Can essential oils be used for burns?

Essential oils of all kinds are becoming quite popular as alternative home remedies. They can be used effectively for things like hair care, pain relief, bug bites, and more.

Some types of oils can also be used for treating small, minor burns. Deep burns, on the other hand, should be assessed by a doctor.

We’ll walk you through the best essential oils for burns, particularly first-degree burns. Studies show that they work. Here’s how to use them safely and successfully:

What are the best kinds of oils for burns?

1. Chamomile (Chamomilla or Matricaria)

Chamomile has been traditionally used for healing wounds and skin. It’s also a popular additive to skin lotions and products.

Like aloe vera, it has emollient, moisturizing, and skin-rejuvenating properties. Studies show that chamomile may help heal minor burns. This includes sunburns, too.

2. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Eucalyptus is a popular topical essential oil, especially for wound and burn healing. It’s also an astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial.

In this 2015 review, eucalyptus was touted as being used for burns, as well as other skin problems like cuts, lice, and insect bites. It could also play a part in helping prevent burns from becoming infected.

3. Juniper (Juniperus species)

The essential oils of many junipers have been used in folk medicine as wound healers. This includes similar trees, like cedar and cypress, of the Cupressaceae family.

According to a 2015 study, an active ingredient in juniper oil, thujone, may help to aid healing, prevent infection, and soothe inflammation as an antimicrobial. Recent studies, like this one in 2016, confirm its thujone content.

A 2011 study also showed that some cedar species contain thujone, too. A study from 2012 found that juniper also contains pinene. This compound is believed to help heal wounds and potentially minimize scars caused by burns.

4. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is frequently mentioned in essential oil studies as a great burn healer. It has pain-relieving properties, the ability to reduce inflammation, and antimicrobial activity.

A 2012 study showed that lavender essential oil helped speed wound recovery. It also reduced inflammation in women undergoing surgery during childbirth.

5. Oregano (Origanum species)

It’s not just a kitchen herb. Oregano oil is one of the most widely used essential oils, which shows strong evidence of antimicrobial activity. It’s also been studied in respect to topical wounds and burns.

A 2011 study on animals examined a wound ointment of oregano, sage, and St. John’s wort. It found that oregano could help contribute to faster wound healing, including burns. And in a 2015 review, oregano (and marjoram) were also mentioned as pain relievers.

6. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Mint species, especially peppermint, have been used and researched for years in topical pain management. This could make them especially useful for burns.

A 2011 review of pain-relieving essential oils mentioned peppermint as a very effective analgesic. This 2015 review also regarded peppermint oil for preventing illness and relieving pain spasms. It helped reduce inflammation as well.

7. Pine (Pinus species)

Essential oils from pine contain pinene. Studies show that this reduces inflammation, kills pathogens, and reduces scarring. This could make pine essential oils helpful for burn treatment.

A 2012 study on compounds from pine trees also found that they could act as substantial anti-inflammatory wound healers.

8. Sage (Salvia species)

Species of sage could also be well-supported burn healers. Among sage varieties, clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is one of the most common and accessible.

Sages are antibacterial, which may help reduce the chances of infection in burns. Sage is also noted in both a 2010 and 2015 review for its antimicrobial powers. It was further used in this 2011 animal study alongside oregano and St. John’s wort for treating wounds.

9. St. John’s wort (Hypericum species)

More widely known for helping depression, St. John’s wort was originally used for healing wounds. The essential oil may be helpful for burns, too.

St. John’s wort has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe burns and prevent infection. One study from 2011, performed on animals, found evidence that the herb could heal wounds, in combination with oregano and sage oils.

10. Tea tree (Melaleuca species)

This Australian plant has a great reputation as an antimicrobial, infection-fighting essential oil. This could make it a great burn remedy.

The 2015 review on essential oils attributed tea tree oil with both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. This makes it very useful for burn wounds. A 2010 review also noted tea tree oil as one of the most studied anti-inflammatory herbs.

11. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Compounds found in thyme essential oils, called thymols, are mentioned in this 2011 review. Of note, they had evident pain-relieving qualities. Thymols are also found in other herbal essential oils, notably bergamot.

A 2010 review stated that thymol from thyme has anti-inflammatory action. Both these properties make the essential oil a great candidate for burn healing.

How to treat burns with essential oils

Never apply pure, undiluted essential oils directly to burns. These can exacerbate burns, cause inflammation, and be painful.

Using essential oils to treat minor burns is completely safe if they’re used correctly. You can apply them to burns in a variety of ways.

Compress

One way is as a simple compress. This is the best approach for a very recent burn. To make:

  1. Add about 5 drops of your chosen essential oil to 1 cup of warm water. You can mix up different essential oils together if you like.
  2. After shaking the oil with water, soak a clean cloth and apply.
  3. Repeat until the water for the compress is gone.

Continue making compresses and applying daily until the wound begins to heal.

Salve, balm, lotion, or ointment

Another method is to use a moisturizing product or carrier oil with your chosen essential oils.

It’s best to use this approach once burns are already healing. Using oily products can cover fresh burns and trap bacteria, which may worsen an infection. This method is better for helping heal and moisturize burnt skin, not to prevent infection. Don’t use this method with fresh burns or second-degree burns.

Once inflammation has subsided, mix your essential oils with a lotion or carrier oil. 5 drops of oil to every ounce of product works best.

Moisturizing products, lotions, creams, and ointments are great candidates. You can also mix them with carrier oils that enhance the effectiveness of essential oils.

Some of the best carrier oils include:

Apply your mixture straight to the healing burn until it goes away.

If you experience worsening inflammation, itching, or a rash, stop using essential oils right away. You might be experiencing an allergic reaction from a specific essential oil. The easiest way to avoid this is to do a test on a small area of the skin before applying to the burn.

We cannot recommend taking essential oils orally. Some are toxic and the quality varies. Remember that essential oils aren’t approved or reviewed by the FDA and you should choose an oil from a brand you trust.

When to see a doctor

For mild first-degree burns and sunburns, essential oils are safe home remedies. In some cases, they may help with some small second-degree burns too.

However, if you experience a second-degree burn, it’s wise to have it looked at by a doctor first. Blistering, pain, swelling, redness, and even infection means it could be second-degree. Your risk of severe infection is higher in these, too.

More importantly, see a doctor immediately if you have a third-degree burn or an infection. You’ll know it’s third-degree if your skin is discolored and leathery or rough in texture. Always see a doctor even if you don’t experience severe pain.

If burns are very large and spread over the body, also see a doctor. Don’t depend solely on essential oils or home treatments except for small, minor burns.