Thanks for that scientific info!
@sallyhoward You are quite welcome.. There are more I am looking at to post tomorrow.
I’m on the fence as far as Comfrey goes. I’ve read a few things about the pyrrolizidine alkaloids causing liver damage and cancer, but I haven’t given it the research I need to decide one way or another. Just curious, has anyone done the homework on comfrey enough to feel confident it is good or bad? I’m still going to get around to doing my own reading (cus that’s how I roll), but I’m just wondering where others landed.
@cre8tiv369 Dr. Patrick Jones has some great info on comfrey safety. Here is one video with him talking about it.3 · Share on Twitter
I am of the camp that it is okay. It concerned me until I looked into it further. I have met people who have used it successfully internally & externally at the same time, with only good results & no negatives.
Also, Rosemary Gladstar has written quite a bit on this subject and states that the studies conclusions are flawed. As with most testing of a substance, more of the concentrated pyrrolizidine alkaloids were given to rats than we could possibly ingest. Pretty much anything can be toxic if concentrated & given at high doses. She too, used it quite a bit for healing a broken leg. Taking both ways sped up her healing by quite a bit.
It is certainly worth researching for yourself.
Susun Weed uses comfrey as one of the herbs for her nourishing herbal infusions that she rotates through. So she is drinking a quart of the strong tea about once a week. I wouldn't drink this on a regular basis cause I don't care for the taste but if I had a broken bone, I would. I agree that testing is usually done at much higher doses than what is usually taken in a tea. AS with many substances, a small amount is OK, even beneficial, while a larger amount may be toxic. And of course, Big Pharma doesn't want any plant cures that they can't patent, so it is beneficial for them to publish studies that show negative results for herbal treatments. For anyone really concerned about the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, you can use the homeopathic remedy, Symphytum officinale instead of taking comfrey internally.
Rosalee de la Foret has an article about the benefits of comfrey and she discusses the presence of the alkaloids. Apparently. there are less of the alkaloids in the leaves than the root and mature leaves are even lower. Here's the link: https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/benefits-of-comfrey.html
I have also seen the suggestion that an alcoholic tincture will extract the alkaloids while a water or oil extraction will not. But I can't find the research for that.
Here is a really good talk about using comfrey.
My comfreys are so beautiful now with all the blossoms. I have a pink and a blue variety. I could not resist adding photos to this discussion.
@jowitt.europe I so love all of the pictures you share, you have an incredibly beautiful garden! I aspire to have a garden half as beautiful as yours!2 · Share on Twitter
@LaurieLovesLearning thanks for bringing this discussion back into circulation. Barbara O’Neil is a controversial Australian Naturopath & herbalist and she does know her herbs. Great info on using the young, new leaves in spring/summer that are more potent & the roots at other times of the year. Good to remember when we’re making infused oils. I think next time I will make a comfrey powder to add occasionally to smoothies.
@jowitt.europe love your photos, you have heaps of comfrey.2 · Share on Twitter
@JodieDownUnder I have more than heaps of comfrey. If not for the bees, I would weed many out as they are taking over my roses, but I will decrease the number after they finish blossoming.
We use it internally around here, Dr. Patrick Jones was the first herbalist that reassured me and when I looked into the studies on it I could definitely discern for myself that it is indeed safe.
I have also come to the same conclusion after listening to the information & stories from many well known herbalists. l who have cited the studies and have lots of experience using it internally.
Just the same, if someone chooses to avoid it internally, I respect that as well.
My understanding is that the flowers/pollen is what can be considered toxic, so it is recommended to not let it flower or don't use any leaves under the flowers internally.
marjstratton Posts: 1,113 ✭✭✭✭
My mother-in-law used to enjoy comfrey tea until we heard the reports that it should be avoided for internal use. I haven't used it for tea in many years. But there are so many other medicinal uses. Plus I like having it growing in my garden to support the pollinator populations.
@Lisa K I've never heard that before about the flowers and pollen. Could you send me a link for that? As far as I know, the flowers are edible, as is the honey made from the pollen. Its only the leaves and roots that contain the potentially harmful PAs.
Everyone needs to decide for themselves whether or not to use comfrey. There are some people with liver disease that should probably avoid comfrey. As I mentioned above, I would have no issues using it internally if necessary.
@marjstratton I used to use it as a poultice for my mom, unfortunately I have not seen it in years since I moved to San Diego county.
@Torey When I first got into herbs many years ago, I read every herb book I could get my hands on and they all said the same thing. Below is what I was able to find this morning when I asked if the flowers were edible ...
@Lisa K I was only able to find one of these sites that you have posted and it wasn't quoting any studies that talked specifically about the toxicity of the PAs internally. And it was discussing the leaves. I was inquiring about the flowers. I have found other sites saying that the flowers are edible. Beekeepers encourage their bees to forage on comfrey so I'm pretty sure the pollen isn't toxic or it would contaminate the honey.
There are many article and studies that will tell you comfrey isn't safe to use internally and including some that will tell you its not safe externally, either. Most of the studies on comfrey's PAs involve giving increasing large amounts to rats/mice to determine a threshold for toxicity. Most articles (and some studies) reference a single study from 1987 showing that large amounts of comfrey contribute to veno-occlusive disease. There are lots of other plants that contain PAs but we rarely hear anything negative about them. Comfrey just got the brunt of the negative press.
More modern research shows that the amount of PAs in comfrey are not likely to cause any harm, taken in recommended doses. This is a link to a 2 hour webinar with Doc Jones in which he talks about the controversy surrounding comfrey and how it got its bad name. He says it is one of the 5 plants he wouldn't be without.
I will say it again, it is personal choice as to whether or not you would use comfrey. And, again, those people who have liver damage or the potential for liver disease of any kind (and possibly other ailments), should avoid comfrey internally.
@Torey my original research was over 40 years ago, which is why I looked it up today.
It seems to be one of those plants that some say are OK to take internally and others caution against it. Per a Monograph by Rosalee de la Foret, she appears to be on the side of caution. She recommends leaves and roots be used externally but does note that Susan Weed has been taking for years internally. The result she came up with was some people can take it internally with no problem (liver damage) but she has chosen not to use it internally.
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