Owners of The Herb Shop Connection in Springville say comfrey root or leaves can cure everything from "charley horse" cramps to cervical cancer.
But the Federal Trade Commission says Norman Bacalla and Ruth Christopher Bacalla have violated federal laws that restrict false advertisements and deceptive practices.
The commission filed suit Tuesday in federal court against the Bacallas and Christopher Enterprises, doing business under the name The Herb Shop Connection at 1195 Spring Creek Place.
"Defendants have represented, expressly or by implication, that their comfrey products are safe for consumers, including pregnant women, infants and children," the lawsuit stated. "In truth and fact, comfrey and products containing comfrey are not safe for consumers."
Norman Bacalla told the Deseret News on Thursday he had seen the lawsuit but could not comment until he had consulted with his attorney.
The suit quoted from Christopher Enterprises promotional material, including testimonials from customers who say the comfrey has done "miraculous things."
"My oldest daughter . . . had a dental cavity . . . Two years later, the filling came out and a hole was left in her tooth," said one customer. "Nothing more was done about it except the herbal calcium formula (Calc Tea) that you recommend . . . We have recently discovered that the hole where the filling was is now completely grown over and is absolutely unnoticeable even under complete inspection."
Another customer, referred to as L.M. from Mapleton, said her "little girl" quickly recovered from a cough and cold after taking a comfrey syrup.
"Hanann now has her own bottle of Comfrey-Mullein-Garlic Syrup and she goes to the fridge to take it when she needs it," the testimonial stated.
The trade commission said comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can "cause serious liver damage."
The commission is asking U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart to issue a permanent injunction to stop the Bacallas from making their claims.