Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daily Herb-o-Scope - Natural remedies for Sunburn

Yesterday I talked about natural ways to protect yourself from getting sunburned and the obvious next blog should be about natural ways to treat sunburn. Colorado weather has been brutally hot theses last few weeks, and any time spent outside has been miserable and burn laden. First and second degree burns can be treated at home, just as long as the area is kept clean and infection free. For third degree burns medical attention must be sought.

First and foremost, the area must be immediately cooled. Cold water or ice should be applied to the area for about 30 minutes. Do not put any ointment or cream on the burnt area until the skin is cooled because the ointment may lock in heat, making the burn worse. Egg whites on the burned skin is another way to help draw out the heat from a sunburn and this may happen so quickly the the egg may actually cook on the skin right before your eyes. Once you initially draw out the heat, there are several other ways to continue to cool the skin and help the burn to heal. 

Aloe vera plants are such a helpful and easy houseplant to have around and they have documented use of for over 2000 years. The gel in the stalks are antibacterial, vulnerary and anti-inflammatory, helping to cool, disinfect and heal the affected area. By dilating capillaries and increasing blood flow, aloe gel helps to increase blood flow to the burnt area and encourages healing. The inside of aloe vera leaves contains a gel that has a pH of 4.3, which is great for the skin.

Fresh aloe vera gel is always better than a bottle bought from the store. To harvest the fresh leaf, tare one of the lower leaves from plant. Slice the leave length wise up to the point you plan on using because the leaf will heal itself and when it is placed in the fridge it can keep for several months.Then peel the leaf open and scrap the gel from the tough outer part. I like to put the gel in the refrigerator before slathering on the goo for an extra coolness. When purchasing aloe vera gel form the store, beware of preservatives and food coloring that might present in the gel. Aloe vera gel should be more a a clear color and any artificial food colorings placed on the skin are readily absorbed into the blood stream and can be toxic.

Black and green and tea (Camellia sinensis) are sunburn tools that you can find in any grocery store and most hotel rooms. When your skin is burnt and crawling, just brew a cup of tea and then chill it. When the tea is cool, soak a cloth in the tea and ring out. Place the wet cloth directly on the burnt skin for 15-30 minutes. Reapply as needed. The tea will help to reduce inflammation, deter infection and help heal the skin. I tend to use this remedy when I am vacationing on the beach simply because of its convenience and availability.

Vinegar application is also another folk treatment for sun burn. Make a solution of half white distilled vinegar and half water, use a cotton ball to apply the vinegar solution to the skin. It isn't a pleasant experience, mainly because it smells so bad, but it really helps to take the sting out of a raw and irritated sunburn.

Lavender essential oil is one of my favorite remedies for a sunburn. Its usefulness in the treatment of burns occurred in the 1920's when perfumer Rene-Maurice Gattefosse set his arm on fire. He thrust his arm in the nearest cold liquid which happened to be a big vat of lavender essential oil. He noticed almost instant pain relief and later, abbreviated healing time with minimal scaring. Not only have studies shown that lavender essential oil is beneficial to the actually burnt skin but it is soothing properties help to ease the tension and aggravation associated with being uncomfortable. A cool bath with several drops of lavender essential oil and no more than 8 tablespoons of cider vinegar can be very helpful to a sunburn.  Lavender essential oil is something that I always bring on vacation or camping trip. It most certainly is a first aid kit in a bottle.

These are my suggestions to help sooth a raw sunburn and help the skin heal faster. I hope they are helpful to you or you loved ones this summer.


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