In my comfrey salve post, I never got around to explaining how to make it. Instead, I got involved with the government's involvement in herbs and their uses. Fortunately, I have a reader who reminded me I never explained how to make the salve. So, today, I'm going to do just that.
Let's talk a bit about comfrey. It is a perennial herbaceous herb that "contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and B12 and more protein in its leaf structure than any other known member of the vegetable kingdom"(1). It is agriculturally grown in many countries for its substance.
As a pain salve, we are concerned with comfrey's leaves and roots. Here we find allantoin. Allantoin is a protein that is said to promote healing. Check out these very few (out of thousands available) sites on allantoin. It is found in sufficient quantity in comfrey and sugar beets. :)
That said...let's make a salve with it. First, we need to make comfrey oil. After I harvest a whole 2nd or 3rd year comfrey plant (you may not get the whole taproot), I take the leaves off and dry them flat on nylon mesh. I clean the roots and cut them up into pieces and dry them in a very warm and dry spot a couple of weeks to a month. The leaves are dried in a few days.
When all is dried, place a few chopped roots in the bottom of a 2 quart size pot, and then add your crumbled leaves on top of that. Pour in extra virgin olive oil until you have about an inch over the herb. Place on stove top range at low heat (you should be able to touch the pot throughout the whole 6 or more hours you are steeping the herb), stirring about every 15 minutes to help release the properties of the herb. After 6-8 hours, strain the oil through cheesecloth into a glass container.
If you want to forgo the salve, you may use this oil in place of it. It will keep properly stored (cool and dark) up to a year. If you want to make a salve, read on...
I like to add ingredients to a salve that help the purpose of the salve. If this is for joint pain, and I use it for such, then I add ingredients that are said to sink in and help with pain. I add shea butter to my salve, as well as aloe butter for any topical pain. I add emu oil on the liquid side with a bit of tocopherol for a longer shelf life. Then, I add a blend of essential oils that are also said to aid in deep seated and/or joint pain. In my particular salve, I use a couple more herbs in the herbal oil process, as well. I add spicebush berry dried and ground, and I add meadowsweet herb that is said to contain salicylic acid. But, you may or may not add other herbs to your oil. I don't think it is necessary for pain relief.
I like my wax to be around 15%. Sometimes I'm a little more or less (gardener's salve to First Aid salve), but comfrey is about 15%. I add butter at about 30%, blending a combination of two butters. You may choose to use another butter. Or decrease the butter, and increase your wax up to 10%.
My herbal oil is at 33%, emu oil at 10% and wheat germ oil at 3% with a bit of tocopherol (.1 ounce per total of 7 ounce of product.
And, because this salve is a liniment salve, I add 18 drops of essential oil blend per ounce of salve. This is the maximum allowed in using aromatherapy but often recommended for use in a liniment.
I use two pyrex measuring cups. I use a postage scale. I make my recipe by weight, and I weigh out the wax and butters in the larger of the two cups. I heat the wax and butter in an open oven, there are many ways to do this. The main goal is to do it thoroughly but not overdo it. If any of these ingredients overheat, you lose a lot of precious properties of the oils and herbs.
I measure the liquid ingredients into the smaller of the two cups while the wax and butter are melting. I place this cup in the oven a very few minutes before the wax and butter are melted. I often take out the wax just before it is all melted and stir it to melt it completely. This helps me keep an eye on it and not let it overheat. Then, I take out the warmed liquid oils and slowly pour it into the wax stirring constantly with a wooden skewer stick to incorporate it fully and keep it from solidifying. When I place a drop on my wrist and it doesn't burn (lol), I add my essential oils in the same way I added my liquid oils. I stir, stir, stir. Now it is ready to pour into your prepared containers.
I often read to let it cool completely before you cap your containers. I do not do this. I cap mine while still warmed but solid.
And, now you have made comfrey salve. You may apply this technique to any salve you would like to make...using different herbs and oils in the herbal oil process to using different ingredients in your salve recipe and different essential oils to top it off.
Thanks for reading...Kathleen
(1) Herbs, contributing Editor Lesley Bremness, RD Home Handbooks, Reader's Digest, Pleasantville, NY, 1990.