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HEALTH: Treating burns with essential oils

Burning issues

Using essential oils to treat burns the natural way

Ellen Cox

In 1910 the French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse discovered the healing properties of lavender after severely burning his hand in a laboratory explosion. He is reported to have plunged his hand into the nearest vessel of liquid, which was lavender. Gattefosse has been given credit for coining the term ‘aromatherapy’ (in 1937), and he has been commended for having the insight to see that the therapeutic application of essential oils constituted a discipline in its own right.
The cause of a burn may differ (sun, wind, scald, fire, freezer, carpet), but the results are all the same (depending on the severity of the burn). All burns initially result in heat being generated in the area that has been burnt thus the skin appears red. This is why we are directed to run cold water over the area of a burn, to first try to remove the heat. We rarely do this for long enough to remove sufficient heat from the burn. It is suggested that cold water runs for minimum of five minutes over the area of a burn to help cool it. For larger areas, it’s a cold bath or shower. Never EVER apply vegetable oil or fat of any kind on a burn.

Peppermint oil
After cooling the area with cold water, turn to peppermint oil to further remove the heat. Thanks to its 40-percent-plus menthol content, peppermint oil is our friend for all things cooling. I have found it invaluable in the kitchen – oven burns can be particularly nasty as can steam burns and scalds. Organic peppermint is preferable, as peppermint grown commercially is susceptible to insects and is thus heavily sprayed. One of the following methods should be used:
>  Mix three drops of peppermint oil in a tablespoon (10ml) of Aloe Vera Gel and apply to the area of the burn.
>  Fill an empty 100ml bottle with water and add 30 drops of peppermint oil. Place an atomiser spray on the bottle, shake well and spray the area of the burn liberally (very suitable for large areas of sun burn). Bottles and atomisers are available from your local health-food store.

‘What about the lavender?’ I hear you cry. Yes, lavender oil is famous for treating burns. However, the overall treatment will be far more effective if some measures have been taken to help remove the heat first. Then bring on the lavender!
Dilute the lavender oil and use as directed for the peppermint above. The lavender can be used in this way for several days with the Aloe Vera Gel, which offers soothing, healing properties of its own. One or two drops of tea tree oil can be included in this mix. In most cases there will be no blistering and the antibacterial properties of both oils will eliminate the chances of infection.
In an emergency, I have used undiluted peppermint and lavender on a burn. However, the nature of Essential Oils means they are hot. Contrary to the advice in many books, it is now considered more prudent to dilute oils for treating burns. Keep a bottle of both these oils at hand in the kitchen or in your first aid kit.
For babies, pure lavender water applied using an atomiser will offer some relief. If applying essential oils to young children dilute well. If in any doubt regarding burns with babies or young children seek medical advice.
For major burns seek medical attention as soon as possible. Never burst blisters, remove adhered clothing or apply adhesive dressings/plasters or ice directly on the area of the burn.