Comfrey has long been one of the most respected of medicinal plants, although today it is not recommended for internal use, the FDA having determined that repeated ingestion can lead to liver damage.
This means that old medicinal recipes for comfrey teas, cough mixtures and other potions should be strictly avoided. Comfrey contains hepatoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and while there is no firm agreement on how much of the plant taken internally is hazardous, the simplest and safest answer is not to take it at all.
However, as an herb for external use, comfrey is still valuable. It isn't wise to grow it where young children can get hold of it, but if you have a place to put comfrey as a potted plant, you can add this ancient medicinal plant to your repertoire of home remedies as a treatment for wounds, sprains and other external problems..
The ingredient that makes comfrey so valuable is allantoin, which has a soothing and rejuvenating effect on the skin.
Comfrey is most commonly used as a poultice or a salve. A comfrey poultice draws infection out from a wound and is prepared by boiling comfrey leaves in a little water until they are soft.
Let the leaves cool, drain and lay on a clean piece of linen or bandage. Fold the cloth over the leaves, and apply to the wound.
Remember to test the heat of the poultice first; while these are meant to be applied very warm, to help draw out the infection, they are not to be applied scalding hot.
To make your own comfrey skin tonic, salve or ointment, you need to gather clean, blemish free leaves. It is important that the comfrey itself is organic, and must not have been treated with pesticides.
Pack the leaves into a large glass jar such as a preserving jar. Pour over enough olive oil to fill the jar and completely coat the leaves and cap the jar tightly. Leave it in a warm place for two weeks. (A sunny windowsill will do).
Strain off the leaves and squeeze the oil out in to a glass or china jug. For every cup of oil you obtain, melt two tablespoons beeswax and add it to the oil. If you want the mixture thicker or more solid, add more beeswax.
Keep it in the fridge for external use only. You can add a few ingredients to make it more pleasant smelling or useful, such as a few drops of lavender or vitamin E oil.
For a skin tonic which will help with inflamed skin, bruising or muscle aches and pains, prepare the comfrey as before but substitute pure alcohol or witch hazel (available from health food supply stores) for the oil. Leave the mixture tightly capped in a warm place for a week, then strain as before. Bottle the liquid, and keep it in the fridge.
You can make comfrey wipes, by layering leaves of a strong kitchen paper such as Bounty in a square container. Pour the comfrey tonic over the paper so that it soaks through, seal the container and place in the fridge. This is especially useful for sunburn and heat rashes in summer. You can add a few drops of essential oil to give the wipes a nice fragrance.
So even though comfrey tea isn't recommended anymore, comfrey is still a great comforter for aches and sprains.
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