Efficacy of a comfrey root (Symphyti offic. radix) extract ointment in the treatment of patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee: results of a double-blind, randomised, bicenter, placebo-controlled trial

Phytomedicine. 2007 Jan;14(1):2-10. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2006.11.006. Epub 2006 Dec 13.


This randomised, double-blind, bicenter, placebo-controlled clinical trial investigated the effect of a daily application of 6g Kytta-Salbe f (3 x 2 g) over a 3 week period with patients suffering from painful osteoarthritis of the knee. The two hundred and twenty patients examined consisted of 153 women and 67 men of an average age of 57.9 years. On average, the complaints relating to osteoarthritis of the knee had persisted for 6.5 years. Two hundred and twenty patients were included in the Full Analysis Set (FAS) and safety collective, 186 (84.5%) in the Valid Case Analysis Set (VCAS) collective. In the course of the trial, the visual analog scale (VAS) total score (primary target value) in the verum group dropped by 51.6 mm (54.7%) and in the placebo group by 10.1 mm (10.7%). The average difference between the groups of 41.5 mm (95% confidence interval=34.8 to 48.2 mm) or 44.0% is significant (p<0.001). The significance is confirmed through the evaluation of the diary, the VCAS evaluation and the separate assessment of the two centres. This also applies to the separate assessment of the VAS total score following pain at rest and on movement. The WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities) total score (secondary target value) also improved similar to the VAS total score. At the end of the trial, a reduction by 60.4 mm (58.0%) was recorded for the verum group and a reduction of 14.7 mm (14.1%) for the placebo group. The average group difference of 45.7 mm (95% confidence interval=37.1 to 54.3 mm) or 43.9% is significant (p<0.001). The difference between the treatment groups increased systematically and significantly, in parallel with the duration of the treatment. Thus, the superiority of the treatment with Kytta-Salbe f over that with the placebo is proven, even by means of the multi-factorial multivariate analysis for repetitive measurements. In respect of the explorative secondary target values SF-36 (quality of life), angle measurement (mobility of the knee), CGI (clinical global impression) and global assessment of efficacy by the physician and the patient, a significant superiority (p<0.001 each) of the verum group over the placebo group was also proven. The results suggest that the comfrey root extract ointment is well suited for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Pain is reduced, mobility of the knee improved and quality of life increased.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Comfrey*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ointments
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / drug therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Roots
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Ointments
  • Plant Extracts