There are many herbs and herbal treatments that may be helpful in reducing the discomfort and aid skin repair for first degree burns as well as some second-degree burns.
The herbs that are helpful as a natural treatment for burns are primarily used topically, either as a compress or an herbal wash.
Herbal remedies can soothe the pain of a burn, help fight infection, aid in the repair of the skin, and help prevent the formation of scar tissue.
Also are vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the trace mineral zinc especially helpful while the body is recovering from burns.
Self-care with herbs is most appropriate for first-degree burns, and for some small second degree burns.
The quickest thing to do is to keep the burned area in cold water or apply an ice pack for at least ten minutes. Oil or butter should never be used as it can make the burn worse.
A first-degree burn harms only the outermost layer of skin, such as ordinary sunburn. The skin is red but unbroken. A second-degree burn will develop blisters as the skin has been penetrated more deeply and is very painful. (1)
Unless the injury is small, a second-degree burn will require medical care from a healthcare professional.
The worst type of burn is a third-degree burn. These burns may not be at all painful because the injury has penetrated deep enough to destroy the nerves that transmit pain signals to the brain.
Third-degree burns are a medical emergency requiring immediate care from a qualified health-care professional.
Before using herbs as a treatment for skin burns, talk with a professional healthcare provider about whether these herbs should be applied topically, consumed as a tea, tincture or capsule, the proper dosage, and whether there are any contraindications or possible side effects.
Common Herbs Used for Treating Burns
Plantain (Plantago major) is one of the most popular folk remedies in North America used in the treatment of burns. Juice from the plant is applied directly to mild burns for a soothing effect. It is also useful in treating insect bites.
It is anti-bacterial, and like comfrey, it contains allantoin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical that speeds wound healing and stimulates the growth of new skin cells. (2)(3)
Aloe vera gel relieves pain and inflammation and speeds the healing process.
Aloe has been used since ancient times, and modern research has supported the effectiveness of this natural herbal remedy to treat burns, including frostbite and the burns caused by radiation therapy.
Aloe contains the enzymes carboxypeptidase and bradykininase, which relieve pain, reduce inflammation and decrease redness and swelling. (4)
It also has essential antibacterial and antifungal properties that help to prevent infection. (5)
Either aloe gel purchased in the store, or the fresh juice from the aloe plant may be used. Many people keep a live aloe plant as an essential part of personal first aid kit.
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine for its ability to rejuvenate the skin. It may speed the healing process and help to prevent scarring. (6)
Taken internally, especially when taken with vitamin C, it promotes collagen synthesis, an important function of skin repair. (7)
For an effective topical herbal treatment for minor burns or sunburn, mix equal parts of gotu kola powder with aloe gel.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) can be very helpful in treating burns as it contains berberine, proven to protect against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Scientific research has shown that plants containing berberine stimulate the immune system and fight infection. Oregon grape root is a potent antioxidant and contains tannins that ease inflammation, irritation, and itching of the skin. (8)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) pure essential oil is considered by many aromatherapists as one of the premier remedies for burns.
It is antiseptic and analgesic and is the only essential oil that can be applied directly to the skin without dilution.
It prevents infection, reduces inflammation, promotes healing and reduces or prevents scar tissue formation.
It is considered the safest essential oil to use with children, as evidenced by the many lavender-scented baby products on the market.
The scent of lavender also has calming effects, which soothe the nerves after injury. (9)
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been used in Chinese Traditional Medicine for over 2000 years.
One of the most common uses of comfrey leaf is as an ointment or a poultice applied externally as a natural treatment for burns, sprains, broken bones, and other wounds, where it promotes rapid healing of both skin lesions and bone breaks. (10)
Commonly known as marigold, calendula (Calendula officinalis) has a long history of use as a treatment for burns and other skin inflammations.
Calendula is regarded to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to promote healing by stimulating the production of the outer skin cells. Calendula may be used for acute dermatitis from radiation therapy, mild skin burns, scalds, razor burns, mild sunburn, and even windburn. (11)
It acts immediately and effectively in the prevention of blisters and scar tissue. It may also be used in the case of chemical burn as an eyewash. (12)
Calendula is most effective when it is used as a compress applied to the burn area. Note that calendula is a member of the composite family along with ragweed, and may cause allergic reactions.
Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) has been used for centuries by Native Americans in North America as an herbal treatment for burns, wounds, boils, ulcers and other skin inflammations.
Slippery elm is a mucilaginous demulcent, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory that may be used as a topical treatment for inflammatory skin conditions. (13)
Other Herbs Used for Burns
- Witch Hazel(Hamamelis virginiana)
- Blackberry (Rubus fruitosus)
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile)
- St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Common Mouse-Ear (Cerastium fontanum)
- Chickweed (Stellaria media)
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
- Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
- Onion (Allium cepa)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
- Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
- Bistort (Bistorta officinalis)
- Agave (Agave americana)
- Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)
- Bletilla (Bletilla striata)
- Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)
- Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
- Purslane – (Portulaca oleracea)
- Salibian, A. A., Rosario, A., Severo, L., Nguyen, L., Banyard, D. A., Toranto, J. D., … Widgerow, A. D. (2016). Current concepts on burn wound conversion-A review of recent advances in understanding the secondary progressions of burns. Burns : journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, 42(5), 1025–1035. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2015.11.007.
- Najafian, Y., Hamedi, S. S., Farshchi, M. K., & Feyzabadi, Z. (2018). Plantago major in Traditional Persian Medicine and modern phytotherapy: a narrative review. Electronic physician, 10(2), 6390–6399. doi:10.19082/6390.
- Amini, Masood & Kherad, Masoomeh & Mehrabani, Davood & Azarpira, Negar & R. Panjehshahin, M & Tanideh, Nader. (2010). Effect of Plantago major on Burn Wound Healing in Rat. Journal of Applied Animal Research – J APPL ANIM RES. 37. 53-56. 10.1080/09712119.2010.9707093.
- Al-Snafi, Ali. (2015). The pharmacological importance of Aloe vera- A review. International Journal of Phytopharmacy Research. 6. 28-33.
- Maenthaisong R, Chaiyakunapruk N, Niruntraporn S, et al. The efficacy of aloe vera used for burn wound healing: a systematic review. 2007. In: Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-.
- Somboonwong, Juraiporn & Kankaisre, Mattana & Tantisira, Boonyong & Tantisira, Mayuree. (2012). Wound healing activities of different extracts of Centella asiatica in incision and burn wound models: an experimental animal study. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. 12. 103. 10.1186/1472-6882-12-103.
- Gohil, K. J., Patel, J. A., & Gajjar, A. K. (2010). Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 72(5), 546–556. doi:10.4103/0250-474X.78519.
- Wang, H., Zhu, C., Ying, Y., Luo, L., Huang, D., & Luo, Z. (2017). Metformin and berberine, two versatile drugs in the treatment of common metabolic diseases. Oncotarget, 9(11), 10135–10146. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.20807.
- Denner, Sallie. (2008). Lavandula Angustifolia Miller. Holistic nursing practice. 23. 57-64. 10.1097/01.HNP.0000343210.56710.fc.
- Staiger C. (2012). Comfrey: a clinical overview. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 26(10), 1441–1448. doi:10.1002/ptr.4612.
- Arora, D., Rani, A., & Sharma, A. (2013). A review on phytochemistry and ethnopharmacological aspects of genus Calendula. Pharmacognosy reviews, 7(14), 179–187. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.120520,
- Orchard, A., & van Vuuren, S. (2017). Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4517971. doi:10.1155/2017/4517971.
- Watts, Christopher & Rousseau, Bernard. (2012). Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation. Journal of Investigational Biochemistry. 1. 17-23. 10.5455/jib.20120417052415.
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