Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

Comfrey Root Eases Back Pain

Ointment With Comfrey Root Extract Helped Reduce Acute Back Pain in Study
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 21, 2009 -- People who suffer from acute back pain may find relief in the form of comfrey root, a plant long thought to have medicinal value.

A new study, funded by the drug company Merck and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, showed that people with acute back pain who used an ointment containing comfrey root extract had significant reductions in pain, compared to their peers who used a placebo ointment.

The researchers note that in previous studies comfrey root extract has been effective in the treatment of ankle sprains and arthritic knee pain.

The study included 120 participants between the ages of 18 and 60, all suffering from either upper or lower back pain not caused by an identifiable source like a slipped disc or trauma. They all rubbed 4 grams of ointment on their backs three times a day for five days. Half of the participants used ointment containing comfrey root extract and half did not. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which participants were getting comfrey root ointment and which participants were getting the placebo.

Participants were asked to assess their back pain and how much it interfered with normal movement, plus their back pain at rest.

The placebo users saw their pain intensity drop 38% during the study period, while comfrey root ointment users had a 95% reduction in pain. Back pain at rest was reduced 97% in the comfrey root group and 40% in the placebo group. The comfrey root ointment seemed to take effect in less than an hour.

The researchers report that there were few side effects. They included nausea, cold, eczema, and runny nose in four participants given the comfrey root ointment, and headache and itchiness in the three participants given placebo.

“The results of this clinical trial are clear-cut and consistent across all primary and secondary efficacy variables,” the authors write in their conclusion. “Comfrey root extract shows a remarkably potent and clinically relevant effect in reducing acute back pain.”

The comfrey root ointment used in the study is sold in Germany under the name Kytta-Salbe but is not available in the U.S.

Today on WebMD

Woman holding lower back
Or is it another form of back pain?
Hand on back
See the myths vs. the facts.
Woman doing pilates
Good and bad exercises.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Use it to manage your pain.
Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
pain in brain and nerves
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Woman holding lower back
Weight Loss Surgery
lumbar spine
back pain