If you are interested in a natural approach to treating painful boils, a boil drawing salve can bring the lesion to a head and speed healing. Creating and applying a salve at home may help with this common skin problem.
Using Boil Drawing Salve
People have used boil drawing salves for over a hundred years, and perhaps longer, to bring infections to a head and draw or pull puss from boils. Release of pus eases pain and helps the boil heal. Before using a salve for boils, hot compresses help bring the boil to a head.
Hot Herbal Compresses
Hot herbal compresses help the drawing salve do its work more quickly. You can use simple hot water and a washcloth, or add several herbs and substances to the water for fast relief. Various home remedies also help.
- Epsom salts or plain table salt compress: Mix one teaspoon into one cup of very warm to hot water. Make sure the water is comfortable on the skin. Dip your finger into the cup. If it's too hot, add a little warm or cold water until it feels very warm or hot to the touch but you can keep your finger in the water for more than a minute. Soak a clean washcloth or rag in the water, and then apply to the boil for 10 minutes every hour. Do this for several hours. Dry your skin thoroughly and apply the salve.
- Lavender and tea tree oil compress: Both lavender and tea tree oil contain antibacterial agents particularly useful against boils. Use a mixture of hot water, lavender and tea tree oil to make a hot compress as described above. Drop tea tree oil directly onto the boil for one to two days during the first phases to bring it quickly to a head.
Always wash your hands thoroughly after treating boils. The bacteria spread easily from person to person and can spread from one area of the body to another.
Choose and Apply the Salve
You can purchase boil-drawing salves at the pharmacy counter, health food stores and online.
- Black drawing salve: Black drawing salve contains ichthammol, a derivative of shale that has been successfully used as a skin-drawing agent for over a hundred years. Although black salve smells bad, it does its work quickly and effectively. This salve contains a mixture of 10 to 20 percent ichthammol and herbs such as calendula, Echinacea and others in a base of beeswax and Vitamin E or olive oil. After using a hot salt water or herbal compress as described above, dry the skin thoroughly and apply black drawing salve to the boil. Cover with a bandage, since black drawing salve stains clothing. Repeat as necessary. The boil should come to a head within 24 hours and drain on its own or drain with minimal fuss.
- Tea tree ointment: A second effective drawing salve for boils is tea tree ointment. Typically, the ointment mixes tea tree oil derivatives with other antibacterial herbal agents. This ointment works to assist white blood cells in their antibacterial role. Puritan's Pride sells a tea tree ointment that is a blend of moisturizing oils and tea tree oil for about $10.
- Boil Ease Drawing Salve: This particular product includes the major ingredients of black drawing salve mixed with Benzocaine. Benzocaine acts as a topical anesthetic, temporarily numbing the skin, and may be useful for boils accompanied by extreme pain. Other ingredients include camphor and zinc oxide. Drugstore.com features this salve for around $10.
- Hylands Homeopathic Drawing Salve: An oldie but a goodie, Hylands (also called PRID Drawing Salve) includes components of both a drawing salve and homeopathic remedy. Eight physicians invented this salve in 1903. PRID contains the homeopathic ingredient acidum carbolicum along with herbs such as calendula and Echinacea. Other ingredients include ichthammol, sulphur and silicea. Walgreens offers this salve for around $8.
- Turmeric: Turmeric salves contain dried turmeric in a base of hardened beeswax or olive oil. Apply turmeric powder by itself or as a salve to heal boils. Local Harvest sells Turmeric salve in tins and twist up tubes. Their version contains turmeric powder, olive oil and beeswax.
Boils consist of inflamed hair follicles in the skin. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or another type of bacteria enters the hair follicle through a cut or abrasion. Abrasions may be as simple as slight friction burns caused by too-tight clothing or a small scratch on the skin that develops into a tiny cut. The body responds to the entrance of bacteria by sending white blood cells, like soldiers of the immune system, to battle the bacteria. The result is a painful lump, typically less than the size of a nickel, that rapidly becomes hot, red, inflamed and raised.
After about a week, pus collects in the center of the red area, forming a head. Pus consists of white blood cells, protein and other substances used by the body to engulf and remove the invading bacteria. The boil head may drain on its own, or for particularly painful or large boils, a physician may surgically lance and drain the boil.
Boils appear most often on the buttocks or in the groin and armpit area. Boils can arise anywhere sweat collects in hair follicles and perspiration ducts.
Boils as a Warning Sign
Regular, frequent,or painful boils point to something out of harmony or balance in the body. Some natural health practitioners advocate a fasting diet or other supportive practices to improve overall health. If you suffer from frequent outbreaks of boils, consult a physician, naturopath or herbalist.
When to Consult a Physician
In all cases of boils, if the boil lasts for more than two weeks, contact a physician. Boils can become serious skin infections. Boils accompanied by fevers and chills call for immediate medical attention. If a boil has red lines emanating from the affected area, it may indicate a serious infection, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Using Natural Salves
If you or a loved one are prone to painful boils, be sure to stock your first aid kit with a few natural cures. Since boils are painful and annoying, you will want to shorten their duration and intensity with proper self care and home treatment at the very first sign of one.