Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Comfrey Ointment an Effective Lower Back Pain Reliever? by Jerry Brainum

Lower back problems plague many active people. As I write this, my lower back is as tight as a vise, mainly due to a chronic case of sciatica. When the pain gets too intense, I have to resort to using NSAID's, such as ibuprofen, which I am not crazy about since they can cause long-term toxicity, particularly to the kidneys. I'm always on the lookout for natural remedies that may help alleviate lower back pain. The current issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2010;44:637-41) contains a study in which a topical preparation of an herb-derived comfrey root extract was compared to a placebo in the treatment of upper and lower back pain. The study featured a scientifically acceptable double-blind, placebo-controlled design, and featured 120 patients who were provided with either a placebo ointment, or a comfrey root ointment three times a day for four visits. The results showed a 95.2% decrease in pain in those who used the comfrey extract ointment versus a 37.8% drop in pain in those on the placebo. More importantly, pain decreased significantly in those who applied the comfrey ointment in only one hour.
     Comfrey has long been used to treat various maladies. It was used to treat lung problems during the Black Death epidemic that wiped out about half the population of Europe during the middle ages. While it's hard to pinpoint the precise healing factor in comfrey, it does contain a substance called allantoin, which is known to speed the replacement of cells in the body, which would accelerate healing. Besides allantoin, confrey also contains steroidal saponins, tannins, and pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The latter are problematic, since they are highly toxic to the liver, and can cause liver failure. The FDA issued a warning against the ingestion of comfrey herbal products in 2001. Comfrey also contains symphytine, which is a carcinogen in rats. For these reasons, comfrey should never be ingested orally. But used topically, it may do wonders for lower back pain. If you opt to try using the topical version(which is sold on various Internet web sites, and isn't expensive) ensure that you have no open cuts or wounds wherever you apply the ointment. I plan to try it myself, and hopefully it will supply a measure a relief to this chronic lower back pain that I have. And heck, if it's a placebo effect that knocks out the pain, that's fine by me.

©,2012 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited

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