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Comfrey and Pyrriolizidine Alkaloids: Overview
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How Harmful are Alkaloids in Comfrey?

Low Compared to Other Health Risks

"In perspective, the public health hazards of pyrrolizidine alkaloid poisoning pale when compared to those of conventional drugs. Adverse drug reaction costs the U.S. about 5 billion a year. Ten to twenty thousand people a year die from gastric complications of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alone (NSAID= aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), and recent study shows that overly aggressive treatment of high blood pressure with drugs may cause 25,000 heart attacks a year."
(Botanical Medicine, Comfrey, Coltsfoot & Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids, and Symphytum_-_Comfrey,_Coltsfoot,_and_ Pyrrolizidine_Alkaloids.htm, Paul Bergner)

Low Toxicity Compared to Other Food

Scientific Comparison Index: Comfrey Has Low Toxicity

"Mark Blumenthal states, 'The comfrey incident (reported overdose) might have looked different if it had been put into context of a toxicity scale. One such scale is the HERP (Human Exposure/Rodent Potency) index, which classifies the cancer-causing potentials of various substances. Extrapolating from the HERP index, former U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist James Duke, Ph.D., calculates that less than one-fifth an ounce of brown mustard is twice as cancer causing as comfrey tea, which has roughly the same cancer-causing potential as a peanut butter sandwich. Wine is 144 times more cancer causing than an equal amount of comfrey tea.' "
(The Comfrey Controversy by Rosemary Gladstar as quoted in Urban Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar wrote the popular books: "Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health", "Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs", "Herbs for Natural Beauty", "Herbs for Stress and Anxiety", "Herbs for Common Ailments", "Herbal Healing for Women", and others.)

Alkaloids Are in Many Plants

Alkaloids are Common in Plants
"Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are heterocyclic organic compounds. They occur in nature in more than 6,000 plants, in excess of 300 plant species of up to 13 families, mainly in the families of Boraginaceae (all genera), Asteraceae (tribes Senecioneae and Eupatorieae) and Fabaceae (genus Crotalaria)."
(European Medicines Agency, document_library/ Public_statement/2012/10/ WC500134311.pdf.)

Food in the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family contain alkaloids. These include potatoes, tomatoes, sweet/hot pepper, eggplant, goji berries, ground cherries, tomatillas, pimentos, huckleberry, paprika and others. Some people are sensitive to food in the Nightshade family. So be sure to have variety in your diet.

Some animals such as the Cinnabor Moth prefer plants with alkaloids. This moth lays it eggs on Groundsel and Ragwort.

Some Alkaloids Have None or Low Toxicity

Alkaloids Vary in Toxicity, Some Are Not Toxic
"Pyrrolizidine alkaloids vary widely among themselves in potential toxicity. One alkaloid can be six or more times as toxic as another, and some are not toxic at all."
(A.R. Mattocks, Toxicity of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids. Nature 1968 V. 217 p. 723-9 as cited in Botanical Medicine,

Be moderate in all things. Avoid extremes. Consult your health care provider.

All Is Interconnected: Synergy

Isolated Alkaloids Fed in Huge Doses to Rats Is Not the Same Thing as a Synergistic Whole Natural Herb

"What they failed to take into account is what herbalists have known for centuries. First, ANY substance, in great enough quantities, is harmful. The amount of PAs given to the newborn rats in that 7-week period was the equivalent of over 5,600 comfrey leaves, if given to a man-sized rat."

"Secondly, you cannot isolate one component and assume that the herb, in its entirety, will have the same action. Herbs are not like pharmaceutical drugs, which are often made up of one or two components. Herbs are made up of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of different components. Each component works synergistically with the others to create the herb's healing effect. Isolated PAs are not going to have the same effects as the herb as a whole."

(The above 2 paragraphs are Kerry's Herbals, comfrey_safety.shtml)

Pharmaceuticals Only Used for Decades; Comfrey Used for Thousands of Years

Drug Companies Lose Money When People Use Herbs

"Also keep in mind who profits and doesn't from the use, or defilement, of comfrey. When herbs are used in place of drugs, the pharmaceutical companies lose money. There are many drugs on the market, used by millions on a daily basis, which have been shown to cause liver damage when overused or misused. Acetaminophen is routinely given to people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, yet its liver toxicity has been proven many times in research."

Herbs Have Been Used to Heal for Centuries

"Herbal remedies have the benefit of thousands of years of usage, compared to only a few decades, sometimes only a few years, with pharmaceuticals."
(The above 2 paragraphs are Kerry's Herbals, comfrey_safety.shtml)

'The Comfrey Controversy" by Rosemary Gladstar

Misleading "Facts"

"I've witnessed so much controversy over favorite herbs. Usually facts are misleading and after several years of 'black listing' evidence creeps up that redeems the deposed herb."

"Sassafras, one of my favorite tea drinking herbs, was removed from the market because of the potential toxic effects of the chemical safrole, (though it's estimated that modern beer is 10 times more carcinogenic than old fashion sassafras root beers banned by the FDA for the purported carcinogen, safrole). After thirty years on the herbal black list, sassafras is in favor again and is showing up in tea blends and formulas."

(The Comfrey Controversy by Rosemary Gladstar as quoted in Urban Herbalist,

Stay in touch with your physician or health care specialist.

'The Comfrey Controversy": Synergy

Synergistic Relationship Among Components of Herbs

Snynergy= interaction of two or more substances to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

"The truth of the matter is that most plants reveal within their chemical blueprint a wide variety of constituents, many of them potentially harmful. These chemicals form a synergistic relationship with one another, often nullifying and or strengthening certain aspects of one another. The sum total of these hundreds of chemicals determine the personality, or action of the plant."

"Studies conducted in Washington found very minute amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in comfrey. Some plants tested had none at all. Or as Paracelsus said several hundred years ago, 'All things are poison and nothing is without poison. It is the dosage that makes a thing poisonous or not.' "

(The Comfrey Controversy by Rosemary Gladstar as quoted in Urban Herbalist,

'The Comfrey Controversy": Inconclusive Research

Only a Few Questionable Cases of Problems

"However, of the thousands of people who use comfrey worldwide, only three somewhat questionable cases have been identified, none of which conclusively point to comfrey as the culprit. Three cases out of tens of thousands, perhaps millions of people who use comfrey is not statistically significant enough to ban its use."

Pharmaceutical Drugs Should be Judged by Same Standards

"If our pharmaceutical industry were subject to such standards, we would have no drugs on the market at all. And very few herbs. Meanwhile, the Austrian company that conducted the original tests verified that the tests were inconclusive and in Japan, where the alkaloids were first discovered, doctors still continue to recommend comfrey for cirrhosis of the liver."

(The Comfrey Controversy by Rosemary Gladstar as quoted in Urban Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar wrote the popular books: "Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health", "Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs", "Herbs for Natural Beauty", "Herbs for Stress and Anxiety", "Herbs for Common Ailments", "Herbal Healing for Women", and others.)

Comfrey and Healing
Comfrey and Broken Bones
Comfrey Soap
Comfrey: Animals & Health
Comfrey Safety: Overview
Comfrey Safety: Processing
Comfrey Safety: Research
Comfrey: Need Studies

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