conditions Comfrey is beneficial for:
Muscles and joints
In the 17th century, Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) mentioned comfrey in his enlarged version of The English Physitian (Culpeper, 1656). He stated: ‘It is said to be so powerful to consolidate and knit together (…) and a Syrup made thereof is very effectual for all those (…) outward Wounds and Sores in the Fleshy or Sinewy part of the Body whatsoever’. He recommended comfrey among many other complaints for ‘Inward Wounds & Bruises, Wounds, Ruptures, broken Bones, Inflamation, Gout, and Pained Joynts.’
Today, this historical statement is widely supported by modern clinical data.
My wife is an experienced gardener and grows this herb for me. We also make a paste of it to apply to wounds or aches. But for ease of use, it can also be bought online.
There are several comfrey products out there that you can use topically to treat pain and inflammation. You can try an ointment like this one from Christopher’s (Buy on Amazon, $12.19). But others are available elsewhere online if you do some simple research. My example here is merely points you in the right direction. I receive no monetary benefit!
I hope this recuperative ingredient can help you lead a happier, more pain-free life!