Herbalists make the worst patients; especially when you are treating yourself. If someone in my family gets injured or needs help I am there right away to lend assistance (almost always with herbs in tow). But this stubborn old mule gets hurt and do I do anything about it? Nah… I just ignore it and hope it goes away. Well guess what; at 37 years old injuries don’t just magically go away anymore. So today I am going to show you how to make comfrey poultices for deep tissue injuries. I am in dire need of them right now and I love to share with you what I actually do in my day to day life.
Gardening season is in full force on our homestead and I have been overdoing it. Between shoveling, hauling, sawing, planting and building my poor shoulder has taken a beating. This is an old injury back from when we had our rooster Chocolate Thunder and if you want to read that tale check it out here. Unfortunately other than a few rounds of ice I didn’t do much to take care of my shoulder when the injury first occurred. It didn’t bother me much over the winter, but now that the manual labour has started up again it is aching each night. Clearly I have aggravated it and I am in need of some herbal healing.
Symphytum officinale (wild comfrey) or Symphytum uplandica x (cultivated comfrey) has been long famed for it’s ability to heal and repair deeper tissues injuries such as bruises, torn ligaments, broken bones and dislocated joints. Often called “The King of Herbs”, comfrey really shines in the area of severe injuries.
Comfrey is also a lovely herb for topical injuries such as bites, scrapes, stings, bleeding and oozing wounds, stings and burns, but due to it’s contraindications (which I will talk about below) I tend to save it’s powerful medicine for deep tissue injuries.
For more severe injuries (like the ones I described above) I would use comfrey topically in poultice form. For a double strength action I would combine it with homeopathic Symphytum taken internally. Avoid taking the crude herb interally.
It is important to distinguish between which species of comfrey you have access to or are growing. According to Susun Weed if you grow comfrey in your garden you are most assuredly growing Symphytum uplandica x, however Richters (where I got my seedling from) states the latin name as Symphytum officinale despite the plant looking very much like uplandica x (according to Susan’s description).
So while that may have seemed long winded, it is important to know what species you are dealing with because Symphytum officinale has some toxicity associated with it. Because of the latin name that came on the tag I treat my plant as the wild comfrey variety and use it externally only.
Symphytum officinale contains liver toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids and is therefore not recommended for internal use. Even for chronic topical use I limit it to 3-4 weeks just to be safe. Even if the skin isn’t broken the chemical constituents of the plant are absorbed through the skin so I would avoid using this plant on children under 3. The homeopathic remedy of Symphytum is quite effective and extremely safe making it an excellent option for young children, people with liver toxicity or disease or pregnant woman.
How to Make Comfrey Poultices
The recipe/instructions I am sharing with you today can be made in any batch size you require. Because I am dealing with an old chronic injury I will be using comfrey poultices nightly for at least two weeks. In cases like this I recommend making large batches and freezing them (I will show you how to do that below) so that way you can just pull them out of the freezer when you need them.
In fact, even if you aren’t injured you can make a large batch for use just in case. Injuries can happen at anytime and there is nothing worse than hurting yourself badly in the winter and not having the herbs you need to help heal yourself. So even if you aren’t hurt there is no harm in whipping up a batch of poultices to have on hand just in case.
Consider it a herbal insurance policy 😉
What You’ll Need
- Comfrey leaves (at least 3-4)
- Blender, food processor or immersion blender
- A good knife
- Parchment paper
Harvest your comfrey leaves fresh, either from a plant you grow yourself or from the wild (ensuring you are harvesting ethically and you have the right plant). Chop them roughly and throw them into your blender, food processor or a jar if you are using an immersion blender. Add just enough very warm water to barely cover the herbs. You don’t want the mixture to be too soggy or else it won’t adhere to the skin well and will likely make a big old mess.
I often add 1-2 tsp of flax seeds as a fibre source to help it form more of a paste. This is optional.
Pulse until you have formed a thick paste. If your comfrey mixture is too thick add a bit more water. If it’s too thin add some more comfrey leaves. The thicker you can make it the easier the application will be. Another good tip is dumping the mixture in a strainer to get some of the water out (if it’s too watery).
How large a poultice you need will depend on the surface area you need to cover. Because I am dealing with a shoulder injury I will need much larger poultices than if it was only a bruise. If you are making these for potential future need I would err on the side of larger because you can always break them into smaller pieces (remember they will be stored in your freezer) if need be.
Prepare your squares of parchment paper – I tend to cut in large squares or rectangles. Using a knife or spatula spread a layer of the comfrey paste onto the parchment paper. Repeat this process for as many poultices as you would like to make.
Place them in the freezer on a baking sheet. Once frozen you can transfer them to a plastic bag. Ensure you label it because you really don’t want to mix this up with last night’s pesto!
I have a great blog post about making poultices in general and how to apply them properly and safely. You can read it here, but I will quickly summarize the highlights from that post.
Apply the comfrey past directly to the area of injury. Because we would not apply comfrey on broken skin the inner layer of gauze is not necessary.
Wrap the injury and herbs with a cloth of some kind (cotton as an example) or medical gauze.
Then wrap the effected area in plastic (I just use plastic wrap) creating an occlusive barrier – this means oxygen can’t get at it and the herb material remains moist.
Use medical tape to hold the plastic layer in place. As an option you can then wrap with a tensor bandage, towel etc. but this step is not necessary.
The longer the poultice can remain on the injury the better it will work. However I have a chronic injury and will be using it for at least a few weeks. It is for this reason I will keep my poultice on for 2-3 hours each night. The minimum amount of time you want to use your comfrey poultice for is 10-15 minutes.
Please Note: I am a Herbalist, Not a Doctor
This blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose, treat or “cure” any injury. If you are pregnant, nursing, on medications, suffer from liver toxicity/disease or are treating a very young child please contact a qualified herbalist prior to using comfrey poultices. If you are injured it is always wise to get your injury checked out so you know what you are dealing with.
Thanks for reading today’s post!
In good health,
P.S. Please share the comfrey love and pin often 😉