Natural Burn Remedies and Ointments

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Natural burn remedies can help reduce the pain and inflammation caused by burns. In some cases, the remedies can also promote healing.

While natural burn remedies may offer certain benefits, it's important to remember that some types of burns require medical attention.

This article explains the difference between first-, second-, and third-degree burns and lists three natural burn remedies to consider.

Someone putting aloe vera on their hand to treat a burn
Anthony Rosenberg / Getty Images

Types of Burns

When it comes to treating burns at home, the level of severity of the burn is of the utmost importance:

  • First-degree burns: Red and painful, first-degree burns tend to swell slightly and turn white when you apply pressure to the skin.
  • Second-degree burns: Typically producing blisters, second-degree burns are thicker, very painful, and may cause the skin to turn red, splotchy, and swollen.
  • Third-degree burns: A type of burn that damages all layers of the skin, third-degree burns leave the skin white or charred. Due to damage to the nerves and tissue, third-degree burns may cause little or no pain. These types of burns require immediate medical attention.

If In Doubt, Reach Out

If you have a third-degree burn, or you're in doubt about the severity of your burn, contact a medical provider immediately.

Natural burn remedies are best suited to treating first- and second-degree burns. Studies suggest that several remedies may aid in the treatment of these burns. They include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Honey
  • Calendula

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has long been used to speed up the healing of first- and second-degree burns. In fact, one study found that people who used aloe vera on a burn healed faster than those who used another traditional remedy: petroleum jelly covered in gauze.

To soothe pain and stave off blisters and scarring, apply aloe vera gel directly to the burn once or twice daily until it's fully healed. If you can't find such a gel at the store, you may be lucky enough to find the plant (a succulent known as Aloe barbadensis) at a store or garden center. In this case, cut a leaf with a knife, squeeze out the transparent pulp, and apply it to the skin.

Chill Out With Aloe Vera

The cooling, soothing, and moisturizing abilities of aloe vera make it ideal for treating another type of skin discomfort, too: sunburn.

Honey

Several studies show that applying honey to burned skin may help promote healing and reduce inflammation—an insight that mothers and other caretakers have embraced for generations. In fact, one report from The New Zealand Medical Journal reviewed eight studies (with a total of 624 subjects) and found that honey was effective in treating first- and second-degree burns. Most of the studies involved the use of raw, unprocessed honey covered by sterile gauze.

Honey is thought to reduce infection and inflammation and therefore healing times, perhaps because honey is acidic and so may slow the pH of a burn, which blunts bacterial growth. The sugar in honey may also dry up bacteria.

However, first call your doctor and get the all-clear that your particular brand of honey will not irritate your skin; some brands could. Another option? Skip the phone call and buy a jar of manuka honey. This expensive honey is so well-known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that it is used in manuka honey bandages.

Know Your Burns

First- and second-degree burns are considered minor burns. Third-degree burns are considered major burns.

Calendula 

A flower found to possess anti-inflammatory properties, calendula shows promise in the treatment of burns. It is often confused with the marigold, and both are indeed members of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. The difference is, marigolds are members of the Tagetes genus while calendula belongs to the Calendula genus.

Calendula is often used in ointments, salves, and soaps as a soothing skin treatment. A study from the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that applying calendula extract to the skin helped promote healing in rats with burn injuries. However, more research needs to be done before calendula is confirmed as an effective burn remedy.

Move Fast in an Emergency

Major burns need urgent medical attention to reduce the risk of scarring, disability, and deformity.

Using Natural Remedies

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend natural remedies as a bona fide treatment for burns. Some burns should be treated by medical professionals only. See a doctor immediately if you experience:

  • A burn on your face, over a major joint (such as a knee or shoulder), or on your hands, feet, or genitals
  • A burn that blisters
  • An electrical burn
  • A first- or second-degree burn that covers an area larger than 2 inches in diameter
  • A third-degree burn

Watch the Very Young and Old

Most people experience a skin burn at some point in their lifetime. Try to prevent burns in young children and older adults. They're most likely to incur a burn.

Summary

To the layman's eye, any type of burn may look serious. But it pays to know the difference between first-, second-, and third-degree burns. Recognizing the latter is especially important because the long-term consequences of delaying treatment can be serious. Short-term treatment choices include natural remedies such as aloe vera, honey, and calendula. Evidence exists to support the use of each one. But before you reach for honey, reach for your phone and call your doctor. The ingredients in some processed honey may interfere with its healing properties.

A Word From Verywell

Your skin feels like it's on fire so you dash to the freezer, grab some ice, and put it on the burn. It sounds like a perfectly sensible reaction. But, in fact, ice can damage the burned skin tissue, though running cool (not cold) water over it is fine. Let the skin dry and loosely wrap the burn in plastic cling wrap. The nerve endings will feel better when they're protected from the air. And the burn will remain clean until you have time to treat it or see a medical professional.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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