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General characteristics

General characteristics

Sunburn is the characteristic reddening of the skin that occurs when the skin is exposed to sunlight for a certain length of time.

It is caused by the dilation of blood vessels within the skin in response to exposure to ultra violet radiation (UVR). Certain health conditions and other factors have an influence on the persons susceptibility to sun damage and sunburn. These include pigmentation disorders, some medications (e.g. antibiotics and immuno-suppressants) race and ethnicity, hair and eye colour, length of time spent in sunlight and age.

Healing objectives are to firstly prevent over-exposure of the skin to UVR, to take sensible precautions to prevent burning when exposed and to speed up the healing of burnt skin using herbal aids and natural treatments.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Beta-carotene, a precursor of the antioxidant vitamin A, is a type of pigment found in abundance in carrots and other brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as sweet peppers and squashes is known to reduce sensitivity to sunlight.

Stay well hydrated in sunny times by drinking plenty of water and watery herb teas and juices.

Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee in the sun as these encourage the excretion of water via the kidneys and can lead to dehydration.

Eat plenty of anti-oxidant rich foods (vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts) during the summer months to help combat high levels of free radicals which form in the skin on prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Drink 2 cups daily of green tea when you are likely to be in the sun for longer periods. Green tea contains compounds which provide a small amount of protection from the suns rays.

Pomegranates also provide a small amount of protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Other foods which provide small amounts of sun protection when eaten include tomatoes, guavas,

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

When sunburn covers large areas of the body, run a warm bath and add a handful of oats, marigold petals, chamomile flowers and lavender flowers to a clean bag and allow to infuse into the bath water. The marigold and lavender helps to heal the burn while the oats and chamomile help soothe and moisturise the skin.

Fresh aloe vera or gel will help soothe and heal sunburn when applied liberally.

Marshmallow root or leaf tea is very soothing to burns of all kinds, pour the tea over affected areas and/or soak a cloth in the tea and lay over the skin gently.

Fresh cleavers or cleavers tea can be used in the bath or as a wash to help soothe burned skin.

An old folk remedy for burns consists of comfrey leaves, vitamin E oil and honey.

Natural healing

Natural healing

A gentle sun protection oil can be made by mixing some vitamin E oil (or wheatgerm oil) and carrot essential oil into a base of jojoba oil. It gives a faint 'fake tan' effect (due to the carrot oil) to the skin and provides a sun protection factor of around 8. I use this oil myself and couple this with limiting my sun exposure by 'sunbathing' in the shade for the majority of the time.

Grated potato and cucumber can be very soothing to burnt skin when applied over the burns.

An old fashioned tried and tested sun-lotion consists of equal parts olive oil and cider vinegar, apparently this prevents burning.

Apply a good quality honey to the burns to soothe, protect and speed up healing.

Child watering plants




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