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Burns

General characteristics

General characteristics

Burns are damage to the skin caused by fire, heat, the sun, electricity, chemicals or radiation. The extent of the burn is categorised by 'degrees' or the depth of skin and underlying fat layers and muscle that have been damaged.
A first degree (superficial) burn affects the top layers (epidermis) only and presents with redness, pain and sometimes clear or straw coloured fluid leaking from the surrounding damaged tissues. Because only the top layers of skin are damaged they usually heal well with correct treatment within a week. Sunburn is a first degree burn.
Second degree (partial thickness) burns destroys both the epidermis and the underlying dermis layer resulting in a deeper burn taking longer to heal and sometimes result in some scarring.
Third degree (full thickness) burns destroy the epidermis, the dermis and the underlying fat and muscle. You will see the damaged layers and fluids leaking from damaged tissues. These burns also destroy the layers of skin where new cells are produced making them much more difficult to heal. Hospitals carry out skin grafts for this type of burn. These deeper burns can destroy nerves so be less painful but should be treated urgently as complication can quickly arise.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Vitamin E has a remarkable healing effect on burns especially when both eaten and used as an external agent. You can use vitamin capsules or wheatgerm oil which is very rich in vitamin E. See also 'vitamins' in the 'natural healing' section for foods rich in vitamin E. Mix either vitamin E or wheatgerm oil with a burn ointment to speed up healing and prevent scarring.

Drink a cup of nettle tea twice daily to provide essential nutrients that aid the healing process.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

The following remedies are for burns that do not require immediate medical attention.

Ensure that the preparations below are firmly but gently secured in place with a light bandage and renew with a clean bandage after repeating the herbal applications.

Comfrey is an excellent healer and both root and leaf can be used as a poultice to quickly regrow damaged tissues and provide anti-bacterial protection also. Simmer a heaped tablespoon of root in a pint of water for half an hour, allow to cool then liquidise in a blender. Apply the resulting comfrey root goo to the burn and secure in place with a light bandage. Check twice daily to see if new applications are needed. Do not remove the old paste as this will safely weave into the newly formed skin. You can also use fresh comfrey root. For comfrey leaves make a strong tea using either fresh or dried leaves and apply the wet leaves to the burn. Comfrey root powder can be sprinkled on to a deeper burn and left to do its work.
Lavender essential oil is very useful for minor burns and sunburn. Apply the neat essential oil liberally to the burn and repeat every hour or so initially.
Aloe vera gel is used externally for the treatment of minor burns also with good effect.
Take echinacea tincture 5ml 3 times daily to help the immune system and speed up healing.
Other herbs that are excellent skin healers include fenugreek, slippery elm, marshmallow root or leaf, st johns wort, marigold and chickweed. Make a simple tea using equal amounts of any or all of these herbs and apply a non stick cloth drenched in the tea as a compress and secure in place with a light bandage. Re-apply with fresh tea every couple of hours. These herbs can also be used as a powder with the addition of a pinch of myrrh powder for deeper burns.
Cleavers as a fresh poultice can also help to soothe the burn/scald and promote good and rapid tissue healing.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Run the burn under cold water for at least 20 minutes or soak in a cold water bath to ease inflammation, cool the skin and prevent further damage to the surrounding tissues.
Honey has a long time reputation for its effectiveness in healing burns. Apply a thick coat of honey to the burn and leave on as long as possible.
Milk or fresh natural yoghurt are healing and cooling.

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