Burns are common, but they can range from mild and treatable to severe and damaging depending on the circumstances.
Typical causes of burns include exposure to hot stoves, kettles, ovens, open fires, hot liquids, chemicals, or even sunlight. Severe burns are capable of destroying all layers of the skin and should be treated with immediate medical attention.
Milder burns, however, can be treated with home remedies to help reduce the pain and facilitate healing. One such remedy is essential oils, which have been used for centuries to help manage symptoms.
We'll be running through all the best essential oils to use for burns and how to use them safely.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are natural products, extracted from botanicals like fruits, flowers, herbs, or spices. They contain a variety of benefits that can impact the mind and body in different ways.
Usually either steam distilled or cold pressed, essential oils carry potent aromas that can be diffused, added to your bath, or diluted for use in skin or hair care.
When using essential oils for burns, topical application is usually the best choice.
Why use an essential oil for a burn?
If you're looking for an all-natural burn treatment, essential oils are a solid and surprisingly effective choice. That's because many of them contain anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe and heal irritated skin.
When topically applied to burns, essential oils can help manage pain, reduce redness, and even prevent the development of scars in some cases.
Essential oils can be applied to fresh burns or healing burns, but must be handled differently depending on these circumstances (more on this later).
What are the best essential oils for burns?
If you've got a small burn that you're looking to soothe, here are some of the best essential oils for healing them.
1. Lavender oil
Using lavender oil for burns is a tale as old as time. So much so, that its use by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse spearheaded the coining of the term "aromatherapy" in the 1900s.
Lavender oil has an active constituent called beta-caryophyllene that contains naturally anti-inflammatory effects, which can help in the healing of small topical burns.
A study in 2012 also found that lavender oil could speed up wound recovery, with some sources noting its ability to bind connective tissues as a result of collagen promotion.
2. Peppermint oil
The cooling sensation of peppermint oil perfectly contradicts - and therefore soothes - the painful heat that radiates after a skin burn.
Mint oils are all high in a constituent known as menthol, which researchers have been exploring for years in relation to topical pain management.
A 2011 review on pain-relieving essential oils noted peppermint as an extremely effective analgesic. Analgesics are also known as painkillers.
Peppermint oil is known for its solid anti-inflammatory effects too, making it an ideal choice as a home remedy.
3. Juniper berry oil
Juniper berry oil is perhaps most famous for its gin-flavouring associations, but recent research has discovered its potential impact for treating burns, too.
A study in 2015 noted that an active ingredient in juniper, known as thujone, could help aid healing, prevent infection, and soothe inflammation around wounds or burns.
An earlier 2012 study also found that juniper berry oil contains pinene - a compound with the potential minimise the scarring caused by burns.
4. Oregano oil
Oregano oil has a lot more to offer than the culinary props of its botanical. One of the key components in oregano oil is carvacrol - a compound with a significant record against inflammation.
A 2012 study confirmed the strong effects of carvacrol, while a 1996 study compared its pain-reliving qualities against the likes of fenoprofen and morphine.
Oregano oil is also an effective antimicrobial, meaning it can heal the site of wounds a lot faster.
5. Eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil is a very popular choice against pain, largely because of its astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
One 2013 study found that eucalyptus oil could effectively be used for burns, as well as other common skin ailments like small cuts and insect bites.
Applying eucalyptus oil after burning yourself could prevent the area from becoming infected, while also soothing immediate redness and irritation.
6. Tea tree oil
Nicknamed "the medicine cabinet in a bottle", tea tree oil is a very versatile remedy with antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties among many more benefits.
These factors are mostly attributed to one of tea tree's primary active components - terpinene-4-ol. A large 2006 study explored the effects of tea tree on a variety of infections and found positive results for a significant portion.
Applying tea tree oil to a fresh burn can therefore help to prevent infection and facilitate a smoother healing process.
How to use essential oils for burns
Here are two ways to create a simple ointment for first-degree burns with essential oils.
For fresh burns
You will need:
- 5 drops of your chosen essential oil
- 1 cup of warm water
- A clean cloth
- A small bowl
- Add your water and essential oils together in a bowl.
- Mix or shake (if you can) the components together and soak the clean cloth in the mixture. Note: These two products naturally won't mix, so you may have to keep stirring to avoid the effects of direct application.
- Apply the clean cloth to your fresh burn and hold. Repeat as often as needed and continue making compresses daily until the area beings to heal.
For healing burns
You will need:
- 1 oz of carrier oil (roughly 30ml)
- 5 drops of your chosen essential oils
- A bowl for mixing
- Add your essential oils and your carrier oil together in a bowl. Make sure you're sticking to a 3% dilution rate or below.
- Once mixed, use your fingertips to gently apply oil to the burn in circular motions. Note: This ointment is best applied when the burn is already healing. Using oils on fresh burns in this way could cover and trap bacteria, making the infection worse.
- Leave the oils to soak into the skin.
Are there any risks to using essential oils for burns?
The main risk to keep in mind when using essential oils topically is to make sure they're properly diluted. Essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil and patch tested before use.
If you're applying the oil to a younger or more vulnerable person, a lower dilution rate of 1% is recommended above the usual 3%. Learn more about how to dilute your essential oils.
It's also important to consult with a doctor before using essential oils on second-degree burns, as these are more likely to pose a risk of infection. A second-degree burn will usually feature blistering, pain, and swelling.
See your doctor immediately if you have a more severe third-degree burn or infection. Third-degree burns will leave your skin with a leather-like appearance that may be discoloured and rough to the touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use essential oils on first-degree burns?
Yes, essential oils are perfect for naturally treating the symptoms of first-degree burns and sunburn. Use of essential oils on second-degree burns is not recommended unless agreed with a doctor.
Should you cover your burns after treating them with essential oils?
If needed, you can prevent your burn from rubbing by covering it with a sterile non-stick gauze, but this is not always required for the essential oils to work effectively.
What is the best carrier oil for burns?
Any carrier oil can be used to help dilute your essential oils for safe application. That being said, coconut oil is a popular choice as it has a history of infection prevention as well as eliminating scarring.
Are there other home remedies for getting rid of scars?
Home remedies like aloe vera can help soothe the area alongside your essential oils, while a diet full of antioxidants and plenty of water can help with the prevention of scars.
Using essential oils for burns is an easy and natural way to ease symptoms. With frequent use, essential oils can speed up healing and even prevent any scars from showing up in the area.
Always check with your doctor if you feel a burn is becoming infected, or if you notice any symptoms of a greater severity than you first anticipated.