Comfrey, Maggot Therapy and Cell Regeneration

I recently when down the research rabbit hole the other day when looking for comfreyinformation on comfrey (Symphytum officinale) finding an article about allantoin in the Society of Cosmetic Chemist, vol. 9, no 1, in 1958. The article was a survey of literature dealing with the therapeutic and cell proliferate action of allantoin, which of course, we know is an active chemical constituent in comfrey. What I did not know, was that maggots specifically Licilia sericata (sheep blowfly), were used during and immediately after World War I in the treatment of hard to heal wound infections.

Allantoin was first isolated and synthesized from uric acid in 1800. Naturally, it is found in comfrey, in small amounts in the urine of most mammals (with the exception of humans) and in greater amount in the urine of pregnant women.index It is a normal by-product of the oxidation process of uric acid by purine catabolism. Allantoin, in both maggot therapy and comfrey, works by increasing the water content of the extracellular matrix and enhancing the skin peeling or desquamation of upper layers of dead skin cells, increasing the smoothness of the skin, promoting cell proliferation and wound healing. Allantoin’s synthesized version is purported to be chemically equivalent to natural allantoin. It is deemed safe, non-toxic and is used in cosmetics, with over 10,00 patents. It is used extensively in the cosmetics industry primarily in moisturizers, toothpaste and in topical drugs to remove warts.

Maggot therapy or the use of maggots in healing have historical roots in use by aboriginal tribes, as did physicians during the Renaissance, and American Civil maggotsWar. Secretions from maggots have been found to have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity including allantoin, urea, phenylacetic acid, and proteolytic enzymes. The resurgent interest in maggot therapy is currently underway with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting permission to produce and market maggots for use in humans and animals in 2004. In fact, a company in Wales is now marketing teabags filled with maggots for wound healing.tea-bags-maggots

This brings us back to comfrey. In 50 AD, Dioscorides’ Materia Medica prescribed comfrey to heal wounds and broken bones. Comfrey, has long been viewed as a herb for treating broken bones, bronchial and respiratory issues, sprains, arthritis, healing wounds, and tissues. The plant contains allantoin, along with mucilage, saponins, tannins and pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA’s). Unlike maggot therapy, the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids prevents comfrey’s use the treatment of open wounds, where it is thought that it is absorbed. In fact, there is some speculation that the PA’s in comfrey are also absorbed through the skin, so harmful amounts may build up in the body. Comfrey is no longer sold in the U.S., except in creams or ointments. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany also have banned the sale of oral products containing comfrey. It is advised to not use comfrey on open woods or broken skin, consume internally if you have liver disease, a history of alcoholism or cancer. Furthermore, it is contraindicated for the elderly, children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. Leslie Tierra in an article “Comfrey Comfort” states, in an article “it is important to realize that a constituent with a negative effect may be neutralized, or greatly diminished when combined with other herbs in formulas”. This is true for many plants and might be considered in this instance. In both maggot therapy and comfrey, there are indications that both contain other substances that aid in the healing process.

Medicine making: Allantoin is slightly soluble in hydroethanolic solutions, but can be made to dissolve in an oily solvent with the use of an emulsifier, which comfrey naturally contains. It also is very soluble in alkaline or hot water. It can be decomposed by acids should be kept at a slightly acid Ph value. The roots contain higher amounts of PA’s than the leaves and flowers.

Resources:

Allantoin-Its properties and uses. A. M. Posner. http://journal.scconline.org/pdf/cc1958/cc009n01/p00058-p00061.pdf

Comparative Study of the Biological Activity of Allantoin and Aqueous Extract of the Comfrey Root

Savić VLj1, Nikolić VD2, Arsić IA1, Stanojević LP2, Najman SJ3, Stojanović S3, Mladenović-Ranisavljević II2.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25880800https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25880800

Controversial Comfrey: Super Healer or Lethal Poison. https://simpleunhookedliving.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/controversial-comfrey-super-healer-or-lethal-poison-3/

East West School of Planetary Herbology, Leslie Tierra “Comfrey Comfort”.

https://www.planetherbs.com/lesley-tierras-blogs/comfrey-comfort.html

 

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