Comfrey plant (Symphytum officinale) (H. E. Kirschner, M.D.)

Comfrey plant (Symphytum officinale) (H. E. Kirschner, M.D.)

"Dr. Kirschner personally observed the powerful anticancer effects of comfrey on a patient of his who was dying from advanced, externalized cancer. He prescribed fresh, crushed-leaf comfrey poultices throughout the day. He writes that, “Much to the surprise of the patient and her family,” there was obvious healing within the first two days of treatment, with continued visible improvement over the next few weeks. “What is more,” he writes, “much of the dreadful pain that usually accompanies the advanced stages of cancer disappeared," and there was a dramatic decrease in swelling." The leaves should only be used EXTERNALLY. The medical community has greatly persecuted this plant. Their evidence is probably created by the misuse of the leaves.


Consumption of plants containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) has been the cause of poisonings to livestock and to humans. Studies have shown that PAs exert their toxicity by destroying liver cells or by causing abnormal cellular growth. This cellular damage accumulates and can result in hepatic veno-occlusive disease (HVOD) and/or eventual liver cancer. Concern has arisen over the presence of PAs in comfrey (Symphytum officinale and related species), whose use as an herbal tea was formerly widespread. An investigation by FDA pharmacognosist Joseph Betz and his colleagues using gas chromatography was conducted to determine the levels of PAs and PA N-oxides in commercial comfrey products purchased from retail stores in the Washington, D.C. area.

Results of the investigation showed that there is extreme variability in the PA content of commercial comfrey products. Products containing comfrey in combination with other ingredients were found to contain the lowest alkaloid levels, while the highest levels were found in bulk comfrey root, followed by bulk comfrey leaf. Hot water infusions of both comfrey leaf and root were prepared and also proved to contain PAs; this is contrary to claims by proponents of comfrey leaf who maintain that it is harmless because its PA levels are low and because PAs are not particularly water-soluble.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) took the initiative to restrict the sale of comfrey products for internal use by issuing a policy that all commercial comfrey products sold by AHPA members should contain the following warning:

"...the product is intended for EXTERNAL USE should not be used by nursing mothers nor applied to abraded skin."

[Betz, Joseph M., Robert M. Eppley, Wendell C. Taylor, and Denis Andrzejewski. May 1994. Determination of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in Commercial Comfrey Products (Symphytum sp.). Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 83, No.5, 649-653.]

Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Ginger Webb

Share this with your friends