From Howie Brounstein <howieb.TELEPORT.COM>:
I have found plant tannins to be the best sunburn treatment. Tannins are found in most plants, and are particularly high in many plants. They bind with alkaloids and proteins. This is helpful in the case of burnt skin --- broken proteins. The tannins bind with the broken skin proteins to form a layer of tanneoproteins, or was that proteotannins (it's a little late). This layer is protective and soothing.
I generally throw some Manzanita leaves into water and boil. If you're preparing a wash for sunburn and are primarily concerned with extracting tannins, you can just boil it, no matter what the herb. You can wash the sunburn with the tea when it cools.
Some astringents with tannins (to name a few):
- Uva ursi (kinnikkinik)
- Polygonum roots (bistort)
- Heuchera (alum root)
- Currant and Gooseberry Bark (Ribes)
- Rosa's Bark and roots
- Rubus (blackberry root)
- Ceanothus bark and root
- Cornus Dogwood Bark
- Chimaphila Prince's Pine pipsissewa
- Black Tea
These contain salicylates which may have some topical analgesic effects:
- Willow Bark
- Oak Bark
- Poplar Bark
- Meadowsweet (Filipendula)
From Satin <satin.TOPAZ.USAFA.AF.MIL>:
I use an aloe and comfrey lotion on sunburn. I am a strawberry blonde with my red-headed Mom's complexion - I don't tan. It's either burn or nothing. So I wear sunscreen and keep the aloe/comfrey lotion on hand.
From Craige Roberts <croberts.MAGNUS.ACS.OHIO-STATE.EDU>:
For some reason, aloe vera hasn't proven to be the miracle for my skin that it is for some people's.
One of the best burn treatments I know of is lavender essential oil, applied neat. The aromatherapy literature is full of references and documentation of its use in this connection and the impressive results. Since lavender e.o. is quite benign and doesn't sting, this would be quite good for a child. In my experience, the burning and redness begin to subside quite soon after application. In contrast, the aloe takes much longer and at least initially the relief seems to be due more to the cooling effect of its evaporation.
Another therapy that has been used for burns, as well as infected wounds, for thousands of years is human urine, or its derivative, urea. There are a number of articles on this and other medicinal uses of human urine and its derivatives in the contemporary establishment medical literature, such as The Lancet and JAMA, for those who find this reassuring. (As usual, a simple, inexpensive remedy doesn't receive the press or research money that patentable, synthetic drugs do.) I haven't tried this myself on burns yet, but apparently one applies urine or urea-soaked compresses to the affected area, keeping them wet with fresh applications of urine. Though urea is said to sting a bit, straight urine supposedly does not.
From Mary Jo Gilsdorf <viomist.CASTLE.NET>:
For burns, I find oatmeal poutices and cold tea bags works best to take out the sting and stop the rash like effect. Also know some who swear by taking two to three regular aspirins.
Mary Jo writes that she knows some people who swear by two or three aspirin: may I point out that taking aspirin even in small quantites (less than 300mg) may be positively dangerous to hypertensive BP sufferers. OTOH, aspirin is proving to be invaluable in the prevention of coronary occlusion and CVA in normotensives; especially in diabetics and those suffering from lipid dyfunction.
All burns are less painful and less damaging if the 'heat' is countered asap, preferably by immersing the affected part in cold water and keeping it there until help arrives.
N.B. It may be supposed that Heatstroke victims ( who are often also suffering from sunburn) would also respond to cold water; but that is not so; heatstroke victims should be placed in _tepid_ water as a first-aid measure to reduce body-core temp until medical help arrives.
BTW, severe sunburn occurs to people with my skin type even when the sky is overcast as I discovered after falling asleep on a Moroccan beach (January) on a _very_ overcast day. Standing under a cold shower made me yelp and shriek like a banshee; but later, the only 'peeling' was to nape of neck and backs of knees.