Comfrey: assessing the low-dose health risk
Medical Journal of Australia 149(11-12): 678-682
The regular use of comfrey as part of the diet or for medicinal purposes may be a potential health risk as a result of the presence of naturally occurring pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The majority of these alkaloids are hepatotoxic in both animals and humans, and some have been shown to induce tumours in experimental animals. In this article, the toxic properties of pyrrolizidine alkaloids are reviewed briefly, with particular reference to their presence in comfrey. The acute and long-term health risks at the normally low levels of comfrey consumption are evaluated and discussed. On the basis of the data that are available currently, the small but significant longterm risk that is associated with the consumption of comfrey justifies the need to limit its intake. This is being achieved by controls under various state Poisons Acts, but also requires further education on the potential dangers of naturally-occurring chemicals of plant origin.