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Natural Remedies for Sunburns

5/31/2011 10:10:13 AM

Tags: Medicine Cabinet, Sunburns, Natural Remedies, Natural Health, St. John's Wort, Calendula, Witch Hazel, Comfrey, Oatmeal, Chamomile

S.McCabeSunburns, well, burn. I should know, because I sat outside for an hour this weekend without sunscreen (yes, bad move) and am now left with large, angry red splotches on the tops of my thighs and shoulders. 

To help soothe the burn, Aloe vera is an obvious choice to turn to because it cools the skin and helps decrease the sunburn’s inflammation. However, there are many other lesser-known natural treatments for sunburns, as well.

• Witch hazel: Witch hazel, an all-purpose remedy for skin problems, is a strong astringent that, when applied externally, hardens skin proteins and adds protection to the skin. Treating a sunburn with witch hazel will speed up the healing time and can also help prevent the skin from peeling as it dries out.

5-31-11 witch hazel
Witch hazel is a great treatment for skin problems, from burns to acne.
Photo by Mason Byrand/Courtesy

• Calendula: The flower petals of calendula, or more commonly known as pot marigold, are known for their healing properties. Studies show that calendula has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, and the plant is able to stimulate new cell growth. Calendula both promotes the healing of burns and also helps prevent infections in the damaged area.

• St. John’s wort: The oil of this herb can be used to alleviate the pain of a sunburn as well as jump-start the healing process. It can also be used to protect the skin and help prevent sunburns in the first place. It should be noted, however, that the oil of St. John’s wort is very powerful and should be well-diluted before being applied to the skin.

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St. John's wort can also be used as a natural sunscreen.
Photo by Caro's Lines/Courtesy

• Chamomile: This tea is great for calming the red irritation around burns and helps to heal and soften damaged skin. Place a few drops of chamomile extract in cool water. Wet a compress in the mixture and apply it to the burn. You can also add chamomile tea to bathwater for extra relaxation. Wet tea bags are great to press on sunburned eyelids, as well.

• Comfrey: The roots of comfrey contain allotonin, a chemical substance that promotes cell regeneration and reduces inflammation. For treating sunburns, comfrey is best used in creams and ointments.

NOTE: Comfrey contains toxic substances that can cause severe liver damage and possibly even death. It should never be ingested or applied to open wounds.  

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Creams containing comfrey can be found in many natural goods stores.
Photo by Amortize/Courtesy

• Lavender oil: Lavender not only heals sunburns rapidly and works to prevent scarring, but it is known for its calming abilities as well. A couple of drops of lavender oil in a lukewarm bath can ease a sunburn’s sting and help you relax. Plus, it smells fantastic.

• Oatmeal: This is one of my personal favorites to soothe any skin irritation. Get a sock and fill it with 1/4 to 1/2 cups of oatmeal. Run a bath and toss the sock in the water. (Don’t forget to tie the top first.) Let it soak for a few minutes until the water is cloudy before you get in. (Sometimes squeezing the sock helps with this process.)

I hope some of these easy remedies help relieve the pain that comes with sunburns. And next time, don’t forget to wear your sunscreen! (I know I won’t.)

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