Drying your own Comfrey Leaves

2014-07-06 10.57.33

Drying herbs for later use is an age old practice. At the most basic all you have to do is gather the plants and hang them up somewhere to dry. Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of old apothecaries or museums where they show plants hanging in bunches from the ceiling. Perhaps you’ve dried some plants yourself.

However, some plants turn brown if you don’t know what to do, obviously losing the quality that you were looking to preserve. Drying your own Comfrey leaves can have those problems. It dries well when hung, but there are some things that you need to consider when doing this. It’s large leaves hold a lot of moisture and can bruise easily, which can lead to dried brown leaves that aren’t much good.

Here’s an easy way to dry your Comfrey.

You will need:

  • thread
  • needle
  • scissors
  • tacks (i.e. thumb tacks)
  • suitable place in the sun and another suitable place indoors in the shade.

You’re going to hang your Comfrey up. I use tacks pushed into wood (i.e. the deck railing, between trees…). Choose a nice location where they will be in the sun and safe from pests (including pets).

Cut a length of thread that will span the distance and still be manageable. Thread it onto your needle. I usually double my thread up for a little extra strength. Then tie a loop in the end. This loop will go on one of the tacks.

When the morning dew has evaporated from the plants cut your Comfrey, taking care not to bruise the leaves.

Carefully remove the leaves from the stem. Take your threaded needle and push it through the main centre vein of the leaf near where it would attach to the stem of the plant. Continue doing that with the rest of the leaves until you have a nice, but manageable, number of leaves on the thread.

Then tie a loop in the other end of the thread so that you can loop it onto another tack and suspend the whole weight of the leaves and thread. Leave enough room to cut the thread and remove your needle so you can do another batch of leaves. Spread the leaves out evenly along the thread so that they get good air flow around them.

Leave this to hang in the sun all day.

2014-07-06 20.06.07Before the dew comes again in the evening take the leaves down and bring them inside where you will hang them up somewhere safe to finish the process. Some place clean with nice air flow, but out of the sun is good.

When your Comfrey is dry it will crush easily in your hands. You can test its dryness by putting some in a sealed glass jar in the sun. If moisture develops on the side of the inside of the jar, then the Comfrey isn’t quite dry enough.

Store your dried Comfrey in a cool dark place in a sealed glass jar to promote the longest shelf life.

Now you have your Comfrey leaves ready to use even in the winter.

Enjoy!

 

2020 ADDENDUM

Because of the volume of plants that I now harvest and dry I’ve changed my method from stringing individual leaves on a thread to hanging up bundles of stalks (usually about 6 large stalks in a bundle) using elastic (rubber?) bands. I prefer elastic rather than string or cord because, as the water evaporates out of the plant, the elastic hold on as the stalks shrink in diameter. This saves me a lot of time and drying space although the stalks do hang down farther, taking up a lot of vertical space, than individual leaves do.

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18 thoughts on “Drying your own Comfrey Leaves

  1. Nice post! Thanks. I am just getting into making some comfrey salve. Hope it is as good as the hype. I use traumaplant comfrey cream but hope this may be stronger. My comfrey is growing nicely so I am going to try the drying process. About how many days does the drying process take indoors? Fran

    • The drying process will depend on how warm your house is and airflow. We also like to turn a fan on to keep the air moving and avoid possible mold problems that might occur. Here it can take a week, but it can also take longer.

      A couple ways to test if your comfrey is dry enough are:
      1. when you crush it in your hands it should crumble and break apart easily
      2. put some in a clear glass jar and seal it. Leave it for a day or so and see if any moisture accumulates inside the jar. If the inside of the jar stays dry, then the plant material should be dry enough for storage.

      Have fun with your comfrey and please let us know how the project went.

    • You could, but I’m not sure what exactly you’re hoping it will do, unless you have ulceration associated with those varicose veins.

      Yes, Comfrey has healing properties, but you may be better served to investigate what makes the cardiovascular system stronger, more elastic, and healthy.

      We can’t give out medical advice, so perhaps some search terms to use on internet search engines will help you find the answers you’re looking for:
      collagen AND “varicose veins”
      antioxidants AND “varicose veins”
      oxidation AND “varicose veins”
      “Vitamin deficiency” AND “varicose veins”
      “mineral deficiency” AND “varicose veins”
      “Pathogenisis of varicose veins”

  2. Hi there, is it recommended to rinse the leaves before hanging them since you will not be able to rinse once they’re dried? Some of my leaves have a little bit of dirt on them. Also, what is the benefit of hanging just the leaves vs. the whole stalk that I harvested?

    • My best suggestion is to gently wash the dirt off while they are still on the plant, then wait for them to dry before picking them. Personally I prefer to wait until there is no dew or dampness before picking them.

      Oh thank you! :-) for reminding me that I need to edit the post. I’ve changed how I deal with the plants since the original writing of the post. I now hang bundles of the stalks. Hanging individual leaves became far too time consuming for the number of plants I tend to work with.

      Pros of hanging individual leaves
      – easy to check each leaf for quality (no bugs, no dirt, no holes, etc.)
      – air passes more easily around them, reducing possible issues with mold
      – easy to pack up for storage once they are dry

      Cons of hanging individual leaves
      – takes up a lot more space to hang your harvest to dry
      – takes a lot more time to process and hang your harvest

    • Yes, you can. However, you may find that your Comfrey leaves are very large for fitting in something like that. I have a dehydrator but due to the number of plants I dry and the size of them my little household dehydrator isn’t up to the task.

    • What dried Comfrey can be used for:
      1. Storage is a big factor. For people like me who live in a place where there’s often snow on the ground for 6 months of the year (and a frost depth of around 1 metre) being able to store your herbs is very important if you want to be able to use them year round.
      2. Poultices and fomentations
      3. Some herbalists do use it for tea, but others feel that it’s not worth the risk to the liver (due to Pyrrolizidine alkaloid content).
      4. It can be infused into oils, which can then be used alone or in liniments, salves, and creams.

  3. Thank you for your details on comfrey leaf drying.
    I live in Perth, Western Australia, and through spring and summer I use a cowboy method to dry my leaves, which can grow to an enormous length. I simply use clothes pegs and peg them by their stems to the clothesline, in a spot where they are in shade for most of the day.
    Our heat and humidity levels are such that they dry quickly without mould issues; I don’t even bring them indoors overnight. If I took a bit more trouble, I would get a higher quality result, but this is quick and easy and gives me adequate supplies of dried leaf for my herbal teas.
    Consume and use your comfrey, and live long and prosper!

    • You’re most welcome!
      I have a relative who lives in Perth and from what I’ve learned I can well imagine that you don’t need to bring them inside. Where I live we can get dew at night even during the hottest day of summer. Thus, geographical location always plays a role.

      Glad you’ve found a way that works for you.

    • Yes, you can use your dehydrator. I still recommend that initial drying time outside though so that your leaves will stay green instead of turning brown as they dry.

  4. Can I dry them in the oven ?
    Or rolled loosely in organza in the refrigerator ?

    I do not have the room, with air flow & cool for drying the leaves.

    • You could try them in the oven on the lowest heat setting, but I feel that it’s probably still too hot for them. I have had good success hanging them in a heated (still pretty cool) basement with a fan turned on them at the lowest setting.

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