Comfrey: Boon or Bane?

Because of the dispute over comfrey's safety as an herbal medicine, some herbalists do not recommend its use at all, according to Stephen Buhner, herbalist, author of the book Sacred Plant Medicine and workshop presenter at the IAHA conference (see "Conference Joins Aromatherapists and Herbalists," this page). Some herbalists suggest use of only the leaves, rather than the more potent roots. Other herbalists approve the use of comfrey in short-duration doses in individuals who do not have active liver disease, Buhner said.

Several years ago a woman who drank large doses of comfrey tea died of veno-occlusive disease of the liver, Buhner said. Soon thereafter, three or four other people died of the same disease after taking large doses of comfrey over a prolonged period of time. The Food and Drug Administration ruled out the other few factors known to be causative agents for the disease; however, no controlled studies have been done to prove or disprove whether comfrey causes this disease, according to Buhner. In other studies, massive doses of comfrey have been shown to cause liver cancer in mice and rats, but not this disease, he said.

David Christopher, director of the School of Natural Healing in Springville, Utah, and IAHA conference workshop presenter on the use of comfrey, said the herb is not dangerous for those with healthy livers who have not had their systems weakened with antibiotics or other synthetic preparations.

Association spokesperson David Schiller said that "comfrey should not be taken on a continual basis, but it's a very valuable herb taken whenever necessary in small doses." He said it is one of the most effective herbs for bone and ligament healing and is often used in compresses.

Massage Magazine, Inc.


By Margot D. Crabtree

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