Herbal Apothecary: Comfrey Poultice

I'm not sure what happened, but all my weekends out in the garden have done a real number on my lips. Lots of sunshine and wind have left them very dry. They are cracked at the corners. Last weekend I put sunscreen right over them, and (while important to keep them from getting burned), just left them even drier.

I don't have a "before" photo of this, and you should be glad. It wasn't pretty. They were so dry that they felt crispy and were peeling, and no amount of lip balm was enough to help.

Enter my new favorite medicinal herb, comfrey:


Comfrey has been used to heal cuts and burns on the skin since medieval times, when it was known as knitbone due to its healing properties. I usually just use it when I make soaps and lotions, since it is supposed to be healing and soothing to the skin. With my lips in such a state, though, I thought I could see if something a little stronger would help. So I decided to make a comfrey poultice.

To do this, I picked three young, tender leaves and brought then inside. I put them in a small dish and added just enough water to cover them, then microwaved it for 30 seconds. After that I removed the hot leaves from the water and smushed them up with our mortar and pestle:


This took about 10 seconds of work, since the leaves have already been softened. Then I added about a teaspoon of olive oil and gave it a little more smushing to mix it all up. The result was a warm, soft mass of green goo with some small leafy bits. 

The next step? Smear the warm goop across my lips, nice and thick (mouth closed!). To keep it in place and soak up any extra olive oil, I covered my mouth with a paper towel (which I kind of pressed into place). Then I sat back and watched tv for an hour to let the poultice soak in and do its work before rinsing it off.

The results were astonishingly good. My lips were smooth, the crispy skin was gone, and the cracks were healed over. In an hour. 

I'm officially a believer in the healing properties of comfrey.

Before you run out to plant you own, though, you should be aware that there are several scientific studies that show taking it internally can cause liver damage. External use is a lot more controversial, with scientists suggesting a great deal of caution and herbalists citing comfrey's long history of successfully healing skin problems, bruises, etc.

I'm not a doctor, and you should do your own research before making a decision.

For me, though, I'm pretty comfortable using it occasionally to heal severely chapped lips and skin, since it worked for me when nothing else would.

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