Herbal Remedies for Burns

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Horsetail Ferns

The Thompson tribe of British Columbia applied the ashes of horsetail fern stems to serious burns and then bandaged the wound wiht a clean cloth. Sometimes, animal fats were mixed with the ashes to prepare burn ointment.

Scarlet Mallow

The Blackfoot Indians chewed scarlet mallow and applied its mucilagenous paste to scalds, sores, and burns as a cooling agent. The same past was sometimes used by medicine men to coat their arms and hands before reaching into a pan of boiling water. This protected their skin from the heat and enabled them to appear endowed with supernatural powers. The same tribe used the down of common cattail as a dressing, to pack burns.

Yellow-Spined Thistle

The Kiowa Indians boiled yellow-spined thistle blossoms and applied the resulting liquied to burns and skin sores. They consdiered this an excellent remedy and also utilized the roots of this plant as food. The Zuni drank a tea of the entire plant boiled in water as a cure for syphilis, but little else is reported on the use of this thistle in medicines.


The showy yarrow plant was also very frequently used for wounds and is treated in greater detail under that category. For burns, the uni Indians of New Mexico ground the entire plan, steeped it in cold water, and used the liquid to bring about a cooling sensation. Yarrow contains a dark blue volatile oil, cineol, which may explain its stimulating properties.

The Little Lake Indians of Mendocino County, California, applied the yellow, pitchy gum of the digger pine as a protective, healing covering for burns and sores. The resin of the balsam fire was employed for the same purposes by the Penoboscots of Maine while the Meskwakis used the boiled root of sweet flag. Forest Indians boiled the inner bark of basswood and applied the liquid to soothe and soften the burned skin. A report of the American Medical Association in 1849 praised this remedy for its effectiveness.

The Navajo Indians used several plants for burns. Among these are four-o'clock, hairy umbrella wort, penstemon, and sagebrush. These plants were prepared individually as dusting powders, lotions, and poultices. Ointments were prepared by pulverizing the plant together with sheep fat and red ochre.

- p. 30, Earth Medicine- Earth Foods by Michael A. Weiner (1972)

yarrow, burns, herbs