For burns, cool the skin immediately with cold water by holding the burn under the tap. Some people plunge a burned hand into a pitcher of ice water or iced tea. This also helps ease the pain of a mild burn. After the cold water treatment, assess whether the burn is serious and requires a trip to the emergency room or whether the problem is less severe and a home remedy is appropriate.
Some time ago a gardener friend gave me a large potted Aloe vera and said, “If you get a burn, break off a leaf and rub the sap that oozes out onto the burn.” I have had a couple of minor burns since, followed the instruction, and experienced relief. Presumably this is not appropriate for severe burns.
The use of Aloe vera dates to the ancient Egyptians. They used it to treat skin infections and to make laxatives. Today the value of Aloe vera gel for burns is somewhat controversial, although people have used it for this purpose for centuries. Aloe gel contains polysaccharides—compounds that have a soothing effect on mucous membranes—and enzymes that coat irritated skin and ease pain. It also may be antibacterial. In a study of 30 people with second-degree burns, aloe cream containing 0.5 percent of the gel in powdered form helped to heal the burns faster than sulfadiazine, a commonly used antibacterial cream. You are right that serious burns require immediate medical attention.
RAW ONION JUICE
While I was working at a restaurant, one of our chefs was burned badly by a fryer. I happened to be in the kitchen when it happened, and the manager screamed, “Get me a fresh onion out of the walk-in refrigerator!” I didn’t ask questions. I just got it. He asked me to cut it in half, which I did. He squeezed the fresh onion juice on the chef’s burn. Amazingly, it not only calmed the awful pain, but also prevented the burned skin from blistering! The manager later explained to me that it must be a freshly cut onion. I learned the truth of that later when, in another restaurant, I got burned and reached for onions cut up that morning. That didn’t work, so then I had to cut a fresh onion. Seconds count when it comes to a burn. But onion juice always works! Something about the chemistry of the juice works wonders.
Thank you for sharing your experience. First aid for a burn is soaking it in cold water immediately. After that, if the skin is intact, a home remedy such as onion juice might be worth a try. Obviously, a severe burn requires medical attention.
I listened to your public radio show and heard a man call in recommending soy sauce for burns. “How weird is that?” I thought. But then, as I took a loaf of bread out of the oven, the inner edge of my thumb and the fleshy pad underneath hit the metal rim of the pan. I expected a painful burn. Since I had nothing else at hand, I decided to try the soy sauce remedy. The pain eased up in less than a minute, the soreness did not materialize, and even the redness went away. It may be weird, but it certainly did work!
We don’t know why this home remedy works but have heard from several people that it does, including an army ranger who told us that U.S. Special Forces medics use soy sauce for combat-related burns.
When we were at the beach, a friend burned her hand on a hot handle. (I had just pulled the pan out of the broiler.) I grabbed the soy sauce and had her soak her hand in it after she ran the burn under cold water. She reported relief, and the next day she was fine. I was worried it would blister. She smelled like marinade, but that’s a small price. We credited you for the save.
Thanks for sharing your success with soy sauce. We heard about this remedy for burns from an Oregonian listener to our radio show.
Soy sauce for burns works! I was changing the air cleaner in my car, and my metal watchband accidentally arced across a battery terminal. I got a severe burn in the shape of my watchband at the point of contact. I remembered the recommendation of soy sauce for burns. I slowly poured it on the burn for about a minute and had no pain then or afterward. I went back and finished my project.
We always suggest putting cold water on a burn first. Soy sauce thereafter can help ease the pain from a burn, as you discovered. Anyone who is interested in more details about this home remedy and others will find them at www.peoplespharmacy.com. Severe burns require immediate medical attention.
I recently read your column about using soy sauce on burns. Vanilla does the same thing. I have used vanilla for many years in my kitchen to soothe burns.
We always recommend that burns be treated with cold water immediately. Thanks for sharing your vanilla remedy.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic