Making a herbal salve

A salve or ointment is made from herbs , vegetable oils and beeswax ( soy-wax if you are strictly vegan). The vegetable oil acts in a solvent capacity dissolving out  the healing constituents of the pants. The bees wax is protective and  soothing and acts in a solidifying manner.

comfrey
Comfrey growing in my garden 

 Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Comfreys folk name ,knit-bone gives us some insight into its potential applications. There is a lot of controversy about the use of Comfrey internally and as a licensed herbalist I cannot legally recommend it or prescribe it for internal use.( Please scroll to the bottom of the page for a little more information on this topic) however a Comfrey salve for external use  is a really  excellent addition to your own herbal first aid kit.

Comfrey contains allantoin, which encourages rapid cell regeneration. For this reason, your comfrey salve is going to help wounds heal quickly. bones to “knit” rapidly and it will help with sprains and bruising. ( A strong word of caution here, don’t use it if there is any risk of infection in the wound as its rapid tissue healing ability means it will form a layer of skin over an infection and potentially  cause an abscess to develop underneath. The same caution goes with broken bones, only use if you know the bones have been properly aligned ) 

Allantoin is also a very effective moisturiser and will help remove dead skin cells and facilitate the growth of healthier tissue. It can be used on scaring and dry scaly skin. It is in both the roots and leaves of comfrey.

The oil infusions take about three to four weeks using the sun method  and they can be tricky to get right as the oils go rancid really easily or mould will develop on the top if there is too much moisture in the herb and I have lost more batches that I have gained.

However  I am never deterred by mere mould and funky smelling oils and  I continue to make them as it feels like such a precious achievement when they turn out correctly.

I always use a high quality organic  olive oil for my infused oils , as a fruit oil it has a longer shelf life and adds another layer of healing to the salve. Olive oil is an antioxidant and has antibacterial properties . ( More on infused oils in another post)

comfrey infused oil
I dried the comfrey leaf for a few hours in my dehydrator at a low heat setting . This removes as much moisture as possible, you can also leave your plant material to wilt and then use it. 

 

Making your herbal salve 

Ingredients : 8 floz (1 cup) of  herb infused oil ,1oz Beeswax or soy wax, 1 teaspoon of essential oil if adding it.

Method 

  1. Get started by preparing your jars,  Remove the lids and put them out on your counter in a place where it will be easy to pour your hot salve into them.
  2. Next melt 1 ounce of beeswax in a saucepan or double boiler. The double boiler is ideal because it provides a low, gentle heat for your oil.  Keep your eyes open in Lidl or Aldi as they come up now and again  at a good price. If you use a saucepan, make sure the heat is really low as not to burn you oils or waxes.
  3. When the beeswax has melted add 1 cup of comfrey infused oil. The beeswax will solidify again in places when you do so. Heat just until the wax is melted again.
  4. Pour the mixture into a glass jug and you can add you essential oils at this point
  5. Carefully pour into your waiting jars.
  6. Allow your salve to cool putting the lid on only when its cold as to avoid moisture on the lid and possible mould forming.
  7. Store your salve/ointment in a cool dark place and it will last for months and in many cases a lot longer.

    comfrey salve
    Comfrey salve 

 

CAUTION :Don’t use comfrey root internally, never use comfrey  root or leaf if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

In their book Hedgerow Medicine (which I highly recommend) Julie and Matthew Seal discuss some of the controversy around the internal use of comfrey. Many folk herbalists have been using Comfrey for years with no ill effects. One of the possible issues underlying the problem is that it was Common Comfrey ( Symphytum officinale) that has been traditionally used in herbal medicine. Russian Comfrey ( Symphytum x uplandicum) is now widely used as a fertiliser and compost accelerator especially in organic gardens and is now the comfrey  most of us have growing in our gardens. Russian Comfrey is a hybrid of Common comfrey and Prickly comfrey. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids ( the plant constituents that have been linked to cases of liver toxicity and thus  the problem with taking comfrey internally) are much higher in Russian comfrey than Common comfrey. Russian comfrey and prickly comfrey contain echimidine which is the most toxic alkaloid and should only be used externally. As this species hybridises easily it can make the comfrey’s difficult to tell apart. I still cannot be sure what type of comfrey I have growing despite intense inspection.

References 

Herb Mentor : Available at :https://herbmentor.learningherbs.com/

Gladstar R. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health,Storey,2001.

Bruton-Seal J, Seal M. Hedgerow Medicine,Merlin Unwin Books, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments on “Making a herbal salve

  1. Fantastic post….easy to follow instructions thank you
    Any advise on a salve for eczema?

    Like

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