Q: Hi Susan:
I read your article at Glenbrook farms on healthy bones and did some research on the herbs you use for the infusions. I wanted to incorporate the infusions into my lifestyle to help my bones during postmenopausal years.
I have experienced breast cancer twice, 2006 being the most recent. hormone receptor positive. I have 4 years remaining on Femera (a chemotherpy drug) Two bone density test 2005 and 2007 are below the normal I guess for women my age. I have become leary of these finding and the doctors recommendations. Both maternal and paternal women in my history have experienced deminished bone density, but nothing severe. Otherwise I feel I am and active, healthy 56 year old who wants to take care of my bones without the depressing side effects of prescribed meds.
Can you tell me if the oatstraw, nettle. red clove, or comfrey leaf infusions (each seperately) are ok to take? Also can you comment on this information I found at an herb site I frequent and shop at on occasion?
Mountain Rose Herbs
"Not recommended for internal use. Not to be used while pregnant. Not to be applied to broken or abraided skin.
"Comfrey was widely used and recommended until the mid-1980s, when reports began to surface about the possibility of liver damage from the pyrrolizidine alkaloids that some plants contain. In 2001, the FTC and FDA combined to issue an injunction against products containing comfrey that were meant for internal use.
"This view has been countered by herbalists, who state that common comfrey, the plant most often used for medicinal purposes, contains only negligible amounts of those alkaloids. In fact, one laboratory study of three different sources of comfrey found no pyrrolizidine in one sample, and only negligible amounts in the other two. Still, many herbalists recommend that comfrey preparations should not be taken internally because of the possibility of liver disease and damage. Comfrey should also not be used by pregnant or nursing women."
Thank you in advance for your expertise,
A: So wonderful you wish to drink herbal infusions. All the herbs you mention are like nourishing foods to me, so I see no reason for concern. I understand the debate about Comfrey, so would do best to refer you to a thread at our forum where the debate has been shared by some, for various viewpoints on it: Comfrey - internally - safe? - help me research?! As well, since you ask of Susun (she does not have internet to be able to correspond through email), here is a bit she has written:
Herbal Allies for Pregnancy Problems
Some people feel that Comfrey is not safe to use during pregnancy. Some people feel comfrey is not safe to use internally at all. I disagree. The roots of comfrey do contain compounds that are best avoided during pregnancy. (As do all parts of the wild plant.) In fact, I rarely use comfrey root because of the possibility of liver congestion, and I strongly caution those who have had hepatitis, chemotherapy, or alcohol problems to strictly avoid comfrey root. Yet even these people can benefit from use of comfrey leaf infusions. I harvest the flowering stalks when they are fully formed; and I am careful to use the cultivated garden comfrey, which grows very tall and has purplish, pinkish, bluish flowers. I avoid wild comfrey which stays rather small, even when flowering, and has cream-colored, white, or yellowish flowers.
Natural Remedies for Breastfeeding Concerns
~ Comfrey roots (Symphytum uplandica x) contain the same liver-damaging compounds sometimes found in borage. But comfrey leaves do not.
...an Interview with Susun Weed...
And then the last one is an herb that I have used very consistently for more than a quarter of a century, and that’s Comfrey Leaf. And you may be surprised by that because if you’ve heard anything at all about herbs in the past couple of years you may have heard some warnings about Comfrey. What my studies show me is that those warnings are true about comfrey root and I don’t use the root of the Comfrey. But the leaf, so far as I can tell is absolutely benign. As a matter of fact there was a man named Henry Doubleday who worked very hard all of his life to create courses of Comfrey that would be completely safe to eat. And he set up a Henry Doubleday Research Center in England where there’s a group of people there who have been eating Comfrey as a cooked green for three generations now, through pregnancies, lactations and no harm to anyone.
Natural Health and Healing in the Wise Woman Tradition
Like the women she has long been associated with, comfrey has a mixed reputation. I use lots of comfrey leaf, brewed as a strong infusion (put one ounce dry herb in a quart jar, add boiling water to top, cap tightly, steep overnight); but I rarely use comfrey root -- if for no other reason than that comfrey will colonize the garden if her roots are disturbed. The healing agents in comfrey are concentrated in the petiole, or leaf stalk, and the flower stalk. Cultivated comfrey has sterile flowers, so I harvest while it's flowering, cutting leaf and flower stalks near the ground and hanging them individually in a dark, well-ventilated place to dry.
Healthy Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way
Comfrey (Symphytum) leaf is free of the compounds (PAs) found in the root that can damage the liver. I have used comfrey leaf infusion regularly for decades with no liver problems, ditto for the group of people at the Henry Doubleday Research Foundation who have eaten cooked comfrey leaves as a vegetable for four generations.
Minerals Make the Difference
Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) is controversial. Ingestion of its roots can cause severe liver congestion. The leaves are safe, though labeled otherwise.
Here are two resources Susun lists in New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way:
"The Comfrey Controversey." Journal of the Northeast Herbalists Association. Winter, 1994
Awang, D.V.C. "Comfrey." Canadian Pharm Journal. 101-4, 1987
I actually commend Mountain Rose. By law, they are required to state that warning. In addition they have added the voice of many who think differently about plants than does the FDA, "This view has been countered by herbalists, who state that common comfrey, the plant most often used for medicinal purposes, contains only negligible amounts of those alkaloids. In fact, one laboratory study of three different sources of comfrey found no pyrrolizidine in one sample, and only negligible amounts in the other two."
I personally enjoy comfrey leaf infusions and have shared them with my son since he started drinking other than milk. I also take anything in moderation.
Please let me know if I can help further.