Our Independence Day celebration was a bit of a bust this year. Before we head out of town on vacation, Bill thought getting the van checked out prior to a cross-country drive was a good idea and he timed it so we were housebound that whole week. With no prospect of fireworks, we settled for Jared bringing us the fixings for Smore’s and a bunch of firecrackers to set off. In the end, I don’t think the kids missed the big fireworks in town much and thankfully no one was hurt.
But after our post-Smore’s glut, while a few of us were still sitting around the fire, Chloe started poking the embers with her marshmallow stick, and then she got comfortable with it and started waving the stick around a bit. Maybe the firecrackers already had me on edge, maybe I was being a good mom for once, but I told her that as much as I would love to have a before and after photo for my burn salve post I was working on, I didn’t think that she was using good judgement in waving her hot poker around to burn herself or anyone else. She was a good girl and stopped her thoughtless play right away and as a result, you’re stuck without any visual confirmation of how well this burn salve works to restore skin damaged by minor burns to its former beauty.
I first tripped to how beneficial a burn salve was years ago when my adventurous Rebekah, at the tender age of 1 decided it would be a good idea to scale the barstools, walk across the counter and over onto the stove where she promptly burned the bottoms of both her feet. A stove with “childproof” knobs that one of the other kids must have been playing with and turned on, no less. It couldn’t have been on for more than a moment because I was in the kitchen the whole time, but in the blink of an eye Bekah climbed up and was burnt while my back was turned at the sink. The burn was severe enough to require treatment at the hospital and as part of the treatment, we were later to keep the skin moist and wrapped. We used a St. John’s Wort based burn salve and her feet fully recovered without any scarring or loss of sensation.
When I started learning more about herbs and creating my own herbal salves, a burn salve was at the top of my list. Mostly we use burn salve in the kitchen after a splash of boiling liquid or a brush with the edge of a hot skillet. It is remarkable at how well it soothes and cools the burn!
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is the star of this herbal show. German E Commission approved it for the external care of 1st-degree burns. Its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties prevent infections. It relieves pain and is even known to heal nerve damage.
Mid-summer is the best time to try to find St. John’s Wort blooms. They’re a scrubby little bush, only 2-3 feet tall with vibrant yellow blossoms. If you look closely, the tip of each petal looks like it has a piece of glitter. In reality, they are an oil gland playing with the light. But if you’re still not sure on the identification, pinch a bud. It will stain your fingers a reddish purple color.
Infusing St. John’s Wort in oil is a process that can’t be rushed. Warming it on the stove won’t work. St. John’s Wort oil must be made with a solar (cold) infusion and will turn a stunning scarlet red when it’s ready to be strained. Making an oil infusion with dried St. John’s Wort isn’t nearly as effective as fresh.
The remainder of the herbal oils are made from plants you may already have growing on your homestead. Burdock is probably growing whether you want it to or not. Calendula and Comfrey are easily cultivated, must-have herbals in your garden. Unlike St. John’s Wort, they all can be made with the heat infused method of making herbal oils if you’d like.
You can use many types of oils to make your infused oils for salves, but I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil.
Burdock leaves are a traditional Amish burn remedy. Their anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties reduce infection and pain. Be sure to harvest burdock away from roads and other areas where toxins could be since burdock root accumulates them.
Calendula is wonderful herb for the skin in part due to antibiotic and anti-inflammatory actions, among others. The salicylic acid in Calendula reduces pain is all-around one of my favorite herbs to use for skin troubles.
Comfrey contains allantoin and is so powerful at healing skin that it’s recommended not to use it with deep wounds in order to prevent trapping in an infection. This along with anti-inflammatory properties make it a good choice for quickly healing burns.
The only oil in my burn salve recipe that can’t be easily made is the Sea Buckthorn oil. But it’s such a valuable oil, you can’t skip it. Sea Buckthorn is loaded with vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fatty acids. It’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties soothe the burn and help skin to heal faster.
Herbal Burn Salve Recipe
- 1 ½ teaspoons St. John’s wort infused olive oil
- 1 teaspoon comfrey infused olive oil
- 1 teaspoon burdock leaf infused oil
- ½ teaspoon calendula infused olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea buckthorn oil
- 1 ¼ teaspoon beeswax
- Bring a small saucepan filled halfway with water to a boil.
- Measure all of the ingredients into a bowl that can sit on top of the saucepan without falling in (creating a double boiler.)
- Heat the oils enough to melt the beeswax and then pour it into a salve tin.
Don’t have time to make your own Herbal Burn Salve? Buy it in Reformation Acre’s Farmstead Soap & Salve shop on Etsy!
A Word of Caution
I want to clarify that a burn salve should only be used to care for and soothe very minor, cosmetic burns. Please be sure to get the proper medical treatment for any burn with a severity you’re unsure about and talk to your doctor about using a salve for after-care and treatment. People have died trying to use herbal burn care when the severity of their burns required greater attention. Herbs are a wonderful tool to promote wellness, but modern medicine has it’s rightful place in caring for ourselves and our families.
Disclaimer: For informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.