If you’re looking for an herb to topically treat pain in your dog, then comfrey is it. Comfrey is a name for plants in the Symphytum genus species. Also known as knitbone or boneset, comfrey has a diverse reputation among herbalists.
While it was historically used to treat a number of conditions in humans, it is mostly now used as a topical treatment for pain, broken bones, torn tissue and ligaments, etc. In fact, it has an amazing reputation for treating all of these conditions.
In the case of dogs and other animals, this is a powerful herb that is best used topically. In 2001, the US Food and Drug Administration banned comfrey products for internal use and applied a warning label when it came to external use.
Finding information pertaining to comfrey online is, like the drug itself, kind of a thorny issue. There are those who insist it’s a safe herbal treatment in all ways and those who feel it’s an unsafe herbal treatment.
Personally, we have and continue to use comfrey for ourselves and our pets. While we use it externally on our dogs, we don’t panic if they lick it a little.
Here’s a good article and I recommend that you read the comments below the article as well to give you an even better idea and understanding of the power and controversy behind comfrey: Controversial Comfrey – Super Healer or Lethal Poison
How Comfrey can Help Your Best Friend
As mentioned, this herb should be used externally.
The typical usage for comfrey is on wounds or scrapes or over broken bones as a way to reduce inflammation. It works incredibly well for pain associated with any form of scrape, cut, bone, hip, joint, tissue, and ligament pain caused by inflammation or a tear.
There are comfrey ointments that can help heal bruises and cut down on inflammation from sprains, strains and other such problems.
The one that we like best is Dr. Christopher’s Ointment. NOTE: This is a very hard salve that you have to keep in the refrigerator. To use it, simply scrape some out of the tub with a butter knife and it will slowly start to melt in your hand so that you can massage it in. You can also use Dr. Christopher’s Comfrey extract which is a thicker liquid and quite sticky. You can learn more and read the reviews on Amazon here. ANOTHER NOTE: DON’T ALLOW YOUR DOG TO LICK ALL THE COMFREY OFF. COVER IT SOMEHOW IF YOU HAVE TO.
- Like our friend calendula, comfrey is used to speed wound healing and diminish the amount of pain at the healing site. This is because of substances like allantoin, rosmarinic acid, and tannins, which help produce new skin. Because comfrey can help stimulate cell growth, it can work wonders on wounds, scrapes, tissue and ligament tears when applied as an ointment, massage oil or poultice over the skin.
- Stops bleeding. Apply a little dried comfrey to a bleeding cut or nail to stop the bleeding.
- Some references can be found for comfrey as a treatment for skin irritations, bites and other maladies. A tea infusion of comfrey using one to two cups of water along with half a cup of dried comfrey leaves can be applied to a rash or bite (once the tea has cooled, of course). Because of the aforementioned goodies in comfrey, the irritation should clear right up.
- There is some anecdotal evidence pertaining to comfrey’s ability to knit together broken bones, which likely accounts for its “knitbone” nickname. Setting a poultice of comfrey over the site of broken bones can help in the healing process, say some, as the herb’s ability to stitch together cells and aid in the speeding of natural processes can certainly come in handy.
It should be noted that comfrey’s active ingredient, the aforementioned allantoin, is found in many skin moisturizers and other such products. This suggests a use for comfrey when it comes to dry or aging skin in your four-legged friend.
How to Make a Comfrey Poultice for Your Dog
Quite honestly, it’s much easier to use the ointment or extract mentioned above, but if you don’t mind making a mess then here’s a recipe for you.
Or, you can use this in combination with the above to save on $. Note: you might want to do this in an area of the house that you can easily wipe up.
- 1/2 ounce of Dried Comfrey
- 1/2 ounce of Dried Yarrow
- 16 ounces of boiled water (2 cups)
Directions for Poultice: Combine the comfrey and yarrow together and toss to mix. Add enough boiled water to just cover the herbs (it should not be soupy). Allow it to steep for 30 minutes. Once it has cooled, you can apply it. We like to place an old towel or blanket down on the floor. Using your hands, apply the herbal mix to the affected area of your dog. Allow it to dry and repeat. Allow it dry and repeat several times and do this several times daily. Discard the herbal mixture and make fresh batch the next time.
Directions for Using Salve and Extract: This takes some common sense. Melt enough in your hands that you can easily apply or massage it into the area of pain. Cover.
- The biggest problem with comfrey is the large amount of hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. It’s believed that they are associated with liver failure in humans (and rats) when taken in large doses internally for a long period of time. So, as a precaution, just use comfrey topically and avoid allowing your dog to lick too much of it ongoing. Keep the area covered if you apply a salve or massage oil, etc and your dog has a tendency to lick or if you are not available to keep your dog from licking too much.
- Comfrey should not be used by pregnant or lactating animals and should be avoided by pets with a history of liver disease.
- Again, use this topically, not internally.
- Err on the side of caution and don’t use continuously long term.
Reasons to Use
Comfrey is noted for its incredible healing properties when it comes to external usage for healing cuts and scrapes, but also applying externally to those areas of discomfort associated with your dog’s arthritis, joint problems, tissue and ligament tears and to speed up the healing of broken bones (this doesn’t mean your dog shouldn’t see a vet for a broken bone).
Many have seen extraordinary results using this amazing herb.
History Behind Comfrey
This is a fast-growing plant that was first developed in the 1950s and has since gone on to be known as particularly adaptable and valuable in organic gardening circles. The plant produces a lot of leaves that can be harvested up to four or five times a year.
When harvesting comfrey, it’s recommended to use shears or some other sort of gardening implement. And handling the stuff should be done with gloves, as the leaves and stems can cause skin irritation.
References: Janie’s Experience, Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen