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herbal remedies for sunburn that actually work

Best Herbal Remedies for Sunburn

It’s happened to all of us at some point - the dreaded sunburn.

Next time you find yourself a little toastier than you meant to be, try these natural herbal remedies for sunburn.

They’re free of the harsh chemicals and preservatives you’ll find in many store-bought sunburn creams, yet just as effective.

Best Herbs for Soothing Sunburn the Natural Way

Witch hazel

For centuries now, witch hazel has been a favorite in herbal medicine because of its astringent properties and anti-inflammatory effects.

It’s a small tree native to the regions of North America’s east coast that doubles as outdoor decoration.

Most people apply it topically to reap its anti-inflammatory benefits, making it a perfect use for sunburn.

Sunburns ignite an inflammatory process that causes discomfort in the skin, swelling, pain and irritation.

To use, you just soak a cotton ball with witch hazel tincture and apply it directly on the sunburn.  


If you're familiar with herbal medicine, you may have heard conflicting reports about comfrey. While its health benefits are clear, comfrey can contain poisonous chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs for short).

However, this problem is avoided as long as the plant is harvested at the right time.  

Nevertheless, its leaves, roots and rhizome (the root-like stem) have been used as medicine for over 2500 years now.

Comfrey is primarily used for wound care as it is rich in a compound called allantoin. Allantoin helps promote the growth and proliferation of new skin cells.

Besides that, it also has anti-inflammatory actions to speed up its wound healing abilities. These properties help alleviate the discomfort associated with sunburns.  


You may be familiar with calendula as the garden marigold. Besides its good looks, this plant has amazing healing potential.

Since antiquity, it has been used to soothe irritated skin from surface damage like scrapes, cuts and minor burns.

Calendula cream can be applied directly onto sunburns to soothe discomfort.


Chamomile is by far one of the most effective herbs for symptomatic relief.

Actually, this plant is so popular in the country of Germany that inhabitants have branded it “alles zutraut” - a name which means “capable of anything.”

Though that sounds a little inflated, evidence suggests it's not much of an exaggeration.

Studies have shown that when chamomile is used appropriately, it outperforms contemporary topical steroids when it comes to wound care.

To apply it, you will have to prepare chamomile tea, take a soft towel, soak it in the tea and gently apply it onto your skin. Healing is usually achieved in a few days.

St. John’s wort

St. John’s wort has a rich history as far as herbal remedies are concerned. The good thing about this plant is that, in most cases, it facilitates healing without scarring after your damaged skin has healed.

Its primary constituent is hypericin though it also contains other antibacterials as well as anti-inflammatory compounds.

Studies have always supported the topical application of St. John’s Wort. In the case of skin damage, this plant provides relief against inflammatory symptoms such as pain, swelling, itchiness and irritation.

It also has potent antibacterial effects, which prevents bacterial infection in case there’s a breach in the integrity of your skin.

Since such a breach can serve as a portal of entry for bacteria and often happens with sunburns, this added benefit is a good one to have.

Ways to Use These Herbal Remedies

They can be used as compresses, baths, sprays or salves infused with herbs.

Herbal compresses are the most common for managing sunburns. Compresses can be made hot or cold, depending on what is convenient for you.

To make your own compress, you should start by selecting your herbs. Chamomile is the go-to herb for making compresses.

Its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties work best when applied this way.

Once you have selected your herb of choice, gather the necessary supplies. You can opt for the dry herb or essential oils. All of these should be available at your local health food store or online.

If you have dry herbs such as chamomile, infuse the dried herb in hot water, bring it to boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.

You can then turn it off, let it cool to lukewarm and soak a piece of cloth with the mixture. After that, just lay the cloth on top of your sunburn and let it sit for 20 minutes or so.

You can repeat this process as much as you want throughout the day.

Another way to use these herbs for sunburn relief  is to make a spray. Just like compresses, sprays are equally easy to make.

Prepare just like you would for a compress and allow to cool.

Then, just pour the herbal infusion into a glass spray bottle and spray directly onto your sunburn. You should apply at least twice a day until your skin is healed.

You can also enjoy a relaxing bath as part of your sunburn therapy.

Just place a few drops of the essential oil of your choice (from herbs listed above - lavender is also great for this purpose) into warm bath water.

You can also add bath salts while the water is running to help dissolve them. These salts together with your essential oils will help soothe any skin discomfort.  

As for sunburn salves, the most common is calendula cream though there are several other alternatives.

Other Effective Natural Remedies for Sunburn

Don't have these herbs on hand and need immediate relief? Here are some additional ways to treat sunburn naturally.

Hydrate Your Body

Too much sun exposure dehydrates your skin, making it more susceptible to damage. For this reason, it's important to hydrate yourself to make up for the amount of water lost. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces per day.

Use Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is one of nature’s best herbal remedies. Its skin-soothing ingredients have made it a go-to product for the cosmetic industry.

Aloe vera has potent anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it useful in healing sunburn. Just apply like you would any other gel directly to the affected area.

Apply Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can even be used as a mild sunscreen, but it's just as soothing post-sunburn.

Its medicinal compounds help reduce skin redness quickly while also protecting your skin from peeling.  

Of course, you always want to try to prevent sunburn with a quality sunscreen, but these helpful herbs and other natural remedies are trusted treatments if you need them.