Making comfrey ointment is a fairly simple process, but be sure you are using it correctly. Incorrect application and use of comfrey ointment may lead to serious consequences since some of the chemical constituents found in comfrey can be toxic. It should not be taken internally, and before growing or harvesting it, you should learn what it looks like or buy dried comfrey from a reputable vendor.
Making the Ointment at Home
Making comfrey ointment is deceptively simple. All you need is a jar of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline brand petroleum jelly, and two cups of dried comfrey leaves. If you are concerned about the ingredients in petroleum jelly, Waxelene, a petroleum jelly alternative, or one cup of beeswax or paraffin wax may be used.
- Scoop out the jelly or wax into a double boiler and gently and slowly heat it until it melts.
- Add the comfrey leaves and stir it frequently while the petroleum jelly melts.
- Watch the mixture carefully and make sure it doesn't boil. It will take about half an hour to melt an average size jar of jelly.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer with fine holes to catch all the bits of comfrey. Be very, very careful when pouring the hot jelly mixture as it can burn. You may want to wear heavy utility gloves during this step.
- Pour the mixture into a heat-proof glass bowl to allow it to cool.
- Once it has cooled down significantly yet is still liquid, pour the petroleum jelly, which is now infused with the essence of comfrey, into storage jars with tight-fitting lids. Label the jars with the name of the herbal product and the date.
- Discard the strained comfrey leaves, twigs and stems.
Using Homemade Comfrey Ointment
The homemade comfrey ointment may be applied to simple scratches and scrapes, but do not apply it to open wounds or deep cuts. It helps the skin heal quickly, but open wounds and cuts should receive proper medical attention.
Commercial Comfrey Ointment
Rather than making your own comfrey ointment, or if fresh comfrey leaves are not available, you can purchase ready-made comfrey ointment at natural health stores, pharmacies, and online.
Safety, Cautions and Contraindications
The National Institutes of Health states that human comfrey studies show that external comfrey creams have an analgesic effect that helps relieve joint and muscle pain. Comfrey is also used to treat minor skin irritations, insect bites, ulcerations and abrasions.
Despite comfrey's healing benefits, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) offers several safety precautions and contraindications before using comfrey products.
Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), chemical compounds that may damage the liver and lead to death. As a result, it is recommended that comfrey never be taken orally. As mentioned on Annie's Remedy website, some herbalists and natural health practitioners still prescribe the use of comfrey internally. Some believe the safety of the herb depends on whether you use the whole herb or just portions and how long you take the herb. They also refer to the fact that the herb was used as a folk remedy for centuries as proof of its safety.
However, given that research has shown PAs to cause liver toxicity, other practitioners recommend avoiding comfrey altogether - internally or externally. Only you and your doctor can weigh the risks and benefits to determine if comfrey is right for you.
In the United States, it is illegal to sell any pills, supplements, or tinctures of comfrey intended to be taken orally. Comfrey ointments and skin salves may still be sold. Commercial preparations are sold over-the-counter nationwide. Many natural health aficionados enjoy making comfrey ointment or poultices and other skin preparations.
UMM recommends comfrey not be used at all by anyone with alcohol problems or liver disease, which compromises the body's ability to process, neutralize and discard potentially poisonous substances. UMM also recommends that people with cancer and small children avoid comfrey products.
If you notice a cut, scrap or abrasion turning red, feeling hot, or with lines radiating from it, go to the emergency room or see your doctor as soon as possible. This may be sign of serious infection that needs to be treated with conventional medicine.
Use Comfrey Ointment Wisely
The choice to use comfrey is yours, and with care and caution, you can make your own comfrey ointment. It's said to help wounds heal fast, and as long as you take reasonable precautions when making and using it, it offers a simple way to use home-grown herbs to make skin salves and ointments.