Comfrey
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings
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Comfrey Usage

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Usages

Effect of Comfrey on Osteoarthritis

Traditionally, comfrey has been used to help heal bones rapidly. Since osteoarthritis is a condition whereby wear and tear on cartilage causes joints to become stiff, comfrey might be able to help.

Read more about Osteoarthritis and Comfrey.

Effect of Comfrey on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

As a topical cream, comfrey can directly help to stimulate cell growth. When part of the cause of the low back pain or sciatic is cartilage loss, like in osteoarthritis, this stimulation can be...

Read more about Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Comfrey.

What Is Comfrey Used for Today?

Comfrey is commonly included in salves and creams that also contain such herbs as aloe , goldenseal , calendula , and vitamin E . Such preparations are marketed for treatment of minor wounds . However, for safety reasons , comfrey should not be applied to broken skin. Therefore, it should not be used for the treatment of lacerations or abrasions (cuts and scrapes).

There is some evidence that topical comfrey might be useful in the treatment of various conditions involving pain in the joints or muscles where skin is unbroken. Safety , however, does remain a concern.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 142 people with acute ankle sprain, use of comfrey cream for 8 days significantly enhanced rate of recovery. 1 Comfrey proved more effective than placebo in measurements of pain, swelling, and mobility. More modest benefits were seen in another double-blind trial, this one enrolling 203 people with ankle sprain and comparing a high-comfrey to a low-comfrey product. 2 Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, this one enrolling 215 people, found comfrey cream helpful for treatment of back pain . 3 Finally, in a 3-week double-blind study of 220 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, comfrey cream reduced symptoms significantly more than a placebo cream. 4 In a recent, well-designed trial, two concentrations of comfrey creams were evaluated for the treatment of fresh abrasions among 278 patients (almost a quarter of whom were under age 20). 5 The higher concentration cream (10%) contained 10 times more comfrey than the low-concentration cream (considered the reference or placebo cream). The 10% comfrey cream led to significantly faster wound healing than the reference cream after 2 to 3 days of application. Although the researchers reported no adverse effects in either group, the use of comfrey has been associated with severe, even life-threatening toxic effects when used orally, and its use over open wounds must be undertaken with extreme caution .

Additional studies, generally of lower quality, suggest possible benefit for shoulder tendonitis and knee injuries. 6 The active ingredients in comfrey are not known, but may include rosmaric acid, choline, and allantoin.

References

  1. Koll R, Buhr M, Dieter R, Pabst H, Predel HG, Petrowicz O, Giannetti B, Klingenburg S, Staiger C. Efficacy and tolerance of a comfrey root extract (Extr. Rad. Symphyti) in the treatment of ankle distorsions: results of a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Phytomedicine. 11(6):470-7.
  2. Kucera M, Barna M, Horacek O, et al. Efficacy and safety of topically applied Symphytum herb extract cream in the treatment of ankle distortion: results of a randomized controlled clinical double blind study. Wien MedWochenschr. 2005;154:498–507.
  3. Kucera M, Barna M, Horàcek O, Kàlal J, Kucera A, Hladìkova M. Topical symphytum herb concentrate cream against myalgia: a randomized controlled double-blind clinical study. Adv Ther. 22(6):681-92.
  4. Grube B, Grünwald J, Krug L, Staiger C. Efficacy of a comfrey root (Symphyti offic. radix) extract ointment in the treatment of patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee: results of a double-blind, randomised, bicenter, placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 14(1):2-10.
  5. Barna M, Kucera A, Hladícova M, Kucera M. [Wound healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytum x uplandicum NYMAN: ): results of a randomized, controlled double-blind study] Wien Med Wochenschr. 157(21-22):569-74.
  6. Traumaplant® Cream: the percutaneous antitraumatic. Available at: http://www.harraspharma.de/framework_e.html?/html_medika/traumaplant_exp_e.html. Accessed June 9, 2005.
 
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