Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comfrey leaves come with caution!

Symphytum officinale – Boraginaceae
“Comfrey” or “Knitbone”

Borage family
Native to England
Bee and Butterfly plant
Leaves high in Potassium - good fertilizer, compost activator, green mulch
Invasive - do not compost or disturb roots!
Remove seed heads!
Cut flower and leaf stalks 2” above ground while flowering
Wear gloves
Dry or fresh leaves may be used for topical preparations

Warning: For external use only

• All oral comfrey products have been banned by the FDA since 2001
• Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (liver toxins)
• Consuming comfrey can lead to liver damage or death
(Research available documenting risk of prolonged oral use of high concentrate root extractions)

However. . .Topical preparations containing comfrey are still commercially available and considered safe when used in moderation. To my knowledge there have been no reports of poisoning from topically applied comfrey leaf products, but research suggests the skin absorbs PAs, so it should:

NOT be applied to open wounds or broken skin
NOT be applied to pregnant or breastfeeding women, children or the elderly.

Before the FDA issued warnings about this plant, it had been used for centuries as a pain and inflammatory, skin and bone healer. Today there are clinical trials suggesting topical efficacy for pain and inflammation associated with injury and arthritis. So look at the research and use your own common sense and judgment before experimenting with this controversial plant.

BY Kym Farmen, Master Herbalist

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