One boil is bad enough, but several all in one place? Ouch!! A cluster of boils is called a carbuncle. They are caused by a bacterial infection and typically filled with purulent exudate (pus).
Often, the infection is caused by staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. It is highly contagious and may spread to other areas of your body or other people with whom you come in with.
There are common triggers that can lead to an infected carbuncle, which include a recent incidence of folliculitis, constant friction from clothing, shaving, having hair pulled out, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, weak immunity and uncontrolled diabetes.
This cluster of several boils may develop on any part of the body, but they are most common on the back, nape of the neck, shoulders and thighs. The size of the boils can vary from small to large.
When compared to single boils, carbuncles cause a deeper and more severe infection, and are more likely to leave a scar.
Common symptoms of a carbuncle include itching, skin irritation and pain when touched. Sometimes, you may develop other symptoms like fatigue, fever, chills and malaise as well.
A carbuncle can be painful, but it is also a good sign as it indicates that your immune system is active and fighting the infection.
In the meantime, you can try some simple yet effective natural remedies to fight the infection and improve your skin condition.
Note: Consult your doctor if the boils are very painful, there are other lumps near the boils or you get no relief after a week of home treatment.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for a carbuncle.
1. Warm Compress
Applying heat in the form of a warm compress is the best way to treat boils, according to the American Academy of Dermatology .
The heat helps increase circulation in the affected area, bringing more white blood cells and antibodies to the area to fight the infection. It also reduces pain and promotes natural drainage.
- Soak a cloth in warm water and squeeze out the excess water.
- Apply the warm cloth over the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Do this repeatedly throughout the day until the pus drains out.
- Clean the area thoroughly and apply a medicated ointment to prevent any further infection.
After each use, washcloths or cloths should be washed in hot water and dried at a high temperature.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is another good remedy for a carbuncle. This natural antiseptic has strong antibacterial properties, which can help fight the root cause of the problem. It is also an anti-inflammatory agent and will help reduce the pain.
Plus, it accelerates the healing process.
- Mix 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil with 1 teaspoon of coconut or olive oil. Use a cotton ball to apply the oil blend on the cluster of boils 2 or 3 times per day. You do not need to rinse it off. Do this until the infection is completely gone.
- Another option is to mix 5 or 6 drops of tea tree oil into a bowl of warm water. Soak a washcloth in the solution. Use it as a compress on the affected area for about 10 minutes. Repeat several times a day.
Whether it is a single boil or a carbuncle, turmeric is highly beneficial.
Turmeric is loaded with antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that help in a healing process, provide relief from the symptoms and prevent further infection.
A 2014 study published in BioMed Research International highlights the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, the main compound in turmeric .
- For external use, mix ½ teaspoon of dry turmeric powder with 1 to 2 tablespoons of castor oil to make a paste. Apply this paste on the affected area with clean hands. Cover it with a gauze bandage. Reapply the paste and replace the bandage every 12 hours.
- For oral use, add ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of boiling milk and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Drink it twice daily.
4. Neem (Indian Lilac)
Neem, also known as Indian lilac, has antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that help treat skin infections like boils and carbuncles.
- Wash and grind a handful of neem leaves into a paste. Add a little turmeric powder to the paste. Apply this paste on the affected area, and leave it on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off. Do this a few times a day.
- Another option is to use a cotton swab to apply neem oil directly on the cluster of boils. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse it off. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
5. Black Tea Compress
It is a well-known fact that a warm compress is helpful for treating boils and carbuncles. In place of a plain water compress, you can use a black tea compress.
Tannins present in black tea possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the pain and clear up the infection.
- Soak a black tea bag in warm water for 10 minutes.
- Remove it from the water and allow it to cool.
- Gently apply the tea bag over the affected area for 10 minutes.
- Repeat several times a day for quick results.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a potent natural astringent that works really well to treat carbuncles.
It also has amazing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help treat boils and carbuncles. Also, it restores your skin’s natural pH and minimizes the risk of scarring.
- For topical use, dip a washcloth in lukewarm raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Wrap this moist and warm cloth around the affected area for 10 minutes. Repeat 3 or 4 times a day.
- For oral use, add 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water. Drink it once or twice daily.
7. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is also effective in the treatment of a carbuncle. It helps bring the boils to a head and speed up the drainage of the bacteria-filled pus.
Plus, being highly absorbent, it helps draw out toxins and impurities from the skin.
- Dissolve ¼ cup of Epsom salt in 2 cups of warm water.
- Dip a clean washcloth in the solution.
- Place it over the affected area.
- Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat a few times daily until the boils begin to drain.
8. Eucalyptus Oil
Like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil is also beneficial.
Because of its antibacterial properties, eucalyptus oil is effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause boils. Not only does it help fight the root cause of the problem, it also aids the healing process.
- Use a cotton swab to apply eucalyptus oil directly on the affected area. Wait 10 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
- Another option is to prepare a mixture with 3 or 4 drops of eucalyptus oil, 1 teaspoon of powdered slippery elm and 1 tablespoon of water. Apply this paste on the affected area, let it dry, then rinse it off. Do it twice daily.
9. Good Hygiene
Proper hygiene reduces your risk of developing a carbuncle and is essential when treating an existing cluster of boils. Maintaining proper hygiene also helps reduce spreading of the infection.
- Wash your hands with a mild soap before eating and after using the bathroom.
- Take a shower daily to keep your skin free of bacteria. Especially, take a shower after a workout or swimming.
- Wash your clothes, sheets and towels regularly in hot water.
- When drying clothes and linens, be sure to set your dryer to high heat.
- Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that you may touch, such as doorknobs, the toilet seat and the bathtub.
- Avoid sharing personal items like towels, sheets, razors, clothing and athletic equipment with others.
10. Immune-Boosting Foods
While there is no direct connection between boils and nutritional deficiencies, it is still recommended to eat healthy foods, especially those with immune-boosting properties.
Keeping your immune system strong helps the body ward off and fight infections.
- Eat fruits like apples, oranges, grapefruit and berries, which contain antioxidants that support the immune system.
- Include more leafy greens like Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens and spinach in your diet.
- Eat whole grains like quinoa, amaranth and barley, which have immunity-building effects.
- Avoid processed and refined foods as much as possible.
- Do not attempt to squeeze the boils, as it may spread the infection.
- Do not poke the boils with a needle or pin to relieve pressure, as it can make the infection worse.
- Keep the infected area clean and covered with sterile, dry bandages until the cluster of boils heals.
- If your boils burst, cover them with a sterile bandage or gauze to prevent infection while they heal.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching or caring for the boils.
- Sometimes, you may have to take prescribed antibiotics to help heal severe or recurrent infections.
- Dermatologists share tips to treat boils and styes. Dermatologists share tips to treat boils and styes | American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/dermatologists-share-tips-to-treat-boils-and-styes.
- A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin. BioMed Research International. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/186864/. Published April 29, 2014.