Boils are red, pus-filled bumps that form under the skin. They can be painful and grow until a doctor drains them. There are ways to relieve discomfort at home, but you’ll likely need medical treatment. Never pick at or squeeze a boil, as it could cause an infection to spread.
Boils can grow to the size of a baseball. Larger boils are also known as skin abscesses. The area surrounding the skin can be red and painful too.
Many boils begin from ingrown hairs and clogged sweat glands that become infected, often with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.
Here are some home remedies that may help ease pain and help prevent the spread of infection, allowing the boil to heal. But, you should still consider having the boil checked by a doctor because, in many cases, home remedies are not enough to cure a boil.
Heat helps increase circulation in an area, bringing more white blood cells and antibodies to the area to fight the infection.
Applying heat to a boil may be one of the best home remedies you can try since it’s simple and cost effective.
Apply a warm compress to the area for 10-15 minutes at a time. Do this three or four times a day, every day, until the boil is gone.
Tea tree oil
Research from 2022 has found that tea tree oil has strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties. These properties may help treat the bacterial infection causing the boil.
Tea tree oil shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin, as it can have a burning effect. Instead, mix five drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of coconut or olive oil.
Put the diluted tea tree oil on a cotton swab and apply it to a boil two or three times per day. You may notice the boil shrinking. You should stop using the oil if you notice any burning sensations or other reactions to the oil.
Turmeric powder contains curcumin, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may help Source a boil heal faster.
You can choose to ingest turmeric powder or use it topically on the boil.
To ingest it, boil a teaspoon of turmeric powder in water or milk, then let it cool. Drink the mixture three times daily.
To use it topically, mix turmeric with water, ginger, or both to make a paste. Apply the paste to a boil at least twice a day. Stop using it if you notice any reactions to the paste or powder.
Castor oil contains a compound called ricinoleic acid, which is a natural but potent anti-inflammatory. This, combined with its potential antibacterial properties, makes castor oil a great natural treatment to try for boils.
Apply a small amount of castor oil directly to the boil at least three times a day until the boil is gone. You should stop use if you notice any adverse reactions to the oil.
Neem oil may have antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties that can help treat skin infections, including boils. It’s also known as Indian lilac.
To treat boils with neem oil, apply the oil directly to the boil three to four times a day. Make sure you wash your hands before and after the application. Discontinue use if you notice any adverse reactions to the oil.
When applied to the skin, raw onion may have several benefits for the skin and boils. Research from 2022Trusted Source shows that onions have an antibacterial effect, which may help prevent infection from an open boil.
It may also help to prevent scarring as the boil heals. According to a 2018 study, people who applied onion extract to scars showed as much scar reduction as those that used silicone gel.
This could make onions beneficial in preventing scarring as the boil heals
Fresh garlic may have some antimicrobial properties that help heal boils and prevent infection.
Though people have used it in traditional medication for years, 2021 suggests its properties are still not fully understood. Some evidence does suggest it may help with various skin conditions, including wound healing and viral or fungal infections.
A study from 2015Trusted Source noted that using fresh garlic extract may help reduce certain bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics to help with infections.
To use garlic to treat a boil, crush it first. Then apply it to the area and cover it with a cool, wet facecloth. Leave for 20 minutes and reapply after 12 hours if you don’t experience any negative reaction.
It’s important to only use garlic on the skin and not on the mucous membranes, such as in the mouth or on the genital area because it can burn delicate skin.
Generally, certain compounds within ginger do seem to contain antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Other experts have also noted that ginger has a general microbial effect and may help with bacteria and other potential pathogens found on the skin.
That said, there’s no direct evidence that applying ginger on a boil can help cure it or reduce inflammation.
In a 2017 study researchers did note that vaginal creams infused with ginger extract and clotrimazole had a stronger effect on vaginal yeast infections than creams with just clotrimazole.
This could imply that ginger has a microbial effect that may help keep boils from becoming infected as they heal.
To use ginger, follow a similar process as the onion. You can use this method with various ingredients. It’s called a poultice.
Tridax daisy, also known as coat button, is a flowering plant native to the tropical Americas. People often regard it as a weed.
However, when concentrated and put into a gel form, it may help provide wound-healing properties, according to a 2021 Source. In addition, a 2019 found that it may have antibacterial properties.
While it may not cure a boil, it may be able to keep the infection from getting worse. Apply on the boil similarly to other ingredients in this list.
Devil’s horsewhip is a root native to Africa. It has traditionally been used in the Middle East to treat skin conditions, such as boils.
It’s known to have Source antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties in this region. Another 2016 Source found it effective in inhibiting the bacteria Streptococcus mutans.
Whether you try some of the herbal remedies suggested here, it’s very important that you keep the area of the boil clean.
When you clean a boil, you help to prevent the buildup of bacteria or other potentially harmful substances from getting into it and causing an infection.
In addition, cleaning it when a doctor makes an incision to treat it medically can help infection. Once cleaned, you should make sure to pat it dry and cover it with fresh gauze.
Keeping your sheets clean can also help in the healing process of boils. Clean sheets, washed in hot water and dried in a hot setting, can help prevent the development of microorganisms that may get into the boil and cause infection. Consider washing your bedding every few days as your boil heals.
A boil may clear on its own with proper home care but not always. In some cases, your doctor will need to drain the boil. Otherwise, it could infect nearby areas or push the infection deeper into the skin, causing more boils or potentially life threatening infections.
If drainage is needed, a doctor will make a small incision on the boil and use sterile gauze to absorb and remove additional pus. This should only be done carefully and in a sterile environment.
When to see your doctor
In some cases, home remedies won’t cut it for stubborn boils. You’ll need to see a doctor to treat it with prescription medication or have your doctor drain it. In addition, you should make an appointment with a doctor if:
The boil keeps getting larger despite home treatment.
After a week of home treatment, the boil hasn’t cleared up or diminished.
The boil is as large as a ping-pong ball.
The skin surrounding the boil is bright red or has red streaks extending from it.
The boil is extremely painful.
There are other lumps near the boil.
You have recurring boils over several months.
You also have diabetes.
You notice any other reactions when applying topical remedies.
Who gets a boil?
Boils most commonly appear on the:face
having small cuts on the skin
having certain skin conditions, such as acne or eczema
having an immune disorder, which makes you more vulnerable to bacterial infections
having close contact with someone who’s had boils, like sharing razors or towels