Last fall I had carefully harvested and dried comfrey roots to make oil with. It was a careful process and took a while. While in storage in our pantry, a squirrel broke in to steal some nuts and knocked over my hard-won jar of comfrey root oil.
All was lost.
I go through a lot of this stuff. I use it for massages and keep it on-hand in case it’s needed for, ahem, other things. Comfrey’s got just enough viscosity and mucilaginous qualities that it’s slicker than any lube on the planet. (If you’re using latex condoms for birth control, please don’t use this with it. The oil erodes the condoms and they will break.)
It’s also used for healing. Red Moon Herbs sells a “Comfrey Love Oil,” which says that it is “soothing and highly moisturizing, this salve is wonderful for treating chapped lips, dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, pregnant bellies, sore nipples, diaper rash, and allergic skin reactions, as well as bruises, shallow cuts, and more.”
So the loss was disappointing. But since I have invested heavily over the years in planting comfrey around my farm and home, the situation was salvageable.
I marched out to the garden, determined to make good on the squirrel’s accident. In short order, I harvested about 12 comfrey leaves (vibrant due to all the rain), chopped them up, put them into two small jars, and covered them with regular olive oil. I labeled them and stuck them on my counter where it’s dark and dry.
Ten minutes. Tops. And in three to six weeks, the oil will be infused with the medicinal qualities of the comfrey. I’ll drain out the leaf and store the infused oil in the fridge for maximum freshness.
“I’ll show that squirrel,” I thought. And I’ll show myself. I had wanted to experiment with comfrey root but comfrey leaf works just as well, in my opinion. From now on I’m sticking to the easy method.
1. Other herbs, dried as well as fresh, can be used for making herbal oils. Dried always has less chance of rotting, due to the lack of water in the plant matter. Therefore, it’s always safe to either by dried herbs or dry your fresh herbs out in a dark place (or in the oven with the pilot light on) before making oils.
2. Make sure your plant matter is below the level of the oil in jar so it won’t mold and ruin your oil. I use the “two finger” folk method. Put your plant matter in the jar and fill it two fingers above with olive oil.
3. These herbal oils are for external use only, especially with comfrey, which has precautions for taking internally.
4. Be sure to label your jar with the date and keep in a dark, cool place while it’s infusing.
5. Drain your herbal oil in three to six weeks and throw out the leaf. Store in the fridge.
6. Experiment with what you use — mullein flowers infused in oils for earaches; arnica infused oil for muscle aches, spasms or pain; calendula, plantain, or yarrow oil for salves or skin creams; poke root oil for mastitis; St. John’s wort oil for skin care and sunscreen.
Lee Warren is a homesteader, herbalist, writer and the manager of Imani Farm, a pasture-based cooperative farm at Earthaven Ecovillage. She is also a co-founder of the Village Terraces CoHousing Neighborhood and the Program Coordinator for the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference (sewisewomen.com).