We know that daily moderate sun exposure of 5-15 minutes (depending on where you are) in the early morning or late afternoon has many great health benefits (Ref 1,2) such as, increasing serotonin and helping with mood, increasing energy and happiness, increasing vitamin D levels, and helping with skin conditions.
We know the importance of sun exposure, but what if we get too much?
We’ve all experienced being caught out in the sun for too long without realizing, which later leads to an unpleasant stingy shower and unflattering tan lines. So, we’ve put together the top natural ways to limit the damage and encourage faster healing from sunburn (if you do happen to get caught out in the sun for a bit too long this summer). These include some of the most effective natural herbs to soothe and calm the skin, helping you to heal faster and reduce long-term damage.
1. Aloe Vera
Long known as the 'burn plant', the juice and oil from the Aloe Vera plant have been effectively used to treat burns, wounds, and skin irritations for centuries. This effectiveness comes from its natural components of almost 20 amino acids, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium; enzymes; polysaccharides, and more. It penetrates quickly and deeply, moisturizing and nourishing at the lower layers of the skin. These properties also make aloe a great ally in reducing the visible effects of aging.
If you are lucky enough to have a local aloe plant, simply slice off a branch, open it with a knife, scoop out the gel, mash it well, and apply it directly to the burned skin. Immediate relief! In fact, if you apply it in its purest form, sometimes the burn may disappear entirely.
Like Aloe Vera, Cucumber naturally cools and calms the skin after a burn. It contains Vitamin C and Caffeic Acid, which helps reduce swelling. Simply refrigerate a fresh (preferably organic) Cucumber, cut it into slices, and place it directly on the skin.
You can also blend Cucumber slices with Aloe Vera juice or oil for a doubly powerful sunburn treatment!
3. Green Tea
Green Tea contains powerful antioxidants called Catechins, which protect cells and DNA from free radical damage. When applied externally as a powdered extract, or when taken as a drink, it may help promote wound healing and skin regeneration.
In several scientific studies, Green Tea extract was shown to neutralize damage from exposure to UV rays.
For example, a 2000 study by Case Western Reserve University (ref 3) showed that Green Tea protects against sunburn. Volunteers had Green Tea extract applied to the skin on their buttocks which was then exposed to solar radiation. At a concentrated level of 4 milligrams per 2.5 cm square of skin area, the subjects obtained complete protection from sunburn. Some protection was observed at lower concentrations down to 1 milligram as well.
A 2007 study conducted in the UK revealed that those who drank two or more cups per day of Green Tea had a 65% lower risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. Interestingly, the same study noted that drinking tea with lemon boosts its anti-cancer properties.
4. Tamanu Oil
Tamanu Oil is well studied for its anti-inflammatory skin healing properties especially when applied immediately to burns and sun damage. Tamanu Oil is very beneficial and causes the rapid formation of new and healthy skin tissue. Some claim that it turns red skin into tanned skin overnight!
Like Tamil oil, Comfrey is known to help with cell proliferation, stimulating cells to regenerate and repair damage from UV rays. You can make a strong tea of Comfrey and use a cotton ball to swab it on the sunburn several times per day. Or try making a poultice out of boiled Comfrey leaves.
Calendula (oil) has antioxidant, antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. This helps to soothe burns (especially sunburn), prevent infections, and encourages scabbing formation to help wounds heal. Tinctures, ointments, and washes made with Calendula encourage healing, ease bruising and help treat infections associated with wounds. This also means Calendula effectively helps to treat insect bites and stings.
Plantain contains allantoin which is a natural anti-inflammatory. This helps to soothe and heal flushed skin, and it also may deter itchiness as the sunburn starts to heal.
You can make a poultice out of the leaves and apply directly to the skin or mix with Green Tea and Aloe Vera juice and apply with a cotton ball. Add a little honey and baking soda for more healing and calming benefits.
Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Mix fresh or organic Turmeric powder with Virgin Coconut Oil and apply it directly to the burned area.
If you try the above natural sunburn soothers this summer, aim to use fresh or organic forms as store-bought herbs may have been sitting in plastic or glass containers for a long time, which may contain traces of preservatives and heavy metals, as well as other ‘unsavory contaminants.
The best action is, of course, to limit your time in the sun, while unprotected to avoid sunburn to begin with! However, if you happen to get sunburnt consider trying the above natural ways to help heal your skin. Your skin will thank you for it!
In good health.
- Case Western Reserve University study on green tea reported by Clinical Cancer Research http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/6/10/3864.long
- FDA report on contaminated imported herbs and spiceshttp://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodScienceResearch/RiskSafetyAssessment/UCM367337.pdf