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How to Address Burns with Herbs and Essential Oils: Herbal First Aid

I have a bit of a sunburn at the moment. This past weekend, my husband and I attended an outdoor service and stopped at a local Lavender farm on our way home. We spent some time out in the Lavender fields harvesting delightful purple stems and chatting with the farmers and I came home feeling contentedly sun-soaked and Lavender-calm. It wasn't until I looked in the mirror that evening that I noticed I had turned a bit pink! I had already planned on sharing my go-to remedies for burn recovery with you today, so I had a bit of a chuckle at my ironic timing. If you've ever wondered about the best way to support your skin when you're recovering from a burn or a sunburn, you're in the right place!

Note: The salve and spray recipes featured in this article were originally published in June's Skin Healing Edition of AromaCulture Magazine. You can find out more about the issue here.

When you're dealing with burns, you have to be able to discern the severity of the burn before you can effectively treat it. If you're looking at second or third degree burns or if the subject is experiencing other symptoms besides mild discomfort, you should consult your medical team. Home remedies are not sufficient in all cases. But when you're dealing with a mild burn or sunburn, there are many things you can do at home to help support the skin as it recovers and to help relieve the discomfort that comes with that dreaded burning sensation.

How to Support Skin When Recovering from a Burn

1. Hydrosols

One of the first things I reach for when I'm dealing with a burn is a hydrosol. Lavender and Peppermint tend to be the ones I use most often, but I've also used Calendula, St. John's Wort, and Yarrow hydrosols for the same purpose. Hydrosols help to cool the area where the skin has been damaged (I keep mine in the fridge, which also helps with this) and can also help to soothe inflammation and pain. Each one also contributes its own layer of therapeutic effects.

2. Aloe Vera Infusion

True Aloe vera (not the green junk from the sunscreen section at the store) can be wonderful for burns. It's soothing, cooling, anti-inflammatory, and helps aid the skin as it begins to repair itself. You can either pat a bit of pure Aloe vera gel into the skin where the burn is (don't rub - it will increase the irritation and the heated sensation) or you can pour some Aloe vera juice into a small spray bottle and use it to mist the area as needed. Store the spray bottle in the fridge to keep it cool and extend its shelf life. It's recommended to avoid using Aloe if there is blistering or a raw, open wound, but for minor burns and sunburns, it can be a great ally.

I like to take a couple of extra moments to infuse my Aloe with some skin-healing herbs before use. Calendula, Comfrey leaf, and Plantain are all suitable options. The spray in this photo features all three, along with a bit of St. John's Wort.

3. Herbal Salve

You can also use these same herbs: Calendula, Comfrey leaf, Plantain, and St. John's Wort to make a skin-healing salve that can help reduce the pain and inflammation caused by the burn and support the skin as it goes through the recovery process. I infuse the herbs individually into carrier oil throughout the year and keep a jar of each in my apothecary so I can use them as needed. To make my go-to burn recovery salve, follow the recipe below. It also makes a great all-purpose first aid salve and can even be used as an herbal moisturizing treatment. It's full of skin-loving herbs!

Burn Recovery Salve Recipe

  • 1 part organic beeswax
  • 1 part Calendula (Calendula officinalis) infused carrier oil
  • 1 part Comfrey leaf (Symphytum uplandicum) infused carrier oil
  • 1 part Plantain (Plantago sp.) leaf infused carrier oil
  • 2 parts St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) infused carrier oil
  • Lavender essential oil (at a 3 to 10% dilution)

Instructions

Melt the beeswax over low heat in a double boiler, then stir in the carrier oils until everything is well incorporated. Remove the blend from the heat and add your essential oil. To achieve a lighter consistency like that in the photo (instead of the typical, harder salve consistency), let the mixture cool a bit, then blend it with an immersion blender to add a bit of fluffiness to its texture. Pour the finished blend into sterilized tins or jars and keep one, labeled, in your herbal first aid kit.

Some folks love to use salve right away on burns and others prefer to wait until the initial burning sensation has eased. You'll be able to discern which option works best for you as you tune into your own remedy and give each method a try.

How about you? What do you turn to when you're dealing with a burn? Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin

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