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remedies

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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Herbal Skincare: Helichrysum Rejuvenating Balm

The moment I saw that my Helichrysum seedlings had emerged from their little soil nursery this spring, I couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face. There's just something about actually growing the plants you are using yourself that adds a new layer of depth to your relationship with them. Helichrysum is one of my favorite botanicals for skincare recipes and home remedies. I've long utilized it in its herbal form, as a hydrosol, and as an essential oil and now that I'll have access to the fresh plant, I'm looking forward to making a flower essence once these sweet little plant babies are old enough to spread their sunny faces toward the sky.

Helichrysum is such a versatile herb when it comes to formulas for the skin. It rejuvenates the skin cells and helps to promote quick recovery from wounds, soothes irritation, calms inflammation, smells amazing, and generally supports the healing process. I love it. This balm recipe is one of my must have recipes for my herbal first aid kit. It can be used when dealing with just about any kind of skin issue, though you'll want to avoid using it on deep or puncture wounds until they have scabbed over.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 part beeswax
  • 5 parts carrier oil that has been infused with Helichrysum flowers
  • 1 part carrier oil that has been infused with Calendula flowers
  • essential oils of Helichrysum, Lavender, and Calendula CO2 (optional)

HOW TO MAKE THE BALM

  1. Infuse your carrier oils with the herbs if you don't already have infused oils on hand in your home apothecary. I like to infuse my oils for at least 6 weeks, but you could also use the quick-infusion method if you need your balm to be ready right away.
     
  2. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Once it's melted, stir in the infused oils.
     
  3. Remove the blend from the heat and stir in your essential oils at a 3 to 5 % total dilution (optional).
     
  4. After the blend has cooled a bit, use an immersion blender to 'fluff up' the texture of the balm.
     
  5. Scoop into sterilized jars or tins. Add your labels (include the date you made the product + all of the ingredients you used).
     
  6. Store a jar in your herbal first aid kit so you'll know where it is when you need it. This balm can also be used as a daily moisturizer if you leave the essential oils out or keep them at a 1 to 2 % total dilution. When used after showering or washing your hands, it will soak nicely into the skin without leaving any sort of greasy residue.

Enjoy!
Much love,
Erin

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Herbalism 101: Make Skin-Nourishing Salves

Salves are some of my favorite DIY herbal-aromatic remedies. They are so quick and easy to make! They also won't spill in my purse, which makes them a convenient favorite for carrying around with me. (I can't be the only one who has ruined a leather bag as a result of a faulty roll-on lid, right?) I tend to keep a variety of salves on hand because they're so useful and handy - my current favorite is an all purpose Calendula salve that I tend to make fresh every few months. If you've been itching to whip up a few salves for your own kit, you're in the right place!

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All salves are a basic combination of carrier oil and beeswax. To customize them according to what you want to use them for, you can use carrier oils infused with herbs. For example, I use Calendula infused oil in skin healing salves, like diaper rash balms and ointments for scrapes and burns. A St. John's Wort infused oil would be suitable in a salve intended to soothe muscle aches or pain and a Lavender infused oil would be lovely in a calming sleepy time balm. You get the idea, right? Decide on what you want your salve to be best for, then use oils infused with the herbs that correspond with that particular issue.

Most herbalists recommend making salves using a 1:4 ratio - 1 part beeswax to 4 parts oil. An overly simplified example of this would be a recipe made with 1 ounce of beeswax and 4 ounces of Calendula infused oil. I tend to prefer salves that are just a little bit softer than this and usually use a 1:5 ratio.

To make a salve, melt your beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. I tend to use a glass Pyrex measuring jar inside a small saucepan as my double boiler. It works perfectly - the pouring spout on the measuring jar is great for pouring the mixture into containers later. I keep the water level in my saucepan at about 2 inches.

Once your beeswax is melted, stir in your carrier oil. Sometimes the cooler temperature of the oil will cause the beeswax to solidify a little bit. If this happens, just keep stirring the mixture until everything is melted again.

After your beeswax and oil are thoroughly combined, turn off the heat and move your jar (or double boiler) away from the stove. If you're adding essential oils to your salve, now is the time to stir them in.

For recipes intended for children, elderly folks, or people with compromised immune systems, sensitivity to smell, etc., use a 1% dilution for your essential oil blend (5-6 drops of essential oil for every ounce of your beeswax/oil mix). For healthy adults, a 2% dilution is perfect (10-12 drops of EO to each ounce of beeswax/oil mix). If you're making a First Aid type balm for occasional adult use in acute situations, you could use a 3% dilution (15-18 drops of EO per ounce of carrier).

Pour your finished balm mix into your sterilized containers and let them sit undisturbed in a safe place until solid. While you're waiting for them to cool you can make some labels for your tins! I like to include all of the ingredients in the recipe, the date I made the batch, and a name for my finished blend on my labels. Label your new salves and use them as needed!

What sorts of salves do you [want to] keep in your home remedy kit?

Much love,
Erin

For educational purposes only. All photos and graphics are copyright Erin Stewart. May not be distributed, copied, or published without express prior written permission from me.