You might at some time-point have been troubled by a boil. A boil or abscess is a type of skin infection that develops either in an oil gland or a hair follicle. It starts as a small, red, painful nodule (approximately half an inch).
Initially, the skin is red at the point of infection and gives rise to a tender lump that gradually increases in size. The lump turn’s whitish after 4 to 7 days as pus accumulates below the infected skin surface.
Boils are smaller and superficial whereas abscesses are larger, deeper and filled with pus, accompanied by redness and pain in the area (1).
Boils are often seen on the neck, face, armpits, shoulders, buttocks, and eyes (stye). Boils can be very painful and sometimes may be accompanied by fever. If several boils occur together as a group, it is called a carbuncle and can be a sign of a more serious infection.
Boils are usually caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus (2). They enter the body through nicks or cuts on the skin surface and travel down the hair to the follicle and cause infection.
People with diabetes, weakened immunity, poor hygiene, poor nutrition and those exposed to harsh chemicals are more prone to developing boils.
Usually boils don’t require immediate emergency attention and can be managed at home, but promptly. The key to healing is to soften the boil so that the bacteria and infection drain out of the swollen area. Handle the area hygienically to avoid further infection.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for boils and abscesses.
Note: Consult your doctor immediately if you don’t get any relief within a week and experience the following troubles as well:
- swollen lymph nodes
- increased pain and swelling
- a persistent boil that keeps returning
- appearance of more boils
Also, get your boils checked by your doctor if you are diabetic, have immunity related problems, or are on immune suppressants or chemotherapy.
1. Indian Lilac (Neem)
The antiseptic, antimicrobial, antiulcer, antifungal and antibacterial properties of Indian lilac, also known as neem, help treat boils and many other types of skin infections. It is extensively used in Ayurvedic, Unani, and Homeopathic systems of medicine.
Both nimbidin and nimbidol, the active constituents of neem, exhibit antibacterial and antifungal activity (3). It is a potent remedy to eliminate boils and carbuncles.
- Grind a handful of neem leaves to get a paste. Apply it on the affected area 3 or 4 times a day until the boil heals.
- You could also boil a handful of neem leaves in 4 cups of water until the quantity of water reduces to one-third. Use this water to rinse the affected area a few times a day.
- Another option is to apply a few drops of neem oil (the one extracted from the seed is more effective) directly on the affected skin 3 or 4 times a day. Wash your hands thoroughly after the application. If you have sensitive skin, mix a few drops of neem oil in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and then use it.
Onions are of immense value for the treatment of a number of health problems ranging from various hair and skin problems to lowering the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Onions are rich in antioxidants like quercetin and other sulfur containing groups. It also contains vitamin C, small amounts of potassium, calcium, iron, chromium and magnesium.
These compounds are responsible for the antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that effectively treat boils (5).
Topical application of onion juice or paste promotes blood circulation, thereby reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow to the boil. This also helps in the extraction of pus from the boil.
- Just take a thick slice of onion and place it over the boil.
- Wrap it with a cloth to draw blood and heat to the boil and leave it on for a few hours.
- Replace the onion slice 3 or 4 times daily, until the boil comes to the head and drains.
3. Black Onion Seed or Nigella
Black onion seed is one of the most popular natural cures for various types of chronic diseases, and hair and skin problems, including boils. Black onion seed oil is nutrient-rich and widely used in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries.
Black onion seed and its oil are both used to treat boils. Both have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties that boost the immune system and help fight abscesses.
The oil is also rich in thymoquinone which has powerful antifungal properties (6). The medicinal properties of black seed can give some relief from the pain caused by boils.
- Grind some black seeds (kalonji) to get a paste (you can also dry roast the seeds and then grind). Apply this paste on the affected area and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes or more. Do this 2 or 3 times a day.
- You can also apply a little black seed oil on the boil, leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse it off. Do this a few times a day.
- Add ½ teaspoon of black seed oil to a cup of warm or room-temperature water. Drink it twice a day for several days.
4. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties that make it an important remedy for the treatment of diseases like psoriasis, ringworm, and itchiness of the skin and scalp. Its antibacterial property is due to the presence of the compounds called terpenes in it (7).
Regular use of tea tree oil will speed up the healing process and give you relief from the discomfort caused by skin abscesses and boils.
- Mix 5 drops of tea tree oil to 1 teaspoon of olive or coconut oil. Dip a clean cotton swab into the diluted oil and gently dab it directly on the boil. You do not need to rinse off the oil.
- Do this a few times a day for several days until the boil is gone.
Note: Do not apply tea tea oil directly on your skin as it may irritate your skin. Perform a patch test before using this remedy to rule out the possibility of tea tree oil causing skin irritation. Do not take tea tree oil internally. The preferred concentration of tea tree oil for the treatment of boils should not be more than 5% dilution.
Turmeric is a natural blood purifier and has anti-inflammatory properties that can be very helpful in the treatment of boils.
It has been used for the treatment of skin diseases in India and has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine. Its active compound curcumin is responsible for its wonderful therapeutic properties.
A review article published in the journal of Phytotherapy Research in 2016 concluded that there is early evidence to suggest that products and supplements from turmeric may provide therapeutic benefits for skin problems either when ingested or applied topically (8).
Both external application and consumption of turmeric help in treatment of boils and carbuncles. External application of turmeric to the boils dries the boils within 3 to 4 days, alleviates pain and prevents the recurrence of boils.
- Boil 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of milk or water. Drink it 3 times a day for 4 or 5 days.
- Also, you can grind together equal amounts of fresh ginger and turmeric, apply it onto the boil, and cover it with a clean cloth. Leave it for a few hours. Rinse the area and reapply the paste 3 or 4 times a day for several days.
6. Warm Washcloth Compress
A warm compress is a very effective method to soothe a skin abscess. Not only is it relaxing, it also accelerates the healing process by softening the crusty skin layer of the boil, thereby helping it to burst.
This is perhaps the easiest remedy to follow. In fact, it is a very simple and efficient technique without any side-effects. Plus, it is excellent for relieving the pain, swelling and redness.
It also increases the blood circulation to help heal a boil by promoting the white blood cells and antibodies to fight the infection.
- Dip a clean washcloth in warm water, wring out the excess water and place the cloth over the boil for 10 minutes. You can also use warm salt water as salt acts as a disinfectant. Make sure the compress is wet and warm, and exert slight pressure on the boil with the compress when it forms a protruding head so that it will rupture with repeated soaking.
- Repeat the process 3 or 4 times a day until the boil heals.