This Morning I Burned Myself
by Lisa Dolloff
July 02, 2020
Today was supposed to be the first day the shop would be open on a Thursday since mid March.
I'm not great at the concept of time, and I'm still getting used to my new (old) schedule of working in the shop during set hours instead of just working at my home studio during whatever hours of day or night call to me. I was rushing around this morning, making breakfast and getting ready, running late as usual. I was using a beehouse coffee dripper with a half broken base to make coffee, and as I was filling the brewer to the top with water, the whole thing tipped over.
I spilled not only the fresh, hot coffee made with water just off the boil, but also the soaked coffee grounds. They went all over my hand, thumb, and wrist (and the counter and floor). I stood in shock for just a couple of seconds, and then stuck my hand under cool water, rinsed the grounds off, and just kept it there under the water for a minute, feeling the relief.
I talk a lot about self care and the importance of caring for yourself and putting your health (all of it, mental, physical, spiritual) above everything else. But when it comes to myself and my own health, I'm usually a "suck it up and keep going" kind of person.
So, I kept making breakfast, and put a fresh kettle of water on the stove.
My body just wasn't having it. The pain kept increasing until I could barely move my hand, and I finally gave in and cried while holding it under more cool water. I thought about what I'd tell anyone else that wasn't me, and decided to listen to my own advice. That's when I posted on social media that the shop would be closed today.
With the caveat that I might open later.
Because I still felt bad about putting my health first.
Even though I was in extreme pain.
And I wouldn't be able care for my hand while working at the shop (especially not during this pandemic when I have to wash and sanitize my hands constantly).
Four hours later, I was still in my work clothes (a dress) instead of my work at home clothes (leggings and a t-shirt) because even though I decided to close the shop today to care for myself, I hadn't fully decided. In this case, I'm a perfect example of "those who can't do, teach". But I'm working on it.
I wish I had taken before and after pics of my hand, or any progress pics. It feels so much better now and I keep thinking, "I should have opened the shop, it was just a burn", but the smart part of my brain (hi fellow Office fans!) reminds me that it wouldn't feel better now if I hadn't taken all of this time to care for it.
But it does feel better. Because plants are magic.
I don't mean, like, spells or ethereal magic (although that can be part of it), I mean that plants are so amazing and we only know a little bit about what they can do. I could live to 100 and never know everything there is to know about plants. Constant learning is part of the fun, and then I get to share what I've learned with you*.
I was a barista for ten years. I've burned myself many times with scalding water from espresso machines or hot water dispensers, 195F+ water. I always just shook it off, but because the hot grinds were sitting on my hand for a few seconds, this burn was worse.
Once I realized that cool water wasn't going to be enough to help, I remembered reading several times that lavender was good for burns. I had a spray bottle of lavender hydrosol (the water phase of essential oil distillation) nearby, so I sprayed that all over my hand to see if it would help.
It did not.
I almost never work with aloe. It has to be used fresh and I feel bad about cutting my tiny aloe plant, but this was kind of an emergency, so I tried it out. I cut off one leaf, squeezed out some gel, and gently spread a light layer over the burn.
My hand felt instantly cool.
Since it was working well, as soon as it dried on my skin (which only took about 5 minutes), I applied more. Each time I applied it, it not only instantly cooled the burn, but once it dried, it felt a tiny bit better than it did before. I kept applying more every 5 minutes or so, for nearly an hour, until each application didn't change much.
Once something doesn't work anymore, it's time to move onto the next thing.
I was thinking about making calendula tea, cooling it down, and applying it that way. Calendula is usually my first go-to for any skin related problems, but I had run out of dried calendula in my home apothecary (aka jars inside dresser drawers in my kitchen).
At the same time, my gut was telling me to try plantain.
I have a ton of plantain growing all over my gardens and lawn, and thanks to the rain over the last couple of days, I had bright yellow calendula flowers in my garden. I decided to try a much less messy version of a fresh plant poultice: a cool, wet compress made from fresh plants.
I picked a few nice big plantain leaves and a few calendula flowers, brought them inside and put them in a blender with a little water. I don't know the ratio I used, I just covered the plants with water, and added a little more, as if I were making a strong tea, not to drink, but for topical use. I blended them until the water turned green, and then poured it all into a bowl. I didn't strain it, so that it could keep getting stronger as the day went on.
I have nice big reusable cotton rounds that are perfect for compresses (I use them with cool calendula tea for eye compresses when my eyes are irritated), so I soaked one in the plant mixture, formed it to my hand, and rested it there until it didn't feel cool anymore. Then I resoaked it, and repeated the whole process until it didn't feel like it was doing as much (see the pattern?), and then just dabbed it on my skin every 20 minutes or so for most of today as I worked on my computer.
It's now been about 8 hours since I burned by hand, and I barely feel it. The redness is almost entirely gone. Mostly it just feels tight, so my next step will be applying a very light layer of Paramedic (calendula and chaparral) salve to see how that feels, while still continuing with a few more applications of the compress until I go to bed.
It took some effort today, but it was mostly simple actions on repeat once I figured them out, and I used only things I had growing in my house or yard. This is the worst hot water burn I've ever had, but it's also the fastest one has ever felt better. I'm excited to see what it feels like in the morning.
*(Disclaimer: this is for educational purposes only. This was a first degree burn. More severe burns require medical attention. I am not a medical professional, I'm just a person who loves plants and wants to share my experience with them. This is my personal experience, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any ailment, injury, or disease. Always make sure your health is your own priority, trust your instincts, and be your own health advocate.)