BURNS AND SUNBURNS HEALING SOLUTIONS FOR
-Andrea Candee, MH, MSC
DR. CHRISTOPHER’S BURN OINTMENT
This is one of Dr. John R. Christopher’s most famous and well-used treatments for burns. The herbal ingredients are anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. They soothe tissue, and encourage growth of new skin. It can be used for severely reddened and blistered burns (if you feel comfortable handling them at home), or can be used a few days after medical treatment, with your doctor’s approval.
Mix together 1 tablespoon each (leftover mixture can be stored in a small container to be used later):
Powdered comfrey root
Wheat germ oil
If you prefer, as a benefit of honey’s preservative properties, a larger quantity of the herbal mixture can be prepared and stored for a few days at room temperature.
Cover the burned area and its surrounding tissue with a thick coating of the herbal mixture.
Cover with a bandage.
Check dressing twice a day. The ointment will be absorbed by the body. Add more ointment without removing old material.
When the body is no longer absorbing the mixture as quickly, replenish once a day until the site is completely renewed with freshly grown skin.
To reduce the possibility of scarring, continue applying the wheat germ oil or apply castor oil until the skin has been totally restored.
Parents know to limit the amount of time children spend in the sun, and to cover them with protective lotion. That having been said, even the most careful parents can let their families get overexposed.
If sunburn does occur, the pain and inflammation can be relieved by any of the following formulations.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR BATH
For large sunburned areas, an apple cider vinegar bath works wonders. Use a brand from the health food store that has been wood-aged, rather than one from the supermarket that may have been chemically-aged. Apple cider vinegar helps to balance the skin’s pH factor, its acid/alkaline balance. As with all parts of the body, when there is chemical balance, healing is supported.
Add two cups apple cider vinegar to a bathtub of warm water.
Let your child soak for 15 minutes. The skin will be calmed and soothed, and much of the pain will be immediately relieved.
After the bath, you can use one of the remedies described below to promote further healing.
YOGURT SKIN HEALER
Though it may not have all of us living to 120 (remember those Russian peasant ads of several years back?), yogurt is a natural healer. It is the antidote for the burn of hot, spicy food in Indian cooking by re-establishing acid/alkaline balance and works the same way for sunburned skin. For sunburn, I use compresses of natural yogurt to help cool and hydrate the skin.
Wrap whole-milk, full-fat, plain yogurt in several layers of cheesecloth and compress the burn.
Replace with fresh compresses as the yogurt warms on the skin.
Repeat compresses until the skin is cooled and soothed.
Yogurt can be spread over the entire body--turning an upsetting, painful sunburn into a fun spa treatment that girls, especially, will love. (And boys, too: my son Brian has always enjoyed our herbal “spa treatments”.) Leave the yogurt on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse off in a cool shower.
BAKING SODA SUNBURN SOOTHER
No apple cider vinegar or plain yogurt in the house? Then check the deepest recess of your refrigerator for that box of baking soda you stashed there eons ago (hopefully, not too many eons--to effectively deodorize your fridge, baking soda should be changed about every 3 months). Like apple cider vinegar and yogurt, baking soda helps to balance pH, the skin’s acid/alkaline balance.
Add ¼ cup baking soda to a warm bath for an effective sunburn-healing soak.
Have your child soak for 15 minutes.
AMAZING ALOE CURE (Aloe vera)
Aloe has the unique ability to help skin renew itself by stimulating cellular metabolism, thereby promoting oxygen exchange and increasing the absorption of nutrients. Aloe contains the anti-oxidant vitamins A and C; the minerals copper, selenium, and magnesium; and zinc, a powerful virus fighter. This method is best used for more localized sunburns.
Rather than cutting from the tip or half way down the stalk, cut it at its base.
Slit the stalk horizontally, exposing the gelatinous interior.
Using the thickest, juiciest section for the burn, cut a piece large enough to completely cover the burn and its surrounding tissue.
Place the entire piece on the area (gel and peel, gel side toward the burn).
Cover the aloe with roller gauze and surgical tape to keep it firmly in place.
Leave on overnight or, if burn occurred early in the day, cut a fresh piece of aloe to make a new dressing and leave on overnight.
The remaining stalk of aloe may be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated over night.
In the morning, cut a new piece of the refrigerated aloe to make a fresh dressing.
Repeat applications twice a day until area is healed.
LAVENDER OIL (Lavandula off.)
The essential oil of lavender is one of the only essential oils that can safely be applied to the skin without diluting it in a carrier oil. Applying lavender oil will take the sting out of the burn, and heal it quickly. It’s calming aromatherapy properties will help to ease the emotional upset of a painful burn.
In Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art (Crossing Press), herbalist Mindy Green combines the essential oil of lavender with aloe to create a soothing preparation for sunburn relief.
In a 6-8 ounce glass jar mix together 4 ounces aloe gel (fresh from the plant or purchased in the health food store), ½ teaspoon essential oil of lavender, one teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and the contents of two 400IU capsules Vitamin E (puncture the Vitamin E capsules with a straight pin to release the contents).
Tighten a cap onto the jar and shake to blend ingredients.
This mixture may be gently patted on the affected area and reapplied as often as needed for relief of the sunburn’s heat and inflammation.
For increased cooling benefit and freshness, keep the mixture refrigerated.
One more suggestion, feeding your children sweet potatoes will make them less likely to burn! A small sweet potato contains more than twice the daily need for beta carotene which helps to reduce the redness and inflammation of a sunburn. “Beta carotene accumulates in the skin, providing partial protection for 24 hours against sun damage”, says University of Arizona’s school of public health professor, Ronald Watson, PhD.
As safe as we try to make our homes for our children, they’re loaded with danger. Household chemicals, cooking appliances, electrical equipment and outlets are part of their everyday environment. Sometimes little hands reach for pots, hot plates or wires even before we have a chance to warn them. Whatever the severity of the burn, immediate action must be taken.
WHEN TO SEEK EMERGENCY HELP
Burns that appear more than reddened or mildly blistered should be immediately seen by your doctor or emergency room personnel.
If the skin is charred or severely blistered do not bathe it in water. If clothing or anything else is attached to the skin, leave it alone. Simply cover the area with a clean cotton cloth and allow the area to be professionally treated.
You can give your child Rescue Remedy, a Bach Flower Essence found in health food stores (4 drops in a few ounces of water) to sip for shock and trauma while seeking emergency help--and you might like to sip some, too!
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR BURNS
Burns that seem manageable at home should be immediately bathed in cold water or cooled with cold water compresses for several minutes (use a soft cotton cloth such as a diaper, cotton napkin or old sheet or pillowcase torn into strips). This helps reduce the pain and inflammation, and prevents the burn from penetrating deeper into the skin.
Completely cover the burned area with the remedy you choose and cover with a bandage.
If the area is too sensitive to be touched with the herbal preparation, use it to saturate a piece of gauze large enough to cover the burn and its surrounding tissue.
Reapply 2-3 times a day.
The herbal preparations can be used for as long as you feel necessary. Prolonged use will promote healing and after a day or two the bandage will probably no longer be needed.
VITAMIN E. Puncture a vitamin E capsule with a straight pin, and spread a thick layer of the oil on the burned skin. I always keep a bottle of Vitamin E oil in my kitchen.
LAVENDER OIL (Lavandula off.). This is one of the only essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin without dilution (see sunburns, above).
ST. JOHN’S WORT OIL (Hypericum perforatum). Apply undiluted to the burn.
COMFREY OINTMENT (Symphytum off.). Apply directly on the burn.
BABY BEAR’S BURN REMEDY
Uncooked, raw, natural honey (purchased in a health food store) is a sweet, sticky way to ease the pain of a mild burn. Its anti-microbial and hydrating properties work to keep the area free of infection and well-moisturized. Scientific study of honey indicates that its trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids help make it an effective treatment for burns, scrapes and minor sore throats.
Gently apply a thick coating to take the hurt away in just seconds!
Cover with gauze to keep the honey from messing clothing.
Apply twice a day until the area is no longer sensitive.
ALOE (Aloe vera)
While preparing dinner, I accidentally scalded myself with boiling water. Even after bathing the area in cold water for several minutes, the resulting burn proved to be too much for my old standby, Vitamin E. When the Vitamin E oil sizzled as it was applied to the burn, I knew a more powerful botanical therapy was required. My lovely aloe plant--something no household should be without--was standing ready to be pressed into service. Aloe can be used for a sunburn or any other burn. See directions above in section on sunburns.
When I used the aloe on my scalding burn, I made one mistake: I failed to bind the aloe securely. In the morning, the area covered by the gel alone was still hot, reddened, and blistered. The area covered by the gel and peel, however, was totally healed--not even a hint of redness remained! This taught me how important it is to cover a burn with both the gel and peel of the aloe plant.
Copyright 2004 Andrea Candee
All Rights Reserved
Andrea Candee, MH, MSC, is a master herbalist with a practice in South Salem, NY. She lectures for corporate wellness centers about taking charge of your health naturally and will bring her workshops to you. Her book, Gentle Healing for Baby and Child (Simon & Schuster), was awarded The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval. She may be contacted through her website, www.andreacandee.com.