Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of 2 concentrations of topical, comfrey-based botanical creams containing a blend of tannic acid and eucalyptus to a eucalyptus reference cream on pain, stiffness, and physical functioning in those with primary osteoarthritis of the knee.
Methods: Forty-three male and female subjects (45-83 years old) with diagnosed primary osteoarthritis of the knee who met the inclusion criteria were entered into the study. The subjects were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatment groups: 10% or 20% comfrey root extract (Symphytum officinale L.) or a placebo cream. Outcomes of pain, stiffness, and functioning were done on the Western Ontario and MacMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. Participants applied the cream 3× a day for 6 weeks and were evaluated every 2 weeks during the treatment.
Results: Repeated-measures analyses of variance yielded significant differences in all of the Western Ontario and MacMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index categories (pain P < .01, stiffness P < .01, daily function P < .01), confirming that the 10% and 20% comfrey-based creams were superior to the reference cream. The active groups each had 2 participants who had temporary and minor adverse reactions of skin rash and itching, which were rapidly resolved by modifying applications.
Conclusion: Both active topical comfrey formulations were effective in relieving pain and stiffness and in improving physical functioning and were superior to placebo in those with primary osteoarthritis of the knee without serious adverse effects.
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