Homemade comfrey salve is a must-have in your apothecary arsenal! If I was forced to choose only one herbal remedy as a favorite, it would be comfrey salve! I keep some in the kitchen, the diaper bag, the car and in my bushcraft pack as well. So what is it? Comfrey salve is a wonderful, natural, healing salve made of infused oil and beeswax. I’ve read other people add lavender and tee tree to theirs. I just keep mine basic. Maybe in the future I will do some experimenting. But I really don’t find a need to add anything else, as it works so well on its own.
Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a flowering plant of the Boraginaceae family. There is actually a lot of controversy surrounding this plant because it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids(PA), which is said in excessive amounts can cause liver issues, even cancer. Here is an article worth reading. As with any herbal posts on this blog, I am not a doctor, nor am I trying to treat or diagnose anyone. I simply am sharing my interest in these old remedies for educational purposes. With that said, let’s talk about comfrey and its positive benefits.
There are different types of comfrey. There is Common comfrey, Russian comfrey and “Prickly” comfrey. Russian comfrey is a hybrid between Prickly and Common. Prickly and Russian comfrey have higher levels of PA than Common comfrey. Common comfrey is what I have growing around my home and the kind that I use in my comfrey salve. It is also worth noting that the roots of the plant contain more PA than the leaves, and the leaves themselves contain less amounts of PA after blooming as opposed to the young, freshly emerged leaves in the Springtime. Do your own research and make your own informed decision.
Comfrey has also been know as “knitbone” for its healing properties. It contains the chemicals rosmarinic acid and allantoin. The rosmarinic acid relieves pain and inflammation and the allantoin stimulates the production of new cells. This makes comfrey good for:
Anti-aging for topical skin use
This post contains affiliate links. See full disclosure here.
There are even more benefits associated with consuming comfrey infusion, but since the focus of this post is salve, I will go over those at another time.
I thought I could share my personal experience with comfrey salve with you. About 15 years ago I had a nasty wipeout on a snowboard. Of course I was stubborn and didn’t go get checked out. I had some pretty decent lower back pain and pain in my right hip for the better part of a year afterwards. Then it started to let up-or so I thought. I am now finding that the older I get the more it bothers me. Especially in the colder months. (Not to sound like some old mountain lady or something, but it’s true, ha,ha!) When I get chilled such as during outdoor activities like ice fishing, etc. it really intensifies the pain, and my back and hip kind of seize up. There have actually been times when I cannot walk. I have talked with at least three doctors about this and each time I have gotten the feeling they thought I was just after pain pills, which could not be further from the truth. They really didn’t “give me the time of day”. I just wanted to find out what the problem actually is. It is a type of pain that Advil and Tylenol just won’t touch. So in addition to stretches, working out and the chiropractor I use comfrey salve. And there are times that still doesn’t cut it. For those times, I won’t lie-I reach for the whisky. It really does help the pain, though I do not recommend it. Ahem, anyway- comfrey salve has helped my chronic pain when over the counter pain meds wouldn’t.
I also broke a toe this Summer. Using comfrey salve made a difference in the pain and I was able to walk normally just a week after breaking it, even with shoes on. I use it on my face a few times a month as an anti-aging moisturizer. I have used it on my kids numerous times to heal diaper rash completely in under 24 hours! My husband(and I) used it on pulled muscles and in under an hour felt better. We use it for cuts and scrapes as well. You should not use it on burns until after the burn has cooled though, as it can trap the heat in a fresh burn, making it worse. I use it for chronic back pain often. Comfrey works so well at healing, that you have to be careful the wound does not heal so fast on the surface that it traps bacteria under the skin and cause infection-it is that powerful.
How To Make It
First things first. Harvest your comfrey leaves, then dry them. You can either dry them flat on racks or string them with thread and hang them. I’ve done both and had the same results either way. Some people cure their leaves with a dehumidifier. That is something I’d like to try someday.
When your leaves are completely dry you need to infuse a carrier oil. I typically use olive oil. You can use jojoba oil as well, which is great for your skin. Did you know that jojoba oil is the most like sebum (your natural oil in your skin) of all the oils? To infuse the carrier oil, you need to chop dried comfrey leaves and fill your jar 2/3 -3/4 with the dried leaves. You do not want to pack your jar tightly. You also do not want to use fresh leaves, as this will cause your oil to go rancid. This method is called cold infusion. There is another method going around out there using a crockpot and fresh leaves. I do not have experience with this method. If this faster infusion method is appealing to you go ahead and check it out. I tend to be in the “good things come to those who wait camp”. The heat infusion method must work or people probably wouldn’t be doing it. I feel like it would not be as strong as a long, cold infusion, but that is just my opinion. As long as I plan ahead, I do not mind waiting. After you put your dried leaves into your jar, pour oil over the leaves until the jar is completely full. You do not want airspace in your jar. So make sure you pick a jar that you can completely fill with oil. Then store in a dark place at room temperature. Some folks strain it at 4 weeks. I like to let mine go at least 6 weeks, preferably longer. My thought on that is, why go through the effort to make it just to strain it early and end up with an inferior product that is not as potent as it could be? Shake your jar every so often while it sits.
Then when it’s ready, strain it. To make a salve you mix the oil with pure beeswax. You have to watch out when ordering beeswax online. As long as a wax product contains at least 55% beeswax, companies are allowed to label and sell it as “pure beeswax”. Real, pure beeswax should have a gentle, sweet scent to it and melt smoothly. It should not stink or smell like plastic. I will like a 100% pure beeswax in this post for you. Most of the beeswax pellets on Amazon are mixed with paraffin. A good ratio for salve is 8 ounces of infused oil to 1 ounce pure beeswax. You’ll want a kitchen scale for this so you get consistent results and a salve that sets well. All you have to do is melt your wax, stir in your infused oil and pour into a container to harden. The hardest part is the waiting! I like using 2 ounce tins for my salve. Perfect for on the go and to give as gifts. I hope this has been helpful. Here is a video I made on making comfrey salve:
Happy salve making!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 3 months 6 days 18 hours 6 seconds
Total Time 3 months 6 days 18 hours 15 minutes 6 seconds
- Dried Comfrey leaves
- Olive oil (or another carrier oil)
- Pure beeswax
- Containers of some kind for storing the salve
- Fill a pint or quart jar 2/3-3-4 of the way with dried comfrey leaves. Do not pack the jar tightly.
- Pour carrier oil over the leaves, completely filling the jar so there is no airspace in the jar.
- Cover the jar with a airtight lid and store in a dark cupboard for 6-14 weeks.
- Strain the oil with a mesh bag, cheesecloth or something similar.
- Weigh out 8 oz of the infused oil and 1 oz of pure beeswax. Melt together in a double boiler, stirring to thoroughly combine.
- Pour salve mixture into glass jars, tins or container of choice. Salve will keep for a couple of years.