Here is an extract of a presentation I did to a group of nurses at the Gold Coast University Hospital, radiation therapy unit in September this year (2022).
An ointment is defined as a semi solid preparation for the skin composed of oils and thickening ingredient such as beeswax. The oils used consist of infused botanical (medicinal herbs ) oil or essential oil. The beneficial ingredients are applied on the skin where they are absorbed. It is used to help with issues affecting skin, ligaments, muscles and respiratory system.
Cuts, scratches, abrasions, stretched ligaments or muscles, minor burns, once well cleaned, benefit greatly from the application of an herbal ointment. It protects, soothes and assists with skin repair.
Infused oils are made from combining dried herbs with an extra virgin, first cold pressed, certified organic oil using a ratio of 1:2, 1.5:2 or 1:1.
Common name: Calendula, marigold
Latin name: Calendula officinalis
Description: Annual of 30 to 60 cm high, stem are angular and slightly hairy. Leaves are sessile, oblong, light green, sticky to touch. Flowers are capitulum, either orange or yellow. The more the flowers are picked, the more are being produced.
Part used: Flowers
Properties: vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-microbial, cholagogue, emmenagogue, tonic, hepatic, soothing for digestive system, support for lymphatic system.
Usage: Fresh petals make a colourful addition to salad.
Infusion used as a tea for anti-inflammatory effect.
Decoction used as a bath in case of thrush as well as compress on affected skin
Extract used as part of a lymph support.
Infused oil of calendula is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant to nurture and repair the skin. It is used in cream, and ointment.
Major constituents comprise: triterpene saponins, flavonoid (astragalin, hyperoside, isoquescitrin and rutin), carotnoisds flavoxanthin and auroxanthin (Bako et al 2002).
The significant active constituents are triterpendiol esters faradiol laureate, faradiol myristate as well as faradiol palmitate (Hamburger et al 2003, Zitterl-Eglseer et al 2001).
Studies have shown the main action being antimicrobial, antiparasitic, promotes wound healing, anti-inflammatory, reduces oedema, immunomodulation, antioxydant, antispasmodic, hypoglyceamic, hypolipidaemic, and hepatoprotective.
Calendula has a long history of use to promote healing of wound, burns, bruise, minor infection of the skin. Most of the studies used calendula on its own as a topical application and sometimes combined with other ingredients.
Cohen (et al 2010, p136-142) quote a RCT of 254 patients showed significant effect to decrease acute dermatitis when calendula was used topically (Pommier et al 2004).
Common name: Comfrey, knit bone
Latin name: Symphytum officinalis
Description: Perennial with leaves rising from a brown, thick knotted root. Leaves are green, oblong lanceolate, petiole is like a channel. Hair is seen over all the aerial part. Flowers are a raceme resembling the tail of a scorpio in blue, pink or mauve colour.
Part used: Leaves, root
Properties: Vulnerary, demulcent, astringent, expectorant, emollient.
Usage: Fresh leaves are used as poultice for sprain ligament or muscle. Infused oil of the leaves are used in cream or ointment. For topical use, be sure the skin is clean without risk of developing infection as comfrey is powerful and will recreate the skin even over infection.
Major constituents comprise: allantoin, pyrrolizidine, symphtocynoglossine alkaloids, mucilage, choliine, tannins, saponins, asparagine, inulin, resins, phenolic acids.
Allantoin stimulates cells division, supporting skin healing (Hoffman, p.217).
Pyrrolizine is in higher quantity in the root while the leaves have a lesser quantity. Drying the comfrey has the enzyme and much of the alkaloid, pyrrolidine, destroyed. Comfrey used as a cream on the skin is considered to not produce significant amount of pyrrolidine intake. James Green (2002) states that external use of comfrey does not represent a problem.
Calendula and Comfrey ointment from The Herbal Gardener
We grow the calendula and comfrey on the property in Tallebudgera since 2008.
The property is certified Demeter Biodynamic which is the first, hence oldest, as well as strictest organic certification.
After being dried at low controlled temperature the plant material is infused (flowers of the calendula and leaves of comfrey) in Australian, certified Biodynamic olive oil. The infusion takes place over 3 months after which is it filtered for later use in the making of the products. The ointment contains 18% of calendula infused oil as well as 18% of the comfrey infused oil.
The other ingredients entering in the formulation of the ointment are olive oil and beeswax both Australian, and certified organic. Rosemary extract act as a natural preservative. No essential oil enter into the formulation as to avoid possible reaction, or irritation for the client.
Usage of the calendula and comfrey ointment as reported by a client
This is a report from a client who was undergoing radiation therapy.
The ointment was applied as soon as a radiation session was completed. The entire area was covered going approximately 20cm past the mastectomy area. The client showered at night before bed and reapplied the ointment then. The following day the skin was soft, supple and showing no sign of residue of the ointment.
A total of 4 jars of 50g were used for the duration of the 5 days/week radiation therapy over 5 weeks.
The ointment was used up to 4 weeks after the radiation for a total of 9 weeks with no burn developing.
The client ran out at a point of the ointment. She only had access to the calendula cream with 15% of calendula oil. The skin did not heal. Once the calendula and comfrey ointment was used again, within 4 days the skin’s integrity returned.
Bako et al, 2002.Bako E, et al: HPLC study on the carotenoid composition of. J Biochem Biophys Meth 2002; 53:pp. 241-250
Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbal and Natural Supplements: an evidence based guide. Volume 2. Sydney: Elsevier Australia.
Green, J. (2002) The Herbal Medicine-makers Handbook – A home manual, The Crossing Press.
Hoffman, D. (1996). The Holistic Herbal. Element
Pommier et al, 2004.Pommier P, et al: Phase III randomized trial of. J Clin Oncol 2004; 22:pp. 1447-1453