Prostate cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye discusses symptoms
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Waiting times for cancer treatment have now peaked since the pandemic brought referrals to a halt. Estimations suggest more than a third of people can expect to contend with the disease at some stage in their life. The deadly nature of the disease lies mainly in its mutating capacities, which allow tumours to branch out to different parts of the body. One tea may facilitate the mutating process by fuelling the proliferation of cells.
Comfrey tea has long been touted for its wound healing properties, but studies supporting these claims are limited.
The plant contains a number of substances that studies have shown are biologically active.
One of these substances is rosmarinic acid, which may reduce inflammation and protect smaller blood vessels in the lungs from damage.
Allantoin, however, has been shown to increase the rate at which cells divide, which is one of the hallmarks of cancer.
READ MORE: Cancer: The two habits shown to increase your risk of cancer by ‘30 times’ when combined
In fact, cancer occurs when harmed cells in the body start to grow in a rapid and uncontrolled fashion, causing the formation of malignant tumours.
Hiba Batool, nutritionist and nutrition researcher at Marham, told Eat This: “The much-loved tea – considered to have healing properties – contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can lead to severe liver damage.”
When applied to the skin in small amounts, The health body RxList asserts that the plant can be safe.
It adds: “It’s important to remember that the poisonous chemicals in comfrey can pass through the skin.
“Absorption of these chemicals increases if the skin is broken or if large amounts are applied.”The health body warns that the plant becomes unsafe when it is taken by mouth.
It explains: “It contains chemicals PAs that can cause liver damage, lung damage […].”
In fact, the discovery of the plant’s cancer-causing properties has previously led the FDA to recommend the removal of oral comfrey products from the market.
One article published in Public Health Nutrition in 2004, echoed this advice, stating that “consumption of herbal teas made from comfrey leaves may be ill-advised”.
In 2010, an article in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health reported a total of 17 tumours induced by the chemical in rodents.
The results showed the PA chemical-induced a total of four liver tumours, while 33 percent of the rodents developed carcinoma of the skin.
A further 28 percent were found with lung tumours after receiving two weekly injections containing comfrey over a period of four weeks.
What’s more, the paper states that the carcinogenic risks of PAs are more pronounced through exposure to tea and herbal infusions.
But in 2011, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) noted that supplements based on plants containing PAs could also result in exposure levels “too close to the range of doses known to cause severe acute/short term toxicity”.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre explains: “Comfrey contains compounds that are toxic to the liver and can cause cancer.
“[It] has been confused with foxglove, a poisonous plant, which has similar leaves.
“Consequently, several cases of accidental infection of what was thought to be comfrey herbal tea occurred, resulting in accidental poisoning and death in one case.”
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