How to Treat Burns: 3 Surprising Things That Heal

Handy home remedies

by Sreeja V., Feb 5, 2020

Listen to the Stories

Severe Burns
Burn Relief with Onion
Burn Relief with Toothpaste

A Scalding Memory

A split second is all it takes, and you have a memory for life. One that leaves behind a scar, to remind you of the pain, every time you look at it. One you definitely cannot forget, even if you wish you could. 

Our 54-year-old storyteller, now a Los Angeles resident, was busy preparing a special dinner for her family, putting together a delicious spread. She was 23 at the time, and very excited to welcome her family, her fiance's family, and a few close friends to their new home in Johannesburg, South Africa. While tossing a beautiful salad with loads of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lots of greens, she realized she needed hard-boiled eggs as well. She put seven eggs in a bowl of water, set the microwave timer, then went about setting the table. 

When she heard the bing of the microwave, she walked into the kitchen, pressing the button to open the microwave door. The entire contents of the microwave exploded into her face. Bits of glass, egg, and water covered her face and hair. The impact was so forceful that the ceiling and archway were splattered with egg. She screamed out for help.

Old Wives’ Tales That Worked

Women are no strangers to burns. Often, they deal with minor burns in their daily lives that come as part of cooking, taking it in stride and devising ways and means to handle the pain and scarring after the burn. Many home remedies have come to their rescue over time and have been passed on from generation to generation. 

Our Mexican-American storyteller from Austin, Texas recalls one such old wives’ tale that her grandmother shared with her mom, who later told her about it. The remedy involves chopping an onion in half and rubbing a thin layer of it on the burn for about 30 seconds to relieve the pain. She was skeptical about it but soon discovered that it worked when she tried it herself. 

Burns and How to Treat Them

Burns can be categorized as first, second, or third-degree burns. First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin known as the epidermis. When the burns affect the epidermis and also a part of the dermis, causing the area to become swollen and painful, they become second-degree burns. Third-degree burns are deep, penetrating through the epidermis and dermis, damaging nerves and at times muscles, tendons, and bones1. While first-degree burns can be handled through a basic first aid, second and third-degree burns require immediate medical attention. 

However, even in these scenarios, unconventional therapies have proven to be useful in salvaging the situation and speeding up the recovery process. Our storyteller from LA who badly burned her face remembers her father driving her to the nearest hospital. She was taken to the ophthalmologist first to ensure her eyes were fine. Later, when she was at the hospital recovering, her cousin gave her bottles of arnica tablets and asked her to suck on them four or five times throughout the day. Within six weeks, she made a full recovery and was totally scar-free. 

Plant-Based Remedies

Arnica montana is a widely used therapeutic plant utilized in homeopathy to treat a number of ailments. In the arnica montana plant, one hundred and fifty therapeutically active substances are present2, and numerous homeopathic preparations using the plant are available in the market in the form of tablets, pellets, ointments and gels. Homeopathy is believed to be able to treat the after-shock that the patient suffers from after the incident, therefore freeing up the body to be able to focus on physical repair. Combudoron, a medicine composed of arnica and stinging nettle extracts, is also used in Europe to treat insect bites and partial thickness burns3. 

Surprise Remedy

Did you know some types of toothpaste could also be useful in treating burns? Well, it proved to be a magical remedy for our San Francisco storyteller who simply dabs white Colgate on every time she gets a burn from cooking. Her nanny shared this remedy with her, so she decided to try it. The results were fascinating. Each time she used it, the pain and scar simply disappeared. 

First aid goes a long way in helping burn patients recover and heal faster and better. And many times, old wives’ tales and home remedies can come in handy to help you make that first important step, whether you’re dealing with a first or second-degree burn.