Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) occur in some range plants that animals eat. PA may enter the human food supply if cereal crops are contaminated with weeds containing the PA, or in small amount in meat and milk of animals ingesting the PA-containing plants. PA are also found in some herbal teas and herbal medicine preparations. Human poisonings have occurred as a result of use of home remedies containing PA. If ingested in large enough doses, PA are toxic to liver cells and cause acute liver disease in humans and animals. Some PA are potent mutagens and carcinogens in experimental animals.However, the importance of PA in human carcinogenesis is unclear. Many plants from the Boraginaceae, Compositae, and Leguminosae families are contain well over 100 hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. 2,7
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Prepared Summer 1997 by Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D.
University of Idaho, Dept. of Food Science and Toxicology - EXTOXNET FAQ Team.