A few months ago I was looking for something to help my mom control the pain caused by her osteoarthritis and found a few studies done by the University of Pittsburgh on using comfrey to treat arthritis.
Using comfrey salve has helped my mom find relief from her osteoarthritis and, after talking to my doctor, I used it to treat patellar tendonitis (runner’s knee) instead of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that were originally prescribed.
Comfrey is an anti-inflammatory herb traditionally used to help heal bruises, sprains and torn ligaments and tendons. Unlike painkillers, comfrey treats the problem not just the symptoms.
“All-natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone. Always talk to your doctor before trying any new treatment, especially if you are on other medications. Only your doctor can give you guidelines on how often and how long you should use comfrey salve.
The FDA has made it illegal to sell comfrey for ingestion because it can cause liver damage. Although you may see articles that recommend drinking comfrey tea, be cautious. Also avoid putting comfrey on open wounds as it will get in the bloodstream quickly, making it more likely to affect the liver.
Comfrey salve can usually be purchased in pharmacies. Since most stores don’t keep it in stock you may have to ask the pharmacist to order it for you. I also recommend looking in the natural remedies section of health food stores where it may also be sold as a Gardner’s salve because it the relieves the achy, swollen joints gardeners get after a long day.
I chose to make comfrey salve because the commercially available salves are olive oil-based and my mom wanted something less greasy. I use grapeseed oil because it is light and absorbs into the skin quickly.
Comfrey is the main active ingredient since it’s an anti-inflammatory and healer. Comfrey is difficult to buy because it is illegal to ingest, so you must purchase it as a medicinal herb at a local farmers market or you can find it online at Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs.
The second anti-inflammtory herb is calendula, a variety of marigold that is often found in tea, so you may be able to find it at a specialty tea shop selling ingredients in bulk. Pittsburghers can go to Prestogeorge in the Strip District, or if your not local they have a great selection of bulk herbs, flowers and tea online. You can also purchase calendula flowers on Amazon.
The third medicinal ingredient is a warming herb to stimulate blood flow to the area. I use either dried ginger root, which can also be purchased at specialty tea shops, or fresh, chopped rosemary. When I use ginger root I add sweet orange essential oil to compliment the fragrant calendula. Rosemary completely masks the calendula so there is no need to add another fragrance.
To make the salve, infused the oil with the herbs. For dried herbs the ratio is 1 ounce of herbs per cup of oil. For fresh herbs, double that amount. When using fresh ingredients clean everything as if you were going to eat it because you don’t want bacteria from the plant spoiling the salve.