pale leaf Gaia's Garden leaves




by Gillie Whitewolf

There are three degrees of burn severity: 1st degree burns injure only the outer layer of skin [ordinary sunburn is one example]; 2nd degree burns are more painful and penetrate deeper than just the outer layer of skin. These usually develop in to blisters; 3rd degree burns penetrate deeply and tend to destroy the nerves which would normally tell your brain you were in pain - hence the most major case of a burn is also quite often the least painful! Third degree burns are a medical emergency and professional medical attention should be sought immediately, with hosiptalisation often being a necessity. In cases where a large area is affected the patient may go in to shock, or may suffer dehydration. There is also the risk of infection. This brief article offers suggestions for treating 1st degree burns [including sunburn] and minor 2nd degree burns - if you are in any doubt about the severity of an injury, or concerned about the remedy to administer, please seek professional medical advice.

The first step of action when treating a burn is to cool the affected area down immediately. Plunge the area in to cold water, or hold it under cold running water and keep it there for as long as the patient feels necessary. Ice can also be used as a more portable cooling method.

Lavender essential oil can be applied neat to small burns, as can Tea-Tree essential oil. Both will help guard against infection, soothe the pain, and boost the immune system. A French perfume chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse experienced the healing power of Lavender after burning his hand in his laboratory [c.1920] - he reportedly plunged his hand into the nearest container of liquid, which turned out to be Lavender oil. The pain subsided quickly and the burn apparently healed with no scarring.

The clear gel which oozes from a broken Aloe Vera leaf can be especially soothing on burns, and has a long long folk-history of treating cuts, burns and minor wounds. Many studies have shown that Aloe can speed up the healing process and stimulate the growth of new tissue. The clear gel also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, helping to keep infection away.

Honey is another long standing folk remedy for treating burns and wounds. Applied to the area of a burn Honey creates a natural plaster, keeping infection out. Honey is an effective antibacterial, with anti-inflammatory properties and a stimulatory effect on the growth of new tissue.

is a powerful antiseptic, to treat a burn mash Garlic to a paste and apply as a poultice to the affected area. Garlic can cause skin irritation in some individuals, should this happen discontinue use.

Calendula [Marigold] is another excellent antiseptic - research has shown the flowers to speed up the healing of burns by closing wounds, reducing inflammation and stimulating the growth of new skin cells. The cream can be applied directly to burns, or the tincture added to cooled boiled water, or a well strained infusion can be used for a compress. Chamomile can be used in the same way. Comfrey ointment, infusion or juice can also be applied to burns - but do ensure that the area is well cleansed, as Comfrey is known to speed up healing and any dirt or pus can be trapped - leading to further infection. [It may be advisable to use
Comfrey only at the edges of a wound if the skin is broken].

Best avoided by limiting your exposure during the hottest hours, but even the most careful sun worshipper can sucumb to sunburn. One particularly useful treatment is cold Chamomile tea, which can be used to swab the affected area - make up a strong infusion of Chamomile flowers and allow to cool before applying to the skin. Calendula petals can be used in the same way, they are immune system stimulants and are rich in carotenoids. If the sunburn is more or less all over, a strong infusion of either can be added to [cool] bath water.

Plain ol' common black Tea can be useful in treating sunburn - it contains several beneficial compounds which will help remove heat from sunburn and help prevent and repair skin damage. Swab cooled black tea over the affected area.
Studies of Green Tea has shown it to be high in polyphenols : "When ingested, these chemicals help protect the skin against damage from the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn." [The Green Pharmacy, Dr James A. Duke] So next time you're out in the sun why not treat yourself with a tall iced Green Tea drink.

The clear gel from Aloe Vera leaves, as mentioned above, is an extremely effective remedy for burns - if you have an Aloe Vera plant to hand, break the leaf, squeeze out the gel and apply to the skin. [Do NOT use the yellowy gel from the base of the leaf - this part is a skin irritant].

Cucumber is a well known remedy - slices of fresh cucumber placed over the affected area can give instant relief from the pain of sunburn. Alternatively slice a cucumber and wipe it over the skin, or pulp a cucumber and use the fresh juice to swab the affected area.
Peach flesh is extremely soothing for dehydrated skin, as is Apricot flesh - Apricot is rich in Vitamin A and has a healing effect on the skin. Thin Banana slices can be applied to skin which has been exposed to too much sun to restore moisture. Aubergines have been sited as another useful sunburn remedy, although not one I've personally tried - apply the flesh of the Aubergine to the sunburnt area.

Cold Witch-Hazel will cool down sunburn succesfully, and can be swabbed on liberally as required.
Lavender essential oil can be applied neat to soothe and promote healing, or add afew drops to an aqueous ointment.

A remedy I've not tried yet is the use of clay... It makes sense when I consider it - in many hot countries people apply clay, mud or henna externally to prevent sunburn and avoid over-heating from exposure to the sun. If you are in an area where clay is present why not smear it on and see how it feels. I can imagine that it would be very cooling, and it's certainly one I would try if I was in a suitable location.... [I wouldn't suggest it for major burns or open wounds as you may infect the wound].

Vitamin E is excellent for the skin - ensure that you include plenty of Vitamin E rich foods in your diet to protect [and repair] your skin : Wheatgerm, nuts and seeds [brazil nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds], mango, avocado, apples, cabbage, spinach, broccoli etc...
Vitamin A and caretonoid rich foods can help prevent skin damage - eat orange and red fruits and vegetables such as carrots, oranges, avocado, mango, apricots and egg yolks.
AHAs [Alpha-Hydroxy Acids] have been gaining incresing popularity in the world of skin care - AHAs are found naturally in many foods - they help to exfoliate dead skin cells [by dissolving the substance which holds dead cells together] and stimulate the growth of new cells. AHA rich foods include pineapple, apples, grapes and sour milk. Any of these could be applied to sun-damaged skin.

And that motherly reminder.... Remember to drink plenty of fluids - water, fruit juices or naturally flavoured carbonated water - before, during and after your time in the sun to avoid dehydration, and if you do burn, when it starts to peel avoid the temptation to pick at the skin! Let it heal naturally and it will heal quicker.

The herbal remedies mentioned in this article are not intended to replace professional advice. Any medication you are on should also be taken into consideration - always check with your healthcare professional if you are on prescription drugs before taking herbal remedies. In the case of serious burns professional medical attention should be sought immediately!


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