The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Soy Sauce Ease Your Burn Pain?

For a minor kitchen burn, ease your burn pain with cold tap water. Then apply regular, not low-sodium, soy sauce for longer-lasting pain relief.

If you have ever had hot liquid splash on your hand accidentally, you’ve looked for a burn remedy. Holding the singed fingers under cold tap water is the recommended first aid, but it may ease your burn pain only while you are standing at the sink. Have you ever tried soy sauce? Many readers swear by it, but some people have found that the type of soy sauce matters. 

Can You Use Soy Sauce to Ease Your Burn Pain?

Q. I found that low-sodium soy sauce does not work for burns, but regular soy sauce does.

A. Many dermatologists would be aghast at the idea of putting soy sauce on a kitchen burn. There is no science to support this home remedy. First aid for most burns is cold tap water (Burns, Sep. 2009)!

That said, we have heard from hundreds of readers that soy sauce can be helpful in easing the pain and reducing the redness. Some, like you, have found that low-sodium soy sauce is ineffective. We don’t know why the sodium content would make a difference, but it appears that it may.

Hot Soup Splashed Out of the Blender:

Q. I was blending boiling hot soup. The blender cover has a removable cap in the center that was off (dumb!). I had my hand on the lid when I turned on the blender, and the soup splashed through the hole and burned my hand.

I immediately put the hand in cold water, but since I had to go on cooking, I wiped my very painful, red palm off and applied soy sauce. Thanks to The People’s Pharmacy for that home remedy! I reapplied the soy sauce several times because I could still feel the burn.

Then I forgot about it entirely. The soy sauce took all of the burning and redness away. I surely would have had a large, extremely painful blister had it not been for that.

Soy Sauce to Soothe a Burn:

A. Thank you for sharing your success in using soy sauce to ease your burn pain. Hot soup in a blender has caused many burns. However, quite a few readers report that cold soy sauce can ease the pain and redness from a household burn.

One important caution: A severe burn should have NOTHING applied to it other than cold water before seeking immediate medical attention.

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Judy has a recommendation to prevent such burns in the first place:

“I’ve used soy sauce for kitchen burns ever since I learned about it here, and I thank you. But if you’ve had several people mention burns from hot soup in a blender, may I suggest an immersible blender? I often make soup that needs blending, and I can tell you that an immersible blender not only prevents burns (as long as you keep the blender below the surface), it also saves a lot of washing up time.”

Other Readers Report Success:

Here is what another reader had to say:

Q. One night I burned my hand, which produced big white blisters on four fingers. I doused my hand with soy sauce and wrapped my fingers in paper towels soaked in soy sauce. Then I slid a baggie over my hand, secured it with a rubber band and went to bed.

I’m used to stopping the pain of a burn with soy sauce, but when I took the baggie off my hand about 3:00 am, the blisters had disappeared. I’m curious about what happened: did the salt pull the fluid from the blisters and allow the surface skin to reattach to the fingertips?

I was amazed that the next morning I had full use of my hand, though the fingertips were slightly sensitive. I can tell by the smooth texture of my fingertips that the dead tissue will probably slough off, but what an effective burn treatment!

The Power of Soy Sauce for Kitchen Burns:

A. Like you, we have been impressed with the power of soy sauce for kitchen burns. Many people report that it can ease your burn pain and prevent blisters.

We’ve never heard that it could make blisters go away as yours did. The mechanism remains mysterious. Your hypothesis is as plausible as any we have encountered.

If you would like to watch us demonstrate how to ease the pain of a burn with soy sauce, you’ll find a video in this post.

Joan wrote:

“Many times I have used soy sauce to relieve the pain and blisters of a burn. It works very well. If I have just had a cup of tea and the tea bag is handy and wet this will also work.”

Bob agreed on using soy sauce to ease your burn pain:

“Soy sauce has been a great aid in reducing or totally eliminating the issues of a burn. I tried other remedies but for me soy sauce works the best and works immediately. Unlike untreated burns, after using soy sauce there is no evidence of the burn a day later. Great remedy!”

So did Lynda:

“I have burned my fingers several times. They were red and sore. I put a little soy sauce on them and the burning sensation and the redness disappeared almost immediately. I thank People’s Pharmacy for that remedy.”

Katherine agrees:

“I have used soy sauce for burns since hearing of it on People’s Pharmacy. While prepping for a dinner party, I was talking, i.e. not thinking (!) and picked up a muffin pan straight from the oven. Ouch! I immediately rinsed the hand in cold water and poured soy sauce on it. Then I wrapped it in a paper towel soaked with soy sauce to continue as hostess. The pain stopped instantly and by the next day, there was no pain & little indication of a burn.”

Other Home Remedies for Burns:

Aloe Vera:

Some people swear by aloe vera gel. Some people keep an aloe plant in the house or on the porch where they can easily break off a leaf and squeeze the gel onto a burn. Others like to keep aloe vera gel in the fridge where it is handy to treat a kitchen burn, after cooling it under water, of course.

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Vanilla:

Readers occasionally write that they prefer using vanilla extract rather than soy sauce. It must be genuine vanilla, not a synthetic flavoring. Vanilla is costlier than soy sauce, but if it works to ease your burn pain, we can’t complain. Remember to put any burn into cold water first!

Yellow Mustard:

Another remedy that seems to help soothe the pain of a burn is yellow mustard. After the cold water treatment, people apply yellow mustard straight out of the fridge to the burned area. This seems to work just as well as treating a burn with soy sauce.

Sue remarked:

“Yellow mustard right from the refrigerator works well for me when I burn my fingers.”

Honey:

Some readers have used honey to soothe the pain of a burn after the initial cold water treatment. Here are their reports.

Debbie said:

“Honey is excellent for stopping the burn. I hit the top of my fingers on the upper element of my oven and sustained white blistered burns on then. Grabbed the honey and as it dripped off added more. That evening when I took a hot bath, the hot water didn’t even make the burns sting or burn more.”

Linda also likes to use honey on burns:

“I use natural, raw honey for burns. Apply to the burn and then wrap overnight. It alleviates pain and the skin doesn’t blister. I have no idea why it works but it does. My father-in-law was a beekeeper and his family always treated burns with honey. I thought it was weird until I burned my fingertips on the oven rack… ouch! Applied the honey, wrapped a bandage on the fingers and the next day, no blisters, no pain. Amazing.”

There is, sadly, almost no research on these remarkable ways to ease your burn pain. However, two physicians reviewed the use of first aid remedies in “low-resource settings” (Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, Dec. 2016).  In such rural or poor parts of the world with few medical services, they found, people use honey, sugar paste or papaya as first aid, as well as aloe vera, banana leaf or boiled potato peel. While the evidence for any of these as first aid is not as strong as it is for tap water, they do appear to be helpful at least some of the time.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Cuttle L et al, "A review of first aid treatments for burn injuries." Burns, Sep. 2009. DOI: 10.1016/j.burns.2008.10.011
  • Bitter CC & Erickson TB, "Management of burn injuries in the wilderness: Lessons from low-resource settings." Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, Dec. 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.wem.2016.09.001
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When heating water for my tea I burned two fingers badly. I put on some pure lavender oil. In less than 10 minutes
the pain was gone, and I did not have any blisters.

I have not tried soy sauce for burns yet. I always cool my skin first in cool water, then later gently coat the burn with vitamin e oil and loosely bandage. I have had burns that would have blistered (laid the underside of my upper arm across a commercial coffee pot warmer) but they healed without blistering and without any scars. I always use vitamin E oil on any skin that has healed where I want to prevent scars. I’m guessing it’s the anti-oxidant properties that help.

Soy sauce for a burn??? ABSOLUTELY!! I am a klutz in the kitchen, and when I burn myself, the soy sauce is in an adjacent cabinet ,and I just pour it on as I have my hand over the sink. I let it stay on, wet, for a few minutes and then use paper towel to dab it, and I AM THEN FINE!!!~What a relief.

I’ve used soy sauce many, many times for burns, and it has worked every single time. What is amazing is that within minutes the pain subsides, and then there are no after-effects of the burn. It’s like the burn never occurred. I’m a believer.

Just putting your burn in flour is also good. I learned this from a chef. I’ve used that method, and it works great.

As a celiac patient, I cannot eat most soy sauces because they are fermented primarily from wheat (gluten), so I have only gluten-free soy sauce in my kitchen. I have used the gluten-free soy on burns several times, and it works as well as regular soy sauce. I wonder if the key to its efficacy is due to the fermentation rather than from the ingredients.

Some of these are concentrated salt or sugar (soy sauce, honey, mustard, etc.) — could this be helping to remedy the edema and swelling, and make it less painful?

My boyfriend burned his hand with hot soup in a blender. I had him run it under cold water and then doused it with soy sauce. When it started to “throb” I would apply more soy sauce. The time between “throbs” increased and the intensity of the “throbs” decreased with each application of soy sauce. The next day, there was no blistering or redness. You couldn’t tell where the burn was.

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