Strong Caution on Comfrey

Herb causes liver damage, FDA warns

Don't ingest the herb comfrey or use comfrey ointments on broken skin because these products can damage your liver and may cause cancer, warns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency last week asked the makers of these herbal products to stop selling them and to pull them off store shelves, reports this article from MSNBC.

Comfrey is an herb used most often for treating inflammation and for pain relief. Most products are made from the herb's leaves and stems, but some products also contain the plant's roots. The root of the comfrey plant is more dangerous than the leaves and stems.

Comfrey is found in topical ointments, pills and teas. Three particular types of comfrey -- common, prickley and Russian -- are of concern to the FDA because they contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are known to be toxic.

Although there have been no deaths associated with comfrey use, the FDA reports that several people have become ill from taking oral comfrey. "It's a dangerous substance, and we don't think it should be marketed," says Christine Lewis, director of the FDA office that oversees dietary supplements.

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