Symphytum

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Summary for the public

This is a summary of the scientific conclusions reached by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) on the medicinal uses of comfrey root. The HMPC conclusions are taken into account by EU Member States when evaluating applications for the licensing of herbal medicines containing comfrey root.

This summary is not intended to provide practical advice on how to use medicines containing comfrey root. For practical information about using comfrey root medicines, patients should read the package leaflet that comes with the medicine or contact their doctor or pharmacist.

What is comfrey root?

Comfrey root is the common name for the root of the plant Symphytum officinale L.

This summary covers Comfrey root medicines containing a specific herbal preparation, which is obtained by ethanol extraction (a technique used to extract compounds from plant material by dissolving them in alcohol).

Herbal medicines containing this comfrey root preparation are available in semi-solid forms (such as creams or ointments) to be applied to the skin.

What are the HMPC conclusions on its medicinal uses?

The HMPC concluded that, on the basis of its long-standing use, these comfrey root medicines can be used for the relief of symptoms of minor sprains and bruises.

These medicines should only be used in adults and should not be taken for longer than 10 days. Detailed instructions on how to take comfrey root medicines and who can use them can be found in the package leaflet that comes with the medicine.

What evidence supports the use of comfrey root medicines?

The HMPC conclusions on the use of comfrey root medicines for the relief of symptoms of minor sprains and bruises are based on their ‘traditional use’ in these conditions. This means that, although there is insufficient evidence from clinical trials, the effectiveness of these herbal medicines is plausible and there is evidence that they have been used safely in this way for at least 30 years (including at least 15 years within the EU). Moreover, the intended use does not require medical supervision.

In its assessment, the HMPC considered the well documented use of comfrey root for the relief of symptoms of minor sprains and bruises. The HMPC also noted 4 clinical studies carried out with a different comfrey preparation (not covered by this summary). These studies suggested a reduction in swelling and pain in patients using this herbal preparation for sprains and bruises. However, since the exact composition of the herbal preparation used in these studies is not known, these data were not taken into account and the HMPC conclusions on the use of comfrey root medicines are based on their long-standing use.

For detailed information on the studies assessed by the HMPC, see the HMPC assessment report.

What are the risks associated with comfrey root medicines?

At the time of the HMPC assessment, no side effects had been reported with these medicines.

Comfrey root contains substances known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which have toxic effects on the liver when taken by mouth. No significant risk is expected when comfrey root medicines are used on the skin for short periods. However, the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids has to be specified in each comfrey root medicine and patients should not be exposed to more than 0.35 microgram of pyrrolizidine alkaloids per day.

Further information on the risks associated with comfrey root medicines, including the appropriate precautions for their safe use, can be found in the monograph under the tab ‘All documents’.

How are comfrey root medicines approved in the EU?

Any applications for the licensing of medicines containing comfrey root have to be submitted to the national authorities responsible for medicinal products, which will assess the application for the herbal medicine and take into account the scientific conclusions of the HMPC.

Information on the use and licensing of comfrey root medicines in EU Member States should be obtained from the relevant national authorities.

Other information about comfrey root medicines

Further information on the HMPC assessment of comfrey root medicines, including details of the Committee’s conclusions, can be found under the tab ‘All documents’

For more information about treatment with comfrey root medicines, read the package leaflet that comes with the medicine or contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Name Language First published Last updated
Comfrey root - Summary for the public BG = bălgarski 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public ES = español 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public CS = čeština 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public DA = dansk 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public DE = Deutsch 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public ET = eesti keel 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public EL = elliniká 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public EN = English 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public FR = français 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public IT = italiano 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public LV = latviešu valoda 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public LT = lietuvių kalba 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public HU = magyar 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public MT = Malti 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public NL = Nederlands 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public PL = polski 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public PT = português 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public RO = română 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public SK = slovenčina 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public SL = slovenščina 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public FI = suomi 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public SV = svenska 03/08/2015 07/12/2015
Comfrey root - Summary for the public HR = Hrvatski 03/08/2015 07/12/2015

Summary

Product details for Symphytum
Latin name of the genusSymphytum
Latin name of herbal substanceSymphyti radix
Botanical name of plantSymphytum officinale L.
English common name of herbal substanceComfrey Root
StatusF: Assessment finalised
Date added to the inventory31/10/2007
Date added to priority list08/05/2008
Outcome of European assessment

European Union herbal monograph

Additional information

Consultation

Documentation

Key documents

Related information