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How much is fresh cut comfrey worth?

 
Eric Platt
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Location: East Texas
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Hey, y'all,

I'm looking at starting a side business selling comfrey (and other herbs) to local midwives as a side business. I'm trying to figure out what to charge.

From my research online, dried comfrey leaves cost around $16 / pound on average with $5 shipping. I'm thinking I could get $18 / pound since they can drop it off when in town.

My big question is how much would fresh comfrey leaves cost and is there a preference to dried or fresh? Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Thanks! Eric

---------------------------------

Here's a link to my latest article on What is comfrey?
 
Jessica Gorton
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Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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Generally speaking, fresh herbs are going to cost less than dried, for a couple of reasons. One is that a lot of that weight is water, so dried herbs are technically more concentrated (if they are fresh and dried properly, of course). Also, you don't have to figure in the cost of drying the herb, both in labor and energy/infrastructure.

That doesn't mean that fresh herbs are less valuable, though. Many herbalists are looking to work with fresh herbs, particularly if they are making certain medicines with them. Most herbalists whose writings I've read specifically look for fresh herbs to make tinctures with, providing they have access to high-proof alcohol (the water in the fresh herbs makes them unsuitable for tincturing in 40 proof alcohol, usually).

I'm not sure what your customer base is looking for, or what your particular market will bear, in terms of price, but I would start by making some calls to local midwives, and ask them what they are looking for. For prices, you can look at what fresh culinary herbs are getting at markets, versus what they command dried, for an idea of what you should be charging.

I hope this helps!
 
Rob Read
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Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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One source for learning more about market prices is ebay and amazon. You can search the herbs you are planning to sell (though this is more for dry volume, it can give you an idea.)

The main thing I wanted to post though is that Comfrey is sometimes illegal to sell (or even advise to use) in some jurisdictions. I've talked to herbalists in Ontario who are restricted from even saying on the record that it can be taken internally. They themselves consumed it casually as a minor part of diet (slip a leaf or two in a smoothie, for instance).

The reason for this seems to be similar to the reasons sassafras is a bit controversial. Research will be done, and rats will die when fed enormous amounts (that would be equivalent to us eating a bushel at a sitting). Alternately, some studies will isolate a chemical component from the herb, and feed that exclusively to rats.

Not to fully discount the science, sometimes studies will also look at populations who consume a lot of the herb to see if there is anything that makes them stand out (eg. higher incidence of cancer).

Personally, I would tend to trust traditional usage by peoples who have consumed these things over many generations, as opposed to studies that seem ill-designed (or designed for another purpose - such as isolating a chemical for future synthesis in a pharmaceutical.)
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Rob Read wrote:One source for learning more about market prices is ebay and amazon. You can search the herbs you are planning to sell (though this is more for dry volume, it can give you an idea.)

The main thing I wanted to post though is that Comfrey is sometimes illegal to sell (or even advise to use) in some jurisdictions. I've talked to herbalists in Ontario who are restricted from even saying on the record that it can be taken internally. They themselves consumed it casually as a minor part of diet (slip a leaf or two in a smoothie, for instance).

The reason for this seems to be similar to the reasons sassafras is a bit controversial. Research will be done, and rats will die when fed enormous amounts (that would be equivalent to us eating a bushel at a sitting). Alternately, some studies will isolate a chemical component from the herb, and feed that exclusively to rats.

Not to fully discount the science, sometimes studies will also look at populations who consume a lot of the herb to see if there is anything that makes them stand out (eg. higher incidence of cancer).

Personally, I would tend to trust traditional usage by peoples who have consumed these things over many generations, as opposed to studies that seem ill-designed (or designed for another purpose - such as isolating a chemical for future synthesis in a pharmaceutical.)


This is worth clarifying a bit, I think. Canada issued a ban on using comfrey based on the alkaloid content of the Clonal varieties. The seed bearing comfrey (officinale) has a significantly lower concentration of the alkaloid compounds. I am aware that herbalists in Canada have made an effort to educate their regulators with regard to the differences among varieties of comfrey, and that the proper variety is safe to use.

This is worth keeping in mind when considering the "traditional" practices - make sure the plant you are using is actually the plant around which the tradition(s) were built.
 
Rob Read
Posts: 86
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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Thanks for this clarification. It's an important one.
 
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