Hives or urticaria is a common malady that affects 20 percent of the population at some point of their life (1). Hives is characterized by swollen, pale-red bumps or plaques (welts) on the skin accompanied by itching.
Hives are usually caused by an allergic reaction to a substance that you encountered or swallowed. In response to the allergic reaction, your body releases a protein called histamine, which in high levels results in itching, swelling, redness and many other symptoms.
Some of the common triggers of hives are certain foods (nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, fresh berries and milk), latex, chemicals, pollen, food additives, animal dander, infections, medications and insect bites or stings.
Also, hives can occur when you get too hot while spending time outside on a summer day, are exposed to ice cold water, or as a result of stress. Inflammation of the blood vessels can also trigger hives.
Many cases of hives are idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause for the condition. However, it is observed that people who are prone to allergies are more likely to develop hives (2).
Alcoholic drinks, exercise, emotional stress and scratching can aggravate hives. Hives rashes usually have clearly defined edges, appear in varying shapes and sizes and can move around and also have a burning sensation. They may disappear or reappear within short intervals of time, and when the center of the hive is pressed it may turn white.
Both adults and children are prone to it; they can appear anywhere on the body. They may appear within minutes of exposure to a trigger, or you can have a delayed reaction of more than two hours.
While hives can be uncomfortable, they are usually harmless and will disappear within a few hours or days. In very unusual cases hives can cause breathing difficulty due to swelling of the throat—in such cases kindly seek medical help immediately.
For common symptoms of hives, you can always explore your kitchen and garden for some simple natural remedies to get relief.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for hives.
1. Cold Compress
Most skin allergy specialists suggest cold compresses as the best topical natural remedy for hives. This is a good remedy provided your hives are not triggered by cold. Cold temperature helps shrink the blood vessels and block further release of histamine.
The swelling that is present in the spaces between the cells/tissues can be reduced only by compression, not the cold. This in turn alleviates swelling, inflammation and itching.
Another advantage of this remedy is that it minimizes the collection of blood outside broken capillaries. Cold also helps control the pain by superseding the pain impulse with the cold impulse (3).
For the cold compress to be very effective, it is vital to apply it as soon as you notice the first signs of discomfort.
- Wrap some ice cubes in a cloth. Place it over the affected skin for 10 minutes at a time, 3 or 4 times a day.
- You can also take a cool bath or shower as needed to calm skin inflamed by hives.
Note: Never put ice directly on the skin or for a prolonged period of time.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is another popular remedy for hives. Baking soda is naturally found in mineral form of natron. It has been used traditionally as a soother and cleanser.
Its anti-inflammatory property helps reduce inflammation as well as itching. This is said to give immediate relief from hives symptoms. Baking soda has been used as a treatment for scaly skin disorder for more than 100 years due to its alkaline pH (4).
- Add ½ to 1 cup of baking soda to a bathtub filled with warm water. Mix it well and then soak in this water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Alternatively, put 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a small bowl. Add enough water to make a thick paste. Spread the paste on the affected area. Leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water
You can use either of these remedies once daily or as needed.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another good remedy for hives. Its antihistamine properties will help relieve inflammation quickly and regulate the body’s immune system response. It also plays a key role in restoring your overall skin health.
In a study in 2004 regarding the effects of apple cider vinegar on chronic pain and inflammation in experimental animal models, demonstrated that apple cider vinegar had appreciable effect in controlling pain and inflammation (5).
- Add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a bathtub filled with warm water. Soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes once daily.
- Alternatively, dilute apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water and use it to wash the affected skin 2 or 3 times a day.
- You can also mix 1 or 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. Add a little lemon juice and honey for taste. Drink this mixture 3 times daily.
4. Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal works very well for hives. It’s anti-irritating, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties help provide relief from itching and help your skin heal quickly.
Colloidal oatmeal is highly beneficial for skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema and dry skin. It is also indicated for hives.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of oatmeal are due to chemical compounds called phenols present in it (6).
Colloidal oatmeal is the powder obtained from grinding and processing of whole grain oats, with not less than 0.2 percent fat as defined by the United States Pharmacopeia (7).
- Combine 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of ground oatmeal. Add this mixture to a bathtub filled with warm water. Stir it well and soak in this water for at least 15 minutes. Enjoy this soothing bath twice daily until your condition improves.
- Alternatively, mix together 2 cups of oatmeal, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and enough water to form a paste. Apply the paste on the affected skin for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash it off with lukewarm water. Follow this remedy once daily.
Known as a ‘wonder drug’, ginger can be used to treat hives due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic properties.
Ginger is rich in many phytochemicals like gingerols and shogaols. These compounds possess very powerful anti-inflammatory properties (8).
Basically, ginger targets the genes and enzymes that trigger inflammation, in turn improving circulation to the skin, relieving swelling and reducing itching.
- Boil ¼ cup of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger in ¾ cup of vinegar for several minutes. Mix a little of this solution with warm water and dab on the affected skin several times a day.
- Alternatively, peel the skin off a small piece of fresh ginger root and gently dab the ginger onto the inflamed skin. Do this 2 or 3 times daily. You can chill the ginger root in the refrigerator first for an added cooling effect.
- You can also drink ginger tea or chew on fresh ginger pieces a few times daily. To prepare ginger tea, simply simmer 1 teaspoon of minced or sliced ginger in a cup of water for 5 minutes, cover and let it steep for another 5 minutes, then strain it.
6. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel is another great natural remedy for hives. It contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that help reduce redness, inflammation and itching when applied topically. Also, when taken internally, it stimulates immunity and helps eliminate inflammatory toxins.
Aloe gel speeds up the rate of recovery from hives. The evidence gathered from many studies lend some amount of scientific validity to the topical use of aloe products for symptoms associated with psoriasis and types of rashes (9).
- Apply fresh aloe vera gel to the affected skin. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Follow this remedy several times a day until your skin heals completely.
- You can also drink 2 tablespoons of aloe vera juice daily to boost your immune system.
Note: Aloe vera should be applied only after doing a skin patch test as it may cause skin irritation in some individuals. Avoid using it in case of children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Please take care to drain out the yellow liquid completely from fresh aloe leaf before cutting for gel preparation as it can cause skin irritation.
The active substances in turmeric are flavonoids called curcuminoids. Curcumin is the major curcuminoid in turmeric.
Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and helps stimulate the body’s natural anti-inflammatory corticosteroids. It is also considered a very effective natural antihistamine and antioxidant for hives and a variety of inflammatory skin ailments.
Turmeric is used along with other herbs for the treatment of hives in Ayurvedic system of medicine. Oral intake of turmeric was reported to drastically reduce inflammatory swelling (10).
- Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of hot milk or water. Drink it twice daily.
- You can also use turmeric in your cooking and take turmeric supplements but only after consulting a doctor.
Note: Do not take turmeric if you are taking prescription blood thinners.
Herbalists also recommend nettle as an effective alternative treatment for hives. Nettles have been in use as a remedy for more than 2000 years to fight various diseases.
This herb is rich in bioactive compounds like phenols, vitamins and minerals. Being a natural antihistamine, and having anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, it relieves swelling, inflammation and itching.
In addition to these pharmacological properties, it also has strong antioxidant and analgesic, along with immunostimulatory properties. Nettle is considered to be relatively safe with hardly any side effects when ingested up to 18 grams per day (11).
- Add 1 tablespoon of dried nettle leaf to a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add a little honey. Drink this tea 2 or 3 times a day until your condition improves.
- Alternatively, you can take up to five 300-milligram capsules of nettle daily. Consult a doctor before taking nettle capsules.
Basil also works as a natural antihistamine and hence is very effective for treating hives. This culinary herb is rich in ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, linalol, caryophyllene, etc.
Ursolic acid is a bioactive constituent that is now in vogue in the cosmetic industry. A lipid encapsulated version of ursolic acid was demonstrated to increase the levels of ceramides and collagens, both of which play a very vital role in skin rejuvenation (12). Plus, it can effectively combat itching and inflammation.
- Put 1 tablespoon of dried basil leaves in a jar and add hot water to it. Cover the jar and allow it to cool. Apply this mixture on the affected area using a cotton cloth.
- Crush some fresh basil leaves with your hand. Gently apply the paste on the hives. Allow it to dry and then rinse off with cool water.
Follow either of these remedies as many times as needed for relief.
Due to its cooling effect, mint is also a popular remedy for hives. Mint is rich in many bioactive substances, among which menthol, menthone, limonene are a few of the prominent ones.
Plus, it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help reduce the itching and burning sensation very quickly. Many of the compounds from mint have been shown to possess antihistaminic and antiallergenic activities.
- Simmer 2 teaspoons of freshly crushed mint leaves in 1 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain and put the liquid in the refrigerator. Use this cool mint water to wash the inflamed and irritated skin several times a day.
- Boil 1 teaspoon of crushed mint leaves in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Strain and allow it to cool. Drink this once or twice daily, depending on the severity of your condition.
- Start keeping a daily diary to figure out what triggers your hives. This will help you avoid the triggers.
- Wear loose, smooth-textured cotton clothing to avoid further skin irritation.
- Reduce stress as it can make your condition worse.
- Increase the amount of vitamin C in your diet.
- Avoid hot baths and showers during an outbreak.
- Stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
These remedies and tips will help reduce the intensity of hives. However, if your symptoms remain for more than one week or you have complications like difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
- Hives (Urticaria) | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | ACAAI Public Website. http://acaai.org/allergies/types/skin-allergies/hives-urticaria.
- Hives. https://medlineplus.gov/hives.html.
- Hardy M, Woodall W. Therapeutic effects of heat, cold, and stretch on connective tissue. J Hand Ther. 1998;11(2):148-156. doi:10.1016/S0894-1130(98)80013-6. https://www.jhandtherapy.org/article/S0894-1130(98)80013-6/abstract.
- Milstone LM. Scaly skin and bath pH: Rediscovering baking soda. http://ijpr.sbmu.ac.ir/?_action=articleInfo&article=466.
- Dānishgāh-i ʻUlūm-i Pizishkī-i Shahīd Bihishtī. School of Pharmacy. S, Barahoyee A. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. Vol 0. School of Pharmacy, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences; 2010. http://ijpr.sbmu.ac.ir/?_action=articleInfo&article=466.
- Kurtz ES, Wallo W. Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties. J Drugs Dermatol. 2007;6(2):167-170. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17373175.
- History of Oatmeal. http://nebula.wsimg.com/97eb5904fd1c312d4c580a740da0bf16?AccessKeyId=424EC4B3280015FB20E8&disposition=0&alloworigin=1.
- White B. Ginger: An Overview. https://www.anaboliclabs.com/User/Document/Articles/Pro-Enz/3. White, Ginger, 2007.pdf.
- Aloe Vera | NCCIH. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera.
- 10. Naga Harish D, Vinutha N, Siva Krishna P, Ravi Kumar A, Shaik R. Phytochemical Evaluation Curcuma Longa and Curcumin. Int J Pharm Chem Sci ISSN. http://www.ijpcsonline.com/files/17-10-16/7-1093.pdf.
- Benmoussa A. HIGHLIGHTS ON NUTRITIONAL AND THERAPEUTIC VALUE OF STINGING NETTLE ( URTICA DIOICA ) AMAL AIT HAJ SAID 1 * , IBRAHIM SBAI EL OTMANI 2 , SANAE DERFOUFI. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Amal_Ait_Haj_Said/publication/283675999_Highlights_on_nutritional_and_therapeutic_value_of_stinging_nettle_Urtica_Dioica/links/5852f6bd08ae7d33e01ab3a2.pdf.
- Yarosh DB, Both D, Brown D. Liposomal Ursolic Acid (Merotaine) Increases Ceramides and Collagen in Human Skin. Horm Res Paediatr. http://www.ijpcsonline.com/files/17-10-16/7-1093.pdf.