Potato Remedy for Burns

Lurking in the heart of the humble potato is one of the best burn remedies you'll ever find.

INSTRUCTIONS (Follow them to the letter!)

  1. Rinse the burn for a minute or so under cool water. Don't rub it.
  2. Wash a raw potato, the newer and juicier the better.
  3. Cut the potato open. Using the edge of a knife, scrape the potato flesh to produce some potato mush. You can also grate the potato, but make sure you use the rasp part of the grater. The key to the remedy is to release plenty of juice from the potato flesh. Just putting a slice of potato on the burn will not do!

  4. Cover the burn with the potato mush. Usually, this will relieve the pain immediately, unless the burn is severe or you've burned a particularly sensitive area like your fingertips.

  5. Keep the burn covered with potato mush until it no longer hurts when the mush is removed. For a mild burn, this could be as little as ten or fifteen minutes. For a more serious burn it might take hours, but have patience and persevere. The mush gradually turns brown and loses its potency, so you have to keep replacing it with fresh potato mush.
Time is of the essence. The remedy must be applied as soon as you burn yourself. The potato mush seems to arrest the development of the burn. For instance, if you scald your hand with boiling water, your hand will initially look fine, but over the next few days the burn will develop into a painful, weeping mess. If you apply the potato remedy properly and promptly to such a burn, however, you should be left with little or no trace of a burn.

This isn't to say that unless you get the mush on the burn immediately it won't do any good at all, but the longer you wait the less effective it'll be. My mother's golden rule is: NEVER EAT YOUR LAST POTATO. You never know when you'll need that potato to treat a burn. However, even if you lose a few minutes going next door to borrow a potato or down the street to buy some, it'll probably be worth the effort, especially if you have a bad burn.

Potato can be particularly valuable for more serious burns, where the damage is immediately apparent. It won't, of course, reverse damage like loss of skin; but should prevent the burn from developing further.

I once burned myself so badly while ironing that I left a large patch of skin on the iron. To make matters worse, I was in a rush to get somewhere, so I only had the potato on the burn for about half as long as I probably should have. All the same, the burn had healed over completely within a week, which is pretty good for such a bad burn.

My mother once tipped a cherry pie she was taking out of the oven, spilling the sticky, boiling syrup all over her foot. She washed the syrup off her foot, and then used potato on it for almost four hours. As I recall, all that remained was a slight redness; and the skin peeled a few days later, like a sunburn would. (By the way, potato can also help relieve a sunburn.)

ORIGINS OF THIS REMEDY Haven't a clue! It's been in my family for generations; but I don't know whether it came down through the Irish or the Danish side of the family, or whether it was learned from a neighbour on the Canadian Prairies. I did meet a Danish woman once whose mother put potato starch on burns. Other than that the only reference I've ever seen to the remedy was in the Russian author Maxim Gorky's autobiography, My Childhood, in which his grandmother grated a potato to treat his grandfather's burned finger.

Is anyone else out there familiar with this wonderful remedy?

Once you've tried the potato burn remedy and assured yourself that it really works, pass it on!

Pat Naughton

Ottawa, Ontario

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