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Comfrey (Symphytum spp.)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • 3-O-[beta-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->4)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->4)-alpha-L-arabinopyranosyl]-oleanolic acid, 7-Acetylintermedine, 7- uplandine, acetyllcopsamine, allantoin, allantoin-beta-cyclodextrin, anadoline, asperum polymer, ass ear, assear, asses-ears, Beinwell (German), black root, black wort, blackwort, blue comfrey, bocking 14, boneset, Boraginaceae (family), Borago-Symphytum, borraja, bourrache, bruisewort, bulbous comfrey, buyuk karakafesotu, Caucasian comfrey, comfrey extract, comfrey herb, comfrey root, common comfrey, comphrey, consolida, consolida aspra (Italian), consolidae radix, consolida majoris, consolide maggiore (Italian), consormol, consoude, consoude grande (French), consoude rude (French), consound, consuelda (Spanish), creeping comfrey, Crimean comfrey, echimidine, Extr. Rad. Symphyti, glucofructan, great comfrey, ground comfrey root, gum plant, healing blade, healing herb, heliotrine, hirehari-so, hydroxycinnamate-derived polymer, integerrimine, intermedine, knitback, knitbone, Kytta-Balsam® f, Kytta-Plasma® f, Kytta-Salbe® f, lasiocarpine, liane chique, lithospermic acid, lycopsamine, medicinal comfrey, mucopolysaccharides, navadni gabez (Slovenian), nipbone, okopnik sherohovaty (Russian), oreille d'ane (French), otonecine- pyrrolizidine alkaloids, poly[oxy-1-carboxy-2-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)ethylene], prickley comfrey, pyrrolizidine alkaloid, Quaker comfrey, radix symphyti, rauher Beinwell (German), rauhe Wallwurz (German), Reinweld (German), retronecine, retrorsine, retrorsine N-oxide, riddelliine, ridelliine N-oxide, rosmarinic acid, rough comfrey, ru kulsukker (Danish), Russian comfrey, ruwe smeerworted (Dutch), salsify, saponins, senecionine, senecionine N-oxide, seneciphylline, senkirkine, simfit (Italian), slippery root, S. x uplandicum, symlandine, symphyti herba, symphyti folium, symphyti radix, symphytine, symphytum alkaloids, Symphytum 5CH, Symphytum asperrimum Donn, Symphytum asperum, Symphytum asperum Lepechin, Symphytum asperum x officinale, Symphytum bulbosum, Symphytum caucasicum, Symphytumcaucasicvum, Symphytum cream, Symphytumgrandiflorum, Symphytumibericum, Symphytum officinale Linn, Symphytum orientale,Symphytum peregrinum Lebed, Symphytum radix, Symphytum spp., Symphytum tauricum, Symphytum tuberosum, Symphytum x, Symphytum x uplandicum, Symphytum x uplandicum Nyman, Syrupus de Symphyto (Spanish), tannins, tarharaunioyrtti (Finnish), the great comfrey, Traumaplant®, tuberous comfrey, uplandine, wallwort, wallwurz (German), white comfrey, yalluc (Saxon), zinzinnici (Italian).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Comfrey (Symphytum spp.) is native to both Europe and Asia and has traditionally been used as both a food and forage crop. Three plant species in the genus Symphytum are medicinally relevant and include wild or common comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.), prickly or rough comfrey [Symphytum asperum Lepechin (Symphytum asperrimum Donn)], and Caucasian, Quaker, Russian, or blue comfrey [Symphytum × uplandicum Nyman (Symphytum peregrinum Lebed.)], which originated as a natural hybrid of Symphytum officinale L. and Symphytum asperum Lepechin.
  • Comfrey has traditionally been used both topically, for inflammation, pain and wound healing, and orally, for gastrointestinal, respiratory and gynecological concerns.
  • Although evidence supporting oral use of comfrey is lacking, clinical trials suggest topical comfrey may be advantageous for pain and inflammation associated with injuries (1;2;3;4;5;6).
  • Scientific studies have reported that comfrey may be carcinogenic and hepatotoxic. Various countries, including the United States, have asked companies to remove oral comfrey products from the market, and topical products are required to advise consumers not to use on broken skin. Other countries, such as Germany, allow topical comfrey products with a label including the maximal daily allowable levels of pyrrolidizine alkaloids of 100μg and maximal use over six weeks per year.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.