Comfrey is a popular and valued herb with practitioners, but little is known about how often, in what preparations and for what indications it is used in practice. In addition, there is some research available into the effects of comfrey in various conditions, but this has not been critically reviewed and the extent to which it influences practice is unknown. The aim of this project, led by Rachael Frost for her Masters Dissertation, is to identify the gaps between current research and practice in the use of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) by UK herbal practitioners.
The project consists of two parts. The first is a scoping review of the literature to locate randomised controlled trials and observational studies from any time period and in any language relating to all medicinal species of comfrey. Bibliographic and grey literature databases will be searched with a comprehensive search strategy. The studies will be grouped according to species, preparations and indications, and assessed for reporting quality and risk of bias.
The second part is a quantitative survey of around 550 UK herbalists from members of three voluntary regulatory bodies. Data will be collected on frequency of use, conditions prescribed for, perceived effectiveness and risk, types of preparations, sources of information consulted and practitioner demographics. These will be summarised descriptively. Ethical approval was gained from the University of York's Department of Health Sciences Research Governance Committee. The final analysis will synthesize survey results and studies from the scoping review to identify potential areas of research and potential areas for improvement in current practice. This will be a useful resource for practitioners and for future research.