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What is a boil?

A boil (referred to as a furuncle by medical professionals) is a round, tender, infected nodule on the skin with a cental core of pus surrounded by inflamed and swollen tissue. It usually begins as a painful red lump, then hardens and forms a yellow head. Carbuncles are composite boils and occur when the infection spreads. The formation of a carbuncle may be an indication of immune depression.

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What are the symptoms of a boil or furuncle?

Symptoms of boil formation include itching, mild pain, and localised swelling. Boils appear suddenly. Within 24 hours they become red and filled with pus. Swelling of the nearest lymph glands may occur.

They most often appear on the scalp, buttocks, face, the back of the neck and underarms.

What causes boils to occur?

Boils may be caused by an airborne or food allergy, stress, poor hygiene, an illness, a lowered resistance, inadequate nutrition, certain drugs, excessive consumption of junk foods, an infected wound, eczema, scabies, diabetes, obesity, a toxic bloodstream, thyroid disorders, or where the skin has been weakened by chafing.

They may also be caused when the deepest portion of the hair follicle and sebaceous gland becomes infected (often by staphylococcus aureus) and the inflammation spreads to the underlying dermis.

Natural treatment of boils...

A boil will normally heal in 10-25 days. If the boils are very large, a doctor should drain them. The person should receive adequate rest and pay special attention to eating a well-balanced diet. Meticulous cleanliness of the affected area is important in preventing the spread of infection.

Echinacea is an antiseptic, immune stimulating herb which may be used as a natural antibiotic, internally, to assist the treatment of boils. Echinacea, Goldenseal (another antibiotic herb), and Poke Root help to cleanse the lymph glands.

Burdock root is a blood and lymphatic cleanser for eruptive skin conditions, especially when they are hot and inflamed looking - like boils.

Red Clover is another great herb for blood cleansing. Comfrey leaves may also be useful.

Pau D'Arco is a natural antibiotic that helps rid the body of infections and toxins.

Dandelion and Black Radish are liver cleansers, so will support the body in its effort to filter toxins from the blood. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and potentiates immune function.

Bai Zhi (Angelica dahurica) is recommended in Traditional Chinese Medicine for ulcerated boils in cases where the pus is not yet discharged - use it with Jie Geng. Yi Yi Ren (Coix lachryma jobi) clears heat and expels pus, use when sores have become full of pus - pushes pus out. Da Huang (Rheum palmatum) may be used either topically or internally for boils as it "clears heat" and resolves "Fire Poison".

Chlorophyll is a good blood cleanser, Wheatgrass and Alfalfa are good sources. Kelp is needed for balanced minerals. It is said that proteolytic enzymes, twice daily on an empty stomach, speeds up the cleansing process at infection sites. Raw thymus glandular extract stimulates the immune system.

Germanium is needed for the immune system and aids in cleansing the bloodstream. Vitamin A, C, and E are necessary for proper immune system function and the health of the skin. Vitamin C, 3000-8000 mg daily in divided doses, is a powerful anti-inflammatory substance and immune system stimulant. Coenzyme Q10 is important for oxygen utilisation and immune function. Silica tablets or Oatstraw tea reduces inflammatory reactions. Sufficient Zinc in the diet (30mg/day) may actually prevent boils from occurring.

Boils that result from a bacterial infection are often successfully treated homoeopathically with Belladonna, indicated when there is much redness and heat and the boil throbs painfully. Hepar sulph is for when little injuries turn septic, develop into boils and are intolerably painful, the patient is chilly, the boil is hot and weeps easily - great for bringing a boil to a head. Silica is indicated when every little injury tends to suppurate, if the boil seems very slow in coming to a head, the patient is chilly and the boil is cold. Arsenicum is for burning skin aggravated by heat. Gunpowder is for weeping but not painful boils. Hypericum, Lachesis, and Tarentula may also be useful remedies.

Tissue salts may also be useful. The action of Silica. helps the abscess to ripen and is indicated wherever there is pus formation or threatened suppuration. A lowered state of health is sometimes a predisposing factor and in such cases a course of Calc. Phos. is indicated.

Use Calendula as a wash, cream, or compress for boils as it will promote healing and is antiseptic as well. Chickweed leaf poultice, made with the fresh plant, would be soothing. Roman Chamomile essential oil has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and bactericidal properties. All manner of skin problems can be helped by a Chamomile compress or bath, including boils. Lime essential oil is antiseptic and bactericidal and is good in combination with Lavender and Manuka essential oils. A warm compress with the essential oils of Chamomile, Lemon, Lavender or Thyme will help to bring the boil to a head.

Nutritional and Herbal support for Boils includes:

AKN Skincare - A herbal blood cleansing formula, designed to help specifically with skin problems. Acts as a blood cleanser and assists liver function.

Liver Detox & Support - Internal cleansing, helps eliminate toxins and acts as a liver cleanser. Helpful for skin problems, and will improve liver, kidney and immune system function.

Manuka Honey Gel - A gel with Manuka oil, active Manuka honey and Flax to calm and soothe the skin. Forms a protective barrier on the skin, allowing skin to heal naturally, minimising scarring. Great for eczema, bites, wounds, bacterial and fungal infections.

Some interesting points on Boils...

  • The infected area should be washed several times day and swabbed with antiseptic. Also apply Manuka Honey UMF 18+ directly on the boil. Vitamin A and E emulsion directly on boils is effective. Use clay packs and/or chlorophyll.
  • Warm Epsom salts baths are good. Apply hot compresses, three or four times a day, as they can relieve pain and promote healing. Prevent spreading of the boils by using clean towels. It is very important that once a boil has burst, strict hygiene practices are used to prevent any infection spreading - cover with antiseptic and a dressing.
  • A cleansing fast is important to help cleanse the system and rid the body of toxins that may cause boils.
  • An onion poultice may be beneficial for sores. Use between a piece of cloth - not applied directly to the area. A poultice of Fenugreek seeds may be helpful also. They are antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and soothing. A hot cabbage leaf poultice can be applied to boils and infected cuts to draw out the infection and disperse pus. Roasted Figs may also be used as a poultice, with honey, on boils to encourage healing and to draw out infection. To bring a boil to a head, split a Fig, heat it, and place it directly on the boil. You can ease the pain, and help to bring out a boil by applying a hot bread poultice.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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