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  • Why I Use Lavender Essential Oil on Burns

    Does Lavender Essential Oil Really Help Heal Burns?

    Short answer: Yes
    Longer answer: Absolutely, 100%, has never failed me

    My Worst Burns (Scalds)

    Twice in my life I’ve had the misfortune of pouring boiling water on one part of my body or another. The first time, I was pouring boiling water from a saucepan into my teacup and missed, thereby scalding* my entire left hand. (I wasn’t home and didn’t have access to a kettle, which I obvs prefer, but wasn’t willing to go without my morning cuppa.) The second time I was attempting to naturally kill any remaining plant roots in a recently ripped up flower bed when I tripped and sloshed boiling water on my right hand and foot. Lemme just say, “Ouch!”
    *a burn caused by liquid or steam is technically called a scald

    Both times I treated the burn initially with cold water followed by lavender essential oil. Both times, I ventured from the conventional treatment and mostly soaked my hand and/or foot because running water made the burn hurt worse, and also because circumstances didn’t allow me to stand at a sink for 20 (or even 5) minutes whenever the burning sensation came back, which was generally within minutes of taking it out of the cold water. Each time, I ended up having no lasting effects from what would have easily been 2nd degree burns…you know, the ones that blister.

    All Lavenders Do Not Appear to be Equal for All Applications

    This should not be new information to you. Last year I wrote a post called, It’s Lavender Season, where I not only touted all the great things lavender essential oil can do but also highlighted a few of the differences between oils from lavender plants grown in various locations.

    Today, I’m going to tell you the story of 2 lavender essential oils, a high altitude Bulgarian and an Organic French (meaning the plants used to make the oils were grown in Bulgaria and France respectively) , and how they each fared in treating my most recent burn.

    Organic French

    I keep a small bottle of French lavender** essential oil in my medicine chest at home for treating wounds and minor burns. This is the first oil I used on my burn.
    **There was no particular reason for choosing French for my medicine chest other than it was available in the size bottle I wanted when I ordered.

    Unfortunately, I burned myself about 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave for work, but I still treated it with cold water for about 15 minutes, then applied the lavender oil. It worked like a charm to diminsh the redness, pain, and burning sensation – it IS an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic, after all. The burn was bad enough, however, that the pain came roaring back a little later.

    High Altitude Bulgarian

    By the time the pain came back, I was on my way to work hoping to get there before my first client. As soon as I arrived I applied some more lavender oil; this time a high altitude Bulgarian***, from the bag of oils I keep there. It worked ok, but not as well as the French had worked earlier. Sadly, I didn’t make it through the whole work day. I kept an ice pack in the therapy room to steal touches of to keep the pain at bay, and soaked my hand in cold water between clients. I know you’re not supposed to use ice on a burn, but I was desperate and only used it intermittently for a few seconds to a minute at a time. Anyway, the burning sensation wasn’t dying down as well as I’d expected so I cancelled the rest of the day and went home where I could treat my burns with cold water and lavender continuously.
    ***There is a particular reason I have Bulgarian oil at work. It has a high level of linalyl acetate which makes it incredibly relaxing and therefore excellent for stressed out massage clients.

    Back to French

    Once I was home, I was back to using the French lavender. The first application of oil after getting home resulted in the second biggest improvement since getting burned. The biggest improvement was the first application of French lavender that I used right away.

    Why the Difference?

    I seriously wish I knew why there’s a difference. There’s research showing the wound healing potential of lavender essential oil, but, and I quote, “it is still unclear how essential oils act on various parts of the wound healing process.”

    One thing that research has shown is that antioxidants play a role in healing burns. So, it’s possible that the antioxidants present in lavender essential are at least partially responsible for it’s ability to help heal burns. The percentage of chemical constituents in lavender essential oil that have antioxidant properties varies, in part, by the country of origin of the plants distilled.

    To test my theory, I went to DropSmith, an amazing aromatherapy resource that publishes the chemical breakdown of the oils in its catalogue as well as any research that’s been done on those constituents. (Note: not all of the constituents have research associated with them, so all of the properties aren’t known.) I chose a French lavender and a Bulgarian lavender from the same company and compared their antioxidant levels based on their chemical constituents.

    My completely unofficial results results are thus:
    French lavender: 83.5% of components have antioxidant properties
    Bulgarian lavender: 68.9% of components have antioxidant properties

    Now, this doesn’t mean that the Kashmiri lavender that I keep by my bed to help me sleep isn’t better than the French at treating burns, it simply means I didn’t try it. But I did go through its chemical list and add up the percentage of constituents with antioxidant properties; it comes out to 77.96%. Turns out, it’s smack dab between the French and Bulgarian. Maybe I’ll be switching from Bulgarian to Kashmiri lavender at work, since I already know the Kashmiri has a more relaxing effect, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have one that’s better at treating burns (or other wounds) there… just in case.

    To Sum Up

    France certainly seems to be the superior source for lavender if you’re going to be treating burns or other wounds. Bulgaria grows a decent lavender for this purpose as well, just not as good as the French. By the numbers, Kashmiri lavender ranks second, but it didn’t take the practical exam so it’s second place ranking is only theoretical. I would love to put it to a practical test one day, but maybe someone else will volunteer to be the guinea pig because I’ve had enough burns to be getting on with.