How to Make Burn Cream

Zi gen Lithospermum

Burn cream, known as purple cloud ointment or shiunko in Japanese medicine is traditionally used under direct moxa where small “rice grain” cones are adhered to the body with the purple cream.  But it is also used for burns, skin rashes, psoriasis and eczema.
The major herb used in the burn cream is lithospermum, also known as gromwell or puccoon, or in pinyin Chinese as  Zi cao gen (purple herb root). Lithospermum is in the category of herbs that cool fire toxins, and both internally and externally. It is used in Chinese and Japanese medicine to cool fevers, reduce purple rashes, express measles (by helping get the toxins out through the skin) and topically to heal burns and rashes. Frances Brinker teaches that a whole plant tincture taken internally will inactivate LH (luteinizing hormone) helping reduce enlarged prostate glands.


Equipment needed:

Stainless steel pot with heavy bottom
Chinese style strainer
Stainless steel bowl
Cheesecloth
Silicon spatula
Jars for final product


Material needed

500 ml (2 cups) of unroasted sesame oil
1/2 pound of grated beeswax
2 Tbsp clean lard or lanolin (makes cream silkier and better absorbed)
3 oz of dang gui (Angelica sinensis root)
3 oz of zi cao gen (Lithospermum root, aka  puccoon or gromwell)
1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil
1/4 teaspoon essential oil of lavender (not traditional but great for burns)

Heat up sesame oil in a heavy pot.  Add in the grated beeswax and lard.  When just melted and at a gentle bubble, add in 3 oz of dang gui and cook until the herb turns a golden brown.  Strain out and add  zi cao gen and cook at a simmer until the oil turns a deep purple.  Remove the herbs with the strainer, then pour into a stainless steel bowl through cheesecloth or a fine mesh chinois strainer.    Stir with a silicon spatula until it reaches a creamy consistency.  Add 1/4 tsp vitamin E and 1/4 teaspoon essential oil of lavender if desired to preserve it before.  Spoon into containers.

Burn cream showing color

Burn cream is traditionally made with sesame oil. While it is true that sesame oil distorts under heat, it seems to work well as a burn cream. Lavender essential oil heals burns, so if you are using this as a base for moxa, try adding it. It is not a traditional ingredient but it improves and preserves the action. You can also use other herbs.

    Update:

I generally prefer to extract herbs in a slow oil extraction on a warming tray in a pan with water for a few days or weeks. So I experimented with doing this with burn cream. I mixed the wax, lard and oil in a double boiler until liquid, then added the dang gui and zi cao. I kept the heat on “warm” for several days, making sure that the the oil was not bubbling. After 3 days, I strained it through a chinoise (which has larger holes than a strainer so is not as easily clogged) and added the Vitamin E and essential oil of lavender.

Although the traditional recipe above works as a barrier cream, I prefer the slow extraction because it does not denature the oil. This is especially important when you are putting the ointment on burns, as you want it absorbed by the skin.

Direct rice grain moxa with burn cream on skin. Photo by Lorraine Wilcox.

Henriette’s site quotes King’s Dispensary where it mentions that lithospermum root has the identical compound to alkanet which colors the oil.  Has anyone come across the use of alkanet for a burn remedy?

See Also:

How to Make a Plantain Poultice

How to Make Waterless Hand Cleaner

How to Make Miso

How to cook a Chinese Herbal Formula

Photo credit: direct moxa


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