COMFREY

OTHER NAME(S):

Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Bruisewort, Common Comfrey, Consolidae Radix, Consound, Consoude, Consoude Officinale, Consuelda, Grande Consoude, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Herbe aux Charpentiers, Herbe à la Coupure, Knitback, Knitbone, Langue-de-Vache, Oreille d'Âne, Salsify, Slippery Root, Symphytum officinale, Wallwort.<br/><br/>

Overview

Overview Information

Comfrey is a plant. Even though this plant contains poisonous chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), some people use the leaf, root, and root-like stem (rhizome) to make medicine.

Despite safety concerns, comfrey is used by mouth for stomach ulcers, heavy menstrual periods, diarrhea, bloody urine, cough, bronchitis, cancer, and chest pain (angina). It is also used as a gargle for gum disease and sore throat.

Comfrey is applied to the skin for ulcers, wounds, muscle soreness, bruises, rheumatoid arthritis, varicose veins, gout, and fractures.

How does it work?

The chemicals in comfrey might have wound healing effects and reduce inflammation when applied to the skin. However, comfrey contains toxic chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin.

Uses

Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Back pain. Applying a comfrey extract ointment to the affected area for 5 days seems to decrease lower or upper back pain. Also applying a cream containing comfrey extract plus methyl nicotinate to the affected area for 5 days seems to decrease back pain when resting or moving.
  • Osteoarthritis. Applying a comfrey extract ointment to the affected area for 3 weeks or applying a specific cream containing comfrey extract, tannic acid, Aloe vera gel, eucalyptus oil, and frankincense oil to the affected are for 6-12 weeks seems to decrease pain in people with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Sprains. Early research shows that applying comfrey ointment to the affected area for up to 2 weeks improves mobility, decreases pain, and reduces tenderness and swelling of sprains. The effect of comfrey ointment in relieving pain and reducing swelling seems to be comparable to the effects of diclofenac gel.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Bruises. Early research shows that applying comfrey directly to the skin for 2 weeks might decrease the pain and tenderness of bruises.
  • Abnormally heavy bleeding during menstrual periods (menorrhagia).
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria).
  • Cancer.
  • Chest pain (angina).
  • Cough.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fractures.
  • Gout.
  • Gum disease (gingivitis).
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Leg sores caused by weak blood circulation (venous leg ulcer).
  • Muscle soreness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Sore throat (pharyngitis).
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the main airways in the lungs (bronchitis).
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the stomach (gastritis).
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Varicose veins.
  • Wound healing.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of comfrey for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Comfrey is LIKELY UNSAFE for anyone when taken by mouth. It contains chemicals (pyrrolizidine alkaloids, PAs) that can cause liver damage, lung damage, and cancer. The FDA has recommended that all oral comfrey products be removed from the market.

When applied to the skin: When applied to unbroken skin in small amounts for less than 10 days, comfrey is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people. It's important to remember that the poisonous chemicals in comfrey can pass through the skin. For this reason, it is POSSIBLY UNSAFE to apply comfrey to broken skin or to apply large amounts to the skin for more than 6 weeks.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Comfrey is LIKELY UNSAFE to take by mouth or apply to the skin if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. In addition to causing liver damage and possibly cancer, the PAs in comfrey might also cause birth defects. Even topical use is unwise, since the PAs can be absorbed through the skin.

Broken or damaged skin: Don't apply comfrey to broken or damaged skin. Doing so might expose you to large amounts of the chemicals in comfrey that can cause liver damage and other serious health effects.

Liver disease: There is a concern that comfrey might make liver disease worse. Don't use comfrey if you have any problems with your liver.

Interactions

Interactions?

Major Interaction

Do not take this combination

!
  • Medications that can harm the liver (Hepatotoxic drugs) interacts with COMFREY

    Comfrey might harm the liver. Taking comfrey along with medication that might also harm the liver can increase the risk of liver damage. Do not take comfrey if you are taking a medication that can harm the liver.<br><nb>Some medications that can harm the liver include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), amiodarone (Cordarone), carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), methyldopa (Aldomet), fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), erythromycin (Erythrocin, Ilosone, others), phenytoin (Dilantin), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), and many others.

Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

!
  • Medications that increase the breakdown of other medications by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) inducers) interacts with COMFREY

    Comfrey is broken down by the liver. Some chemicals that form when the liver breaks down comfrey can be harmful. Medications that cause the liver to break down comfrey might enhance the toxic effects of chemicals contained in comfrey.<br><nb>Some of these medicines include carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), rifampin, rifabutin (Mycobutin), and others.

Dosing

Dosing

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

APPLIED TO THE SKIN:

  • For back pain: About 4 grams of a specific ointment containing 35% comfrey root extract has been applied three times daily for 5 days. About 4 grams of another cream containing 35% comfrey plus 1.2% methyl nicotinate has also been applied three times daily for 5 days.
  • For osteoarthritis: About 2 grams of a specific ointment containing 35% comfrey root extract has been applied to the knee three times daily for 3 weeks. Also, about 3.5 grams of a specific cream containing comfrey extract, tannic acid, aloe vera gel, eucalyptus oil, and frankincense oil has been applied to the knee three times daily for 6-12 weeks.
  • For sprains: About 2 grams of a specific ointment containing 35% comfrey extract has been applied to ankle sprains four times daily for 8 days.

View References

REFERENCES:

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  • Barna, M., Kucera, A., Hladikova, M., and Kucera, M. Randomized double-blind study: wound-healing effects of a Symphytum herb extract cream (Symphytumxuplandicum Nyman) in children. Arzneimittelforschung. 2012;62(6):285-289. View abstract.
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  • Kucera, M., Barna, M., Horacek, O., Kovarikova, J., and Kucera, A. 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.Med Wochenschr. 2004;154(21-22):498-507. View abstract.
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  • Lin, C. C., Yang, C. C., Phua, D. H., Deng, J. F., and Lu, L. H. An outbreak of foxglove leaf poisoning. J Chin Med.Assoc. 2010;73(2):97-100. View abstract.
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  • Predel, H. G., Giannetti, B., Koll, R., Bulitta, M., and Staiger, C. Efficacy of a comfrey root extract ointment in comparison to a diclofenac gel in the treatment of ankle distortions: results of an observer-blind, randomized, multicenter study. Phytomedicine 2005;12(10):707-714. View abstract.
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  • Tunon, H., Olavsdotter, C., and Bohlin, L. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of some Swedish medicinal plants. Inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis and PAF-induced exocytosis. J Ethnopharmacol 1995;48(2):61-76. View abstract.
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  • Pabst H, Schaefer A, Staiger C, Junker-samek M, Predel HG. Combination of comfrey root extract plus methyl nicotinate in patients with conditions of acute upper or low back pain: a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2013;27(6):811-7. View abstract.
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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

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