7 Home Remedies for Boils


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Onions are a good home treatment for boils. Aztecs and Egyptians have been using them for centuries.

Boils can be an unsightly bother, but for the most part they're fairly harmless. They only stick around for a few weeks as well, and can be treated using a few remedies you can find in your home. Before we get to the remeides, let's learn a bit about boils.

Simmering Them Down

Boils have been a problem since the beginning of time. These painful bumps even got a mention in the Bible as one of the ten plagues used to convince the Egyptians to let the Israelites go. Even today, boils make people cringe. They are painful and unattractive. The good news is, though they look and feel awful, most boils are harmless. And, ironically enough, most of the treatments for boils have been around since the Egyptian doctors found themselves dealing with a boil epidemic.

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Debunking the Furuncles

Boils start out harmless enough, but they become monsters overnight. Typically, a red spot or pimple-like knot you notice on your underarm one day turns into a swollen, painful lump the next. Boils, or furuncles, as they're known in medical circles, are a result of a bacterial infection, usually staphylococcus, setting up house in a hair follicle. The bacteria gets an open-door invitation when the hair follicle is traumatized. This can happen from a blockage, such as might occur from an oily ointment or lotion, or from irritation, as can happen when clothing rubs against the follicles. People who tend to get boils frequently are staph carriers and therefore physiologically more prone to get boils. Other problems, such as acne, dermatitis, diabetes, and anemia, can increase your risk of contracting the staphylococcus bacterial overgrowth. Men are more likely than women to get boils.

Boils can appear on any part of the body that has hair follicles, but they usually occur on the face, scalp, underarm, thigh, groin, and buttocks. Boils can vary in size from small, pimple-size sores to large, painful lumps, but they are typically larger than one-half inch in diameter.

The lifetime of a boil is about two weeks. During that time the boil will grow quickly, fill with pus, and burst. After it drains, the boil needs a little tender loving care as it begins to heal.

A cluster of boils is called a carbuncle. These are most frequently found at the back of the neck or the thigh. Carbuncles are more serious than boils and are frequently accompanied by fever and fatigue. There may be whitish, bloody discharge from the carbuncle. Carbuncles require medical attention.

We've got a few home remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of boils on the next page.

For more information about boils and how to combat them, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Boils

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The antimicrobial properties of an onion can help reduce the size of a boil.

The home remedies found below, are easy to locate and will relieve you from some of the discomfort of boils. In fact, you can prepare them just before your breakfast!

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Cornmeal. The Aztecs created a remedy for boils from dried, powdered corn flour, a remedy that is also used by the Cherokee Indians and the Appalachians. Cornmeal doesn't have medicinal properties per se, but it is absorptive, and this makes it an effective treatment for boils. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a pot, and add cornmeal to make a thick paste. Apply the cornmeal mush as a poultice to the boil, and cover with a cloth. Repeat every one to two hours until the boil comes to a head and drains.

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Jelly jar. "Cupping" a boil, or applying suction to a boil by placing a cup or jar over the infected area, is an age-old treatment for boils. Boil a cup in a pot of water for a few minutes. Using tongs, take the cup out of the pot and let it cool down a bit before putting it over the boil. (You don't want the cup to be too cool or there won't be any suction, but be sure it's not so hot that it burns you.) As the cup cools over the boil, the suction brings blood and circulation to the area. Blot and wash pus away.

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Bacon. The fat and salt content of salt pork are believed to help bring boils to a head. Roll some salt pork or bacon in salt and place the meat between two pieces of cloth. Apply the cloth to the boil. Repeat throughout the day until the boil comes to a head and drains. This can be messy.

Eggs. The whites of hard-boiled eggs were used for treating boils in the nineteenth century. After boiling and peeling an egg, wet the white and apply it directly to the boil. Cover with a cloth.

Milk. Heat 1 cup milk and slowly add 3 teaspoons salt (adding the salt too quickly can make the milk curdle). Simmer the milk for ten minutes. Then add flour or crumbled bread pieces to thicken the mixture. Divide the mixture into 4 poultices and apply 1 to the boil every half-hour.

Onion. The pungent onion has antiseptic chemicals and acts as an antimicrobial and irritant to draw blood and "heat" to the boil. Cut a thick slice of onion and place it over the boil. Wrap the area with a cloth. Change the poultice every three to four hours until the boil comes to a head and drains.

Home Rememdies From the Spice Rack

Nutmeg. Nutmeg stimulates circulation in the body, which can help your body fight the bacterial infection in your boil. Stir 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg into 1 cup hot water and drink.

Do's and Don'ts

  • DON'T squeeze or break the boil open, no matter how tempting that may be. Give the boil time to come to a head and rupture on its own. If you take matters into your own hands, you risk spreading the infection and creating more painful problems.
  • DO be sure to wash any towels, compresses, or clothes that have touched the boil. Otherwise, you can spread the infection.
  • DON'T buy over-the-counter products that claim to draw out the fluid in boils. These just irritate the boil and cause it to burst prematurely. This can cause the bacteria-infested pus to spread in the body and possibly get into the bloodstream.

For more information about boils and how to combat them, try the following links:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.