Sunday, December 6, 2015

Comfrey salve is a staple in our house

Ever since living on the farm in Oregon and learning all the old world holistic trades, I have been a big proponent of do-it-yourself home care. Be it for skin, hair, eating or cleaning, there's so much to be said about making your own.

And one of our go-to items is a healing comfrey salve. Burt's Bees makes a great version (Dr. Burts), and there are several others like it you can buy at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, etc. So if you don't have time, having one of these store bought versions in your first aid kit or cabinet is a great idea.

The magic of the comfrey plant is legendary - the Native Americans called it "Knit Bone," and used it for all sorts of internal and external remedies. In our house, we use it for rashes, stings, cuts, nicks, scrapes, and most of all, burns. Most versions (home made or store bought) include lavender in their blend, which is an immediate and must-have cure for burns.

So this summer, when our comfrey plants took over the front yard like Little Shop of Horrors, I decided to call in the expert to teach a small group of us to make the salve on our own.

Mary O'Brien of Black Bear Botanicals is legendary in Steamboat herself. A well known herbalist and permaculturist, she leads herbal walks, teaches workshops, and is one of my local gurus for all things herbs.

In our short one-day workshop, we made the comfrey oil, and used Mary's pre-made oil so everyone could take home a small sample of the salve.  We let our oil sit (mine on the top of our hot water heater) for a moon cycle, and then this week I finally dove in and made a batch of salve with it. I have 3-4 cups of oil remaining, so I can make a few other skin care products like lip balm when needed.

To make the infused oil of a plant, it's similar to making tea - pack a jar with leaves from the plant and fill it with organic olive oil or oil of choice. You can make the oil quicker by heating it, but it may reduce the properties of the plant if overheated so keep the temp low, like sitting the pot on the pilot light only overnight. Once the oil is made, store in a cool place, or even refrigerate, and keep up to one year.

Once you have the oil, you can proceed with your salve! 

Make sure you're using cooking equipment that has NOT been used for food to avoid bacteria. 

Mary's recipe is as follows:
Using a double boiler, heat 1 cup herb infused oil with 3/4 oz. beeswax until melted, let cool and add 1/2 teaspoon essential oils (50 drops) (lavender, rosemary), and 400 IU Vitamin E oil.