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

"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 "alkaloids may also be absorbed through intact skin" Note: Grade B uses require "further" or "additional" research to "confirm" results. 

"All humans ... believed to be susceptible to the hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Males are more susceptible than females ... fetuses and children show the highest sensitivity. Home remedies and consumption of herbal teas in large quantities ... risk factor ... the most likely causes of alkaloid poisonings in the U.S."


 "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 pyrrolizidine alkaloids to be used in cosmetics given the risks. Avoid!