FDA on Comfrey Products
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Kristin
Posted on: June 17, 2003

I keep hearing all of this news about comfrey safety. Is it illegal to sell and distribute salves with comfrey extracts in the ingredients without listing the FDA warning, or is it a judgement call?

In July 2001 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory to manufacturers selling products containing comfrey. The text of the warning letter is available online at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/dspltr06.html. In the advisory, the FDA requested manufacturers to removed comfrey-containing products from the market and to urge their customers to stop using the products. The advisory appears to be contradictory because it was purported to be merely an "advisory" to manufacturers while it included the statement that the FDA "is prepared to use its authority and resources to remove products from the market that appear to violate the Act." It is not clear to us under what conditions the FDA can and did remove comfrey products from the market.

The advisory goes on to refer to a separate initiative launched by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict the sale of comfrey products. In recent years the FTC has taken up the slack in effectively banning herbal products while the FDA has had its hands tied.

For our own views on comfrey safety, go to the Q&A section of our website (http://www.richters.com) and search for "comfrey safety" using the search tool provided.

I can’t find anything that compares to a comfrey salve. Is there another herb that has similar healing qualities for skin abrasions?

We agree -- nothing compares with comfrey for healing skin problems. Aloe vera is effective on some skin problems but its effects and mode of action are quite different from those of comfrey so it is not regarded as equivalent to comfrey by experienced herbalists.

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