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Comfrey "oil" - 100% comfrey with no additions

 
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Is anyone familiar with the comfrey "oil" described by Lesley Bremness on p. 131 of The Complete Book of Herbs? It is made by packing dry comfrey leaves into a dark-colored glass jar and leaving them to age for two years. No other ingredients are added. After two years the "viscous amber liquid with some sediment" is poured off into a smaller container.

I've made this and am using small amounts in a poultice with good results in reducing pain from an old injury. Bremness suggested using the "oil" for "eczema and other skin inflammations."

I'm curious about why information is not generally available on this method of preparing comfrey. My Internet searches consistently return methods of infusing oil with comfrey rather than on using 100% comfrey in this fermentation(?) method. Could the method Lesley Bremness described be an older, traditional way to prepare comfrey?

Has anyone else tried preparing comfrey this way or does anyone have information on this method? Could this method be used for other herbs?

Janet Bailey
 
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That's very interesting method, I may have to give it a try. I am only familiar with infusing the root into oils and using the leaf fresh in a poultice. I think you are spot on with your guess that it is an older method (from a time when access to large volumes of various seed oils was scarce and most people knew they would be living in the same place in two years) that has faded from our knowledge. It also reminds me of the KNF technique where you pack a particular plant part along with brown sugar into a jar and collect the viscous liquid that results.

It's curious to me that you would use dry comfrey leaves, I would expect you would get more with fresh leaf. But perhaps it is more prone to molding. Do you masserate the dry leaves at all or just stuff them into the container? Have you heard of this technique being used with any other herbs?
 
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Hi Janet;  Welcome to Permies!
What a wonderful question! I want to know the answer myself.  I did a quick search and found the same info you did. Add an oil and soak for 3-4 weeks.
I suspect that your method is indeed a very old way to produce a Comfrey oil.
My wife has just added  that book to our want list.  
Next summer I will try making both the 2 year slow method and the one month fast way.
Long term test but we have plenty of comfrey as long as the piggys don't eat it all!  
DSCN0256.JPG
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Happy piggys
 
thomas rubino
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Stephen;  I suspect that "Dry" is having no water / rain on the leaves.    
 
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Two years is a long time for ,most people these days, hell one month is a long time to a lot of us.
We want everything, NOW!
BTW, how does this stuff smell?
 
Janet Bailey
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In answer to Stephen, Bremness says to "pick clean dry leaves" so, as Thomas said, "dry" meaning only not wet with rain or dew. You do not need to masserate the leaves - I forgot to mention that Bremness suggested cutting the leaves into 1" squares. Thank you for sharing information about the KNF method - interesting!

To Thomas, I think you and your wife will get good use from the Bremness Complete Book of Herbs (288 pages, hardback ISBN 0-670-81894-1, paperback ISBN 0 14 02.3802 6). It includes an herbal index of 100 herbs and permaculture vegetables. Each herb or vegetable is given a separate page with cultural requirements and specific uses. There are also sections on cooking with herbs, herbs for fragrance and household products, and using herbs for health and cosmetic products.

In answer to William's question about the smell, it's a little... "funky" I guess, but not really bad. After it works to help with pain it starts smelling pretty good, in fact!
 
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I'm curious how long it lasts after the 2 year mark.
 
Janet Bailey
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In answer to Trace's question about how long the comfrey "oil" will last, after the initial two years of fermenting, Bremness does not say - but I have not noticed any change in appearance or odor after decanting the "oil" and using it topically over many months. The "oil" is dark-colored and slightly thick, with a distinctive, but not unpleasant, odor of fermentation. I put a few drops on a cloth and wrap the cloth up before applying it to the injured area. This is not an open wound, but an old injury that causes pain. The cloth is held in place with a pressure bandage. I have only my own positive results for anecdotal evidence of the comfrey "oil" as a remedy.

My plan is to prepare the amounts I think I will use in one year so that my 2019 batches, for example, will be used up completely in 2021. Right now, I'm mostly concerned about running out of the batch I made in 2016 before the next batch is ready! We moved and it took a little while to reestablish comfrey in our new garden.

I'm curious about this slow-fermentation preparation method for herbal remedies. Following up on Stephen's reference to the much more rapid Korean Natural Farming (KNF) technique of preparing fermented plant juice (FPJ), using comfrey and brown sugar, seems an interesting parallel.
 
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Thanks for this thread! I've been working with herbs for years, and had never heard of this type of 'processing' of an herb - I must learn MORE!!! So, I've ordered a (used) copy of the book (Complete Book of Herbs - 288 pages, paperback ISBN 0 14 02.3802 6) from Amazon, for just under $6!
 
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It is an interesting technique. I looked it up as I have the book. She gives both - "oil" and fresh comfrey leaf poulstice recommendations without giving much detail of which is stronger medicinally. I think "oil" might have been a way to preserve it for winter and travels, but might be, that it has some additional healing qualities as it can have beneficial bacteria. It could probably be used also as comfrey tea (diluted with water) for the garden, and it would have advantage of not being stinky.
 
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Another book ordered.  Thanks for the detailed book info as there were several versions.

Now to find room for it...
 
Joy Oasis
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Janet Bailey wrote:Is anyone familiar with the comfrey "oil" described by Lesley Bremness on p. 131 of The Complete Book of Herbs? It is made by packing dry comfrey leaves into a dark-colored glass jar and leaving them to age for two years. No other ingredients are added. After two years the "viscous amber liquid with some sediment" is poured off into a smaller container.

I've made this and am using small amounts in a poultice with good results in reducing pain from an old injury. Bremness suggested using the "oil" for "eczema and other skin inflammations."

I'm curious about why information is not generally available on this method of preparing comfrey. My Internet searches consistently return methods of infusing oil with comfrey rather than on using 100% comfrey in this fermentation(?) method. Could the method Lesley Bremness described be an older, traditional way to prepare comfrey?

Has anyone else tried preparing comfrey this way or does anyone have information on this method? Could this method be used for other herbs?

Janet Bailey



Janet, how did you close the jar - with regular plastic or metal cover or covered it with cloth? Did you mix it. I just filled my half gallon jar with it, and wondering, how should I close it...I am also curious, if we could do it with other herbs as well, and I think we can as same bacteria should be on other plants as well to start the process.
 
Joy Oasis
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So my comfrey "oil" is 3 months old, and I sprained my ankle today. So I am considering using it, even though obviously is nowhere recommended 2 years old...So far I have castor oil and DMSO on it, which helped with pain, but it is very swollen, and I will have to walk tomorrow. It does look like brown liquid already and became so little on the bottom, even though I stuffed jar full. I think I will use it, and start another jar, that hopefully will brew for 2 years.
 
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Fascinating!
 
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Welcome to permies!  Thank you for this information.

Janet, does the book recommend what kind of oil to use?  What oil did you use?

I would assume olive oil would be a good choice.  An oil that will go rancid would not be a good choice, like maybe coconut oil or sunflower seed oil.

 
Joy Oasis
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Anne Miller wrote: What oil did you use?

I would assume olive oil would be a good choice.  An oil that will go rancid would not be a good choice, like maybe coconut oil or sunflower seed oil.


Anne, actually it uses no oil, just fresh plant material cut up into 1 inch pieces and stuffed into the jar. It is more fermented herb, a bit like compost tea without bubbling and without water added. I put my on my sprain, and smell was not so good. Not as bad as anaerobic water compost tea, but not pleasant.However my is just 3 months old, it might change more in 2 years.
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks, Joy

Thant makes sense since it is 100% comfrey.  Do it have an oil feel?
 
Joy Oasis
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Anne Miller wrote:Thanks, Joy

Thant makes sense since it is 100% comfrey.  Do it have an oil feel?


A little towards it as it is thick brown liquid. Smell is not overpowering as I have it now under wraps on my sprained ankle and it doesn't smell to me, unless I got used to it, LOL. I am glad I had it because my garden is not next to my apartment, do I do not have access to fresh one right now.
 
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Hello,
I don't know where I found this method but I picked comfrey leaves and put into a glass jar inside a paper bag a year ago.
It now has no mould but a thick oil as such. Can this be used instead of the leaves? What are the no no's for using comfrey. Open wounds??
Nga Mihi.
Kara
New Zealand
 
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I think the safety of comfery depends a bit on the species. The domestic varieties have less of the harmful pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Some people ingest it--I personally never have, but I have used it on both open and closed wounds. One thing to note is to not use it on DEEP wounds, as the surface will heal faster than the base, and the wound won't close as well.

Here's two threads on the safety of comfrey:

Is comfrey that bad to ingest?

the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in several of our favorite herbs The second reply in this thread is especially good. Dr Sharol Tilgner is a well-known expert in the Herbal Medicine field, and author of two extremely detailed and research-based books.





 
s. lowe
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Kara Thorby wrote:Hello,
I don't know where I found this method but I picked comfrey leaves and put into a glass jar inside a paper bag a year ago.
It now has no mould but a thick oil as such. Can this be used instead of the leaves? What are the no no's for using comfrey. Open wounds??
Nga Mihi.
Kara
New Zealand



In my experience fresh comfrey leaf is amazing for open. Wounds. I have been warned not to use right away on deep puncture wounds as it can cause the surface to.heal before the interior. But I am.convinced it saved my foot from a small wound that got infected. When I cleaned it it was a hole the size of my first pinky digit in the inner arch of my foot. I packed it with nectarine tree sap and kept it wrapped in fresh comfrey leaf and it healed perfectly
 
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This method sounds a lot like the older potpourri recipes. The kind that involved fresh plant materials fermenting in a pot. Not the dried kind.
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