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Boils - those painful, purulent, pus filled subcutaneous nodules that the majority of people have had at least once in their life. They’re an accumulation of pus below the surface of the skin and generally occur on the buttocks or neck but can occur in the most sensitive of places such as the groin, under the arms etc.

There are basically 2 schools of thought as to the cause of these lesions. The ‘medical model’ states that these nodules are caused by a bacterial infection, usually by staphylococci, that have entered the skin through either a break in the skin from a cut or abrasion, or through the hair follicle . The other school of thought is that boils are a result of internal toxicity from the bowel and blood stream or from a thyroid disorder . The body usually eliminates toxins through the bowel and kidneys but if either or both of these organ systems are dysfunctioning then the lymphatic system attempts to eliminate the toxins through the skin and lungs . This is the reason that any skin condition that is suppressed by topical application only will reoccur. Conditions such as eczema, if suppressed with steroid creams and other topical agents, can develop into asthma especially if the underlying dysfunctional organ systems are not treated. Treating any skin condition involves treating the whole body system, not just the symptoms of the disease, which is what skin conditions are.

Sue Holly, a lecturer in Herbal Medicine at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies, has taught that boils/abcesses are a symptom of an underlying congestion of an organ, usually appearing on the skin near the organ that is affected. Sue has also taught that abcesses, particularly in the gums, if untreated, will spread to other parts of the body via the lymphatic system and present as a skin boil.

With this information in mind when treating a person for a skin condition the first step is to gain a detailed history from the person to determine the following:

Bowel function is of particular importance as if the person has constipation then their bowel is possibly causing autointoxication of their body. Autointoxication is where, due to the feaces remaining in the large intestine for too long a period of time, the bowel reabsorbs the toxins out of the feaces and back into the body. Any bowel problems are also an indication that the person is not digesting or absorbing all the nutrients that they need to keep healthy.

Bladder function needs to be assessed as this is another way that the body eliminates toxins. If there are any problems with the kidneys then the toxins won’t be eliminated from the blood stream and will continue to circulate throughout the body, gradually poisoning the person from the inside at a cellular level.

Diet is also extremely important to determine if the person is eating the foods that they need to provide all the nutrients that their body requires to function healthily. Fast, convenient foods, although handy for people who work, are low in dietary fibre, high in saturated fats and low in nutrients which includes vitamins and minerals and trace elements that are necessary for cellular health.

Stress plays a major role in our health. Small amounts of short-term stress help us complete tasks and achieve goals by utilising the ‘Fight or Flight’ nervous system changes in our body. If we experience stress for any extended period of time, or experience extreme amounts of stress, our body starts to ‘wear out’. This is due to our bodies trying to overcompensate for the hormones that are released during the ‘Fight or Flight’ reaction. All our internal organs are affected by this reaction especially our gastrointestonal tract, our lymphatic and endocrine systems and our liver as it tries to detoxify and eliminate the waste products of the reaction.

Some allopathic medications that are used widely are very toxic to the body e.g. Paracetamol, Aspirin, over the counter cough mixtures, to name a few. All of these have chemicals that need to be detoxified by the liver and if the liver is either dysfunctional or overloaded then these toxins will cause further harm to the body.

If a person has a healthy body that is functioning well then a subcutaneous staphylococcal infection would be quickly resolved by the body’s immune system. Bodies that are tired, run down, not functioning well because of circulating toxins will develop a boil.

Treating a person with a skin condition will require the following:

Symptom Relief/Treatment:
Hot compresses with essential oils to ‘draw out’ the boil and speed healing. Essential oils that are of benefit in this process include Lavender, Tea Tree, and Chamomile. Lavender for its analgesic, antiseptic and decongestant properties, Tea Tree for its antibacterial and immuno-stimulant properties and Chamomile for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties . A skin wash consisting of 1% to 3% dilution of Lavender or Tea Tree to be applied 3 times a day to keep the area clean and help with the pain/discomfort of the boil. A poultice can also be used to help ‘draw out’ the pus. Castor oil is great for 'drawing out' subcutaneous substances.

Stress is treated with calming, relaxing and uplifting essential oils such as Lavender, Geranium, Sandalwood, Palma rosa, Rose, the citrus oils, Clary-sage and Chamomile. The oils chosen depending on the patient’s individual preferences and the type of stress and reaction/symptoms of the stress . Blends of these oils can be used in the bath, made up into shower gel, used in an oil burner both at home and at work, a couple of drops put onto a tissue and placed near the skin (either in a bra strap, shirt top-pocket or pinned to the inside of the shirt), mixed with base oil for a relaxing massage etc. Depending on the circumstances the person may also need to seek the services of a trained counsellor. Encourage the person to learn meditation, yoga or Tai Chi as a means of relaxing, destressing and improving their vital force.

Detoxing the body can be a fairly slow process depending on the degree of toxicity that has been ascertained from the person’s history and presenting symptoms. Detoxification baths are made up of very warm water (as hot as the person can stand), Epsom salts, detoxifying essential oils such as Grapefruit, Cypress and Black Pepper, lie in the bath for 15 minutes and when the person gets out, have them wrap themselves up in towels and sheets to sweat out the toxins.

Lymphatic massage is another way of detoxifying the body. This involves stimulation of the lymphatic nodes through massage using detoxifying essential oils such as Grapefruit, Black Pepper, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon and Fennel . This will help to move sluggish lymph fluid (which contains toxins and waste products) back into the blood stream for detoxyfying bye the liver and filtration and elimination by the kidneys.

Constipation, if present, is treated both internally and externally. Internally the use of herbs and tonics are of great benefit in re-establishing correct functioning of the gastrointestinal tract so that the person will effectively digest and absorb the nutrients that their body needs. Herbs will also help to correct problems of elimination, help to correct any structural problems of the GIT and help to heal the structures within the GIT such as the villi in the small intestine, the stomach lining etc. Some herbs/tonics include bitter tonics such as Swedish Bitters and bulk laxatives such as psyllium husks.

Externally, constipation can be helped with warm baths and abdomen massage using stimulating essential oils such as Fennel, Marjoram, Rosemary and Black Pepper.

Diet is extremely important to the person’s health. The person’s diet will need to be examined and the person encouraged to change their diet to a high fibre, low fat (especially saturated fats), minimal processed foods. Lots of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, protein foods such as nuts, and minimal meat and dairy products. The person will need to be advised to minimise the amount of wheat products they eat a day as too many portions of wheat can lead to toxicity. Encourage the person to drink between 1 and 2 litres of fresh water a day.

Vitamin therapy is of great value to people who have boils. The vitamins are A, B complex, C and E, mineral supplements are Zinc, Cilica, Calcium Sulphate and Iron. Some herbs include Golden seal, Echinacea and Garlic. All of these will help with the detoxifying process. Drinking dandelion leaf and root tea will help support the kidneys and liver and help with elimination of the toxins and cleaning of the blood. Immune boosting herbs and/or remedies (such as Bach Flower remedies) will help the body fight the infection. Recommend that the person see a naturopath or herbalist for a full diagnosis and treatment of their condition. Replacing any wheat based breakfast foods with rolled oats in the morning has the effect of both detoxifying and toning the GIT, providing the person with a wide range of nutrients, high fibre and, a very good effect of oats, giving the person a natural anti-depressant, anti-stress food.

Toning of Tissues and Organ Systems:
Exercise not only tones the person’s muscles but also helps to keep all of their body functioning well. Simple exercising such as swimming, walking, yoga and Tai Chi are encouraged to keep the cardiac and lymphatic systems functioning at an optimal level. Weekly massages will help to keep the lymphatic system and the circulatory system working as well as maintaining a healthy blood and lymph supply to the skin.

Toning herbs, such as Goldenseal, Dandelion, Hops and Oats, will help to strengthen and tone all the internal organs and tissues and help repair any damage that has occurred. These will be given to them by their naturopath/herbalist.

Keep giving the person a lot of encouragement, support and positive feedback. Boils are painful and often embarrassing, especially when they’re noticeable, and the person will probably need a lot of emotional support. Diet and lifestyle changes are never easy when the person is run-down and tired.

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