In Focus:

should you put butter on a burn

Using butter to treat burns is an old folk remedy that has been around for centuries. It gained credibility when the Prussian Surgeon General Friedrich Von Esmarch recommended in his influential 19th Century handbook on battlefield medicine that burnt surfaces should be covered with an oil, grease or butter. The idea was to seal the burn off from the air, keep it clean, prevent infection and help the healing process. Von Esmarch may be widely credited with coming up with the concept of “first aid”, but was he right about butter?

Plenty of us still use folk remedies, and for some reason burns seem to have attracted more than their fair share of myths and exotic treatments. Perhaps this is because the immediacy of the pain makes us more desperate for a solution. Ancient Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500BC describes the use of mud, excrement, frogs boiled in oil and fermented goat dung. Greeks from the 4th Century BC preferred rendered pig fat while the Romans used a mixture of honey and bran followed by cork and ashes.

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