Comfrey is a perennial herb that has been used for many years in traditional medicine. It is also sometimes referred to a “knit-bone” because it is said to be very good at promoting healing within when applied to the skin. Comfrey includes a chemical compound called allantoin that has great anti-inflammatory properties, aids in wound healing, and encourages new cell growth. While comfrey should not be taken internally, or applied to broken skin, a poultice made of it’s leaves can reduce swelling and encourage healing. How do you make a poultice? And does a comfrey poultice really work?
- Better for you – a homemade poultice contains only ingredients from your kitchen with no added unknown chemicals
- Better for the earth – homemade is generally a more environmentally friendly solution
- Saves money – a comfrey poultice is very low cost, especially if you grow the plant in your garden
- It works! – comfrey has proven healing and pain reduction properties for burns, cuts and bruises (source and source)
- Comfrey is an easy to grow plant that will return each spring with pretty purple flowers
- Poultices must be made up ahead of time and can be a little messy
- Comfrey cannot be grown from seeds, and it can be difficult to find a live plant
- Comfrey leaves should be handled carefully as they have irritating little hairs to scratch you
I first learned of comfrey about a year ago when my friend Jasmine did a post called Learning Herbs: Comfrey on her cool blog Like a Mustard Seed. I hadn’t heard of comfrey before, but was super intrigued by all the common uses for topical comfrey application:
- Broken Bones
- Bug Bites
- Muscle Strains
- Skin Tags
- Varicose Veins
WOW, right? And the research confirms that comfrey is a great healer when applied externally. I knew I had found my first medicinal garden plant!
Finding comfrey for my garden was a little tricky. You can’t grow it from seeds, so you have to get some roots from another plant. Comfrey is not well known so you probably have to look for it at a specialized nursery or find it online. I was able to find it with the herbal nursery folks at my local farmer’s market. (But still had to ask for it, and have them bring it for me the next week – they were very surprised when I asked for it by name).
The plant has been happy in my garden, even through the mild southern California winter. I kept waiting for an opportunity to use it, but our family was blessed by a string of months with no major bumps or bruises. However, with the impending arrival of baby #3 in late winter, I knew I had a significant bruising event coming my way. I began to prepare poultices to use in healing my perineum after delivery.
What is a poultice?
A poultice is a wet medicated bandage applied to a wound. Although a common wound treatment historically, we don’t use them much in modern first aid. They are very easy to make, however, with the right supplies. Once you have your poultice, you can wrap it against the injured site so it delivers healing benefits directly to the wound.
How to make a poultice:
- Harvest and clean your herbs (comfrey in this case)
- Grind up the herbs with warm water in a food chopper, or blender. Add enough water to get everything flowing nicely in the blender.
- Mix in flour by hand to form mixture into the thick paste (I used wheat, but rice flour or other types of flour should work just as well)
- Spread the mixture between layers of cloth or gauze in the size that you want your poultice to be
- Store poultices in freezer between layers of waxed paper if not using immediately
Here’s a quick video I found that shows you how to make and apply a poultice:
I stored my comfrey poultices in the freezer, waiting for the big day. Well, the big day came, and as expected my perineum was sore, quite swollen and bruised after delivery. Luckily I made it through this time with no tears or scrapes. But first aid was needed, so the next morning I tucked a icy poultice into just the right spot, and retreated back to bed with my newborn.
Ahhh! The icy poultice was COLD in that warm, tender spot, but then so cooling and refreshing! I left it there for several hours before changing it out for another during my next trip to the bathroom. By evening’s time tissue that had been red, hot and swollen was back to pink, cool and almost normal size and shape. A quick peek in a hand mirror confirmed that you almost couldn’t tell that any trauma had happened at all! I was amazed! Never had my perineum healed so quickly from a birth.
Overall, making a comfrey poultice was quite easy, and it did an amazing job in speeding the healing of bruised and swollen tissue. With my comfrey plant going crazy in it’s corner of the garden this spring, I plan to make a large batch of poultices to have in the freezer for any injuries that come our way. Although I certainly don’t like to see any of my loves hurt, I am very interested to see if the comfrey works just as well on other bumps and bruises.
If you are interested in harnessing the power of comfrey, but don’t have access to fresh leaves, dried comfrey will work just as well! Just be sure to rehydrate it with hot water before preparing your poultice. Here’s a link to some dried organic comfrey on Amazon (affiliate link):
Have you ever used comfrey to heal an injury?
PS – You know I’m not a doctor, right? This information is based on my experience only and is not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat any medical condition. Your experience may vary. Please remember to speak with your healthcare professional about any medical concerns you have, and follow their recommended course of treatment. You can read additional fine print details here.