Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids and Cosmetics


"Comfrey", bolding added by me 
"comfrey contains substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are both toxic to the liver and carcinogenic. ... Pyrrolizidine alkaloids ... can be absorbed through the skin. ... it may be prudent to avoid topical comfrey products entirely." 

"BBB - Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids" - ingestion, FDA, bolding added by me
"Reports of acute poisoning in the United States among humans are relatively rare. Most result from the use of medicinal preparations as home remedies. ... Mass human poisonings have occurred in other countries when cereal crops used to prepare food were contaminated with seeds containing pyrrolizidine alkaloid."


"Success Stories: Disease Detectives in Ethiopia, Part 2", ingestion, CDC, bolding added by me
"The disease is now called “pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced liver disease” (PAILD) for the toxic PA that causes the illness. More important, grain farmers in Ethiopia now have the information they need to protect themselves and their families from a once mysterious and sometimes fatal disease."

"Comfrey (Symphytum spp.)", bolding added by me
The hepatoxic, carcinogenic "alkaloids may also be absorbed through intact skin" Note: Grade B uses require "further" or "additional" research to "confirm" results. 

 "Chickweed Healing Salve contains comfrey, which may increase the risk of systemic toxicity"

A number of plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids besides comfrey, e.g. coltsfoot and alkanet (alkanna), and are used in some cosmetics in varying amounts. The use of such plants tends not to be in mainstream cosmetics. I have seen alkanet listed as the colorant used in handmade "organic" lip and cheek cosmetics on the market. Ironically, their inclusion can frequently be found in alternative cosmetics touting safety by being free of other ingredients proven to be safe.

I see no valid reason for ingredients containing hepatoxic, carcinogenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids to be used in cosmetics given the risks. Avoid!