Last Modified on Jun 22, 2014
Common Skin Infections - Causes and Treatments
Just as the name suggests, a skin infection is quite literally an infection of the skin. Typically, such an infection involves the colonization of foreign species on the skin at any level. The infecting organism generally invades the skin and then multiplies, causing a growing infection and spread of the condition. The pathogen or infecting organism typically interferes with the normal functioning of the host and can lead to additional issues such as chronic wounds, gangrene, the loss of a limb and even death if left untreated.
The exact symptoms of a skin infection are determined more specifically by the actual cause or type of infection. Nonetheless, many skin conditions cause fairly standard symptoms including redness, tenderness and swelling of the affected and adjacent skin. Itching, irritation and pus-filled lesions are also common of skin infections. Some severe infections may even cause fever, chills and sweats, extreme tenderness and swollen lymph nodes.
Common skin infections can be categorized into roughly four groups. Generally speaking, the categories identify the underlying cause of the disorder. The common types of skin infection include bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic. Common bacterial infections include cellulitis and impetigo while shingles, warts and herpes simplex represent viral skin infections. Athlete’s foot and yeast infections are fungal, and body lice, head lice and scabies are parasitic.
Natural Skin Infection Treatments
While many skin infections get better with time, treatment is often required to prevent spreading of the infection as well as additional complications. Most skin infections can be effectively treated using natural remedies such as turmeric, apple cider vinegar, boric acid, hydrogen peroxide and Echinacea root. Additionally, applying a poultice to the affected area also treats and eliminates infection. Effective poultice remedies include bread, charcoal and flaxseed, charcoal and garlic and onion. Keeping the affected skin clean and dry is also crucial.
Table of Contents
- QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Apple Cider Vinegar, Cayenne Pepper and Tumeric
- Boric Acid
- Bread Poultice
- Castor Oil
- Cat Bite Infection Remedies
- Charcoal Flaxseed Poultice
- Charcoal Poultice
- Echinacea Root
- Garlic and Onion Poultice
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Oregano Oil
- Potato Slice
- Remedies Needed
- Sinus Flooding
- Skin Infection Remedies
[YEA] 09/19/2009: Sean from Houston, Texas: "Thanks for your website. I developed a skin infection several weeks ago. I manifested itself by an itchy, red rash that developed into blister/boil type skin irritation just north of the knee. I soaked a piece of cotton gauze with apple cider vinegar and applied it directly to the area secured by a piece of paper tape overnight for 4 or 5 nights and also during the day a couple times. It completely healed up and is gone. Thank you."
[YEA] 04/05/2008: Adam from Melbourne, Australia: "Over a year ago I got some skin disorder from wearing dirty gloves. I ended up with about 10 patches on my hand where the skin would constantly peel off. I tried all sorts of moisterisers, then I had positive results from fungle creams and lotions but still kept coming back.So the Doctor was next, His medication never worked either. Then a bloke I know who proclaims to be an Alchemist said "Half water, half apple cider vinegar in a squirter bottle. Spray on the hands a couple of times a day. Plus drink a cap full". And wulla, its gone. Apparently it evens out the PH levels in the skin. I advise to use natural oils (eg. Coconut) to moisterise the skin also. Now to see if it can cure my reflux."Replies
05/30/2012: Courdylia from London, Ontario, Canada replies: "How long did you have to drink ACV and spray it on your hands to see results?"
09/24/2012: Ken from Santa Barbara, Ca replies: "For your reflux problem try green papaya enzyme powder or simply eat a lot of ripe papaya."
[YEA] 02/03/2014: Mary from Orange, Ct: "This is my recipe for an infection (of any kind) and general well being.
1/4 cup boiling H2O, 1 Tablespoon ACV, Cayenne to taste and a squirt of Honey. I make a tea from this. Let it cool and drink down. This is fast and easy.
Take a large serving spoon add honey and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Turmeric. Mix with a smaller spoon and gobble down.
The Cayenne in the tea drink will support the Turmeric/Honey mix. Otherwise if you only want to do step 2 then add Cayenne to that.
Chase with water.
I am 66, female, white, weigh 130 and in good health. I am not on any Rx drugs. And I LOVE Earth Clinic."
[YEA] 02/24/2011: Quinn from Cheyenne, Wyoming, Usa: "I have had recurring cracked thumb tips on the sides of the fingernail and have tried many types of moisturizing creams, vaseline, bandaids, etc. The cracks would heal and then kept coming back.
After learning from your site that painful, cracked finger tips can be caused by a bacterial infection, I mixed 1/2 tablespoon Boric Acid and 1/2 cup boiling water and allowed the mixture to cool. Every time I walked by the mixture, I dipped my fingertips in the boric acid solution, immediately the pain ceased and within two days the cracks were entirely healed over.
Thanks Earthclinic for all of your wonderful suggestions, and I hope this one will help someone!"
[YEA] 06/28/2011: Linda from Scranton, United States: "evaporated milk over bread you use it to an infected area n it draws out the infection. it even removes glass from your foot."
[YEA] 07/03/2010: Scott from Hanston, Ks, Usa: "Bread Poultice - Infection & Splinter Cure
This was a remedy used by my Grandmother for years, living on the farm, it was too far to run to the doctor for small infections, spider bites, splinters, glass, asphalt, scrapes, puss, etc.. You would soak a piece of bread with water, at bedtime, wrap it with bread wrapper to hold moisture in, and wrap with Ace (elastic) Bandage. When you awoke in the morning the venom, splinter, glass, rocks, infection and or puss lay on the surface of the bread. Acts like a sponge drying out, creating suction & removing obstruction. Other than the 3 hour bath (wrinkly) skin, laughing aloud, it works miracles."
[YEA] 05/14/2007: Scott from Pen Argyl, PA: "Calcium can cure certain infections. I learned about this from an infomercial on coral calcium which I initially ignored. I'd cut myself grooming my dog and the cut became slightly infected. I remember the commercial so I decided to try calcium in a 2-1 ration with magnesium with vitamin D, 2 tablets every 4-6 hours. It took 2 days for the infection to go away. I tried this again when I'd gotten bitten breaking up a fight when my dog was attacked by another. This happens occasionally since my dog is for stud and is thus unneutered. I'd gone to the emergency room each time and had antibiotics prescribed which didn't always work and would take between 2 to 4 weeks to cure the infections. I've been developing a resistance to antibiotics.
On this occasion I knew the emergency room would only prescribe expensive antibiotics again. I started taking the calcium but these have been nasty infections so I made an appointment to see a doctor in her office rather than paying the exorbitant emergency room costs.
The doctor confirmed the infection and was surprised it wasn't worse. I explained how I was treating myself with calcium. She declined to prescribe any antibiotics but told me if the infection didn't get any better to call her and she'd call in a prescription to my local pharmacy. I didn't make that call. After 3 days of treatment the infection was completely gone.
The theory behind why calcium works on infections is that bacteria and viruses may need an more acidic environment in which to survive. Lowering the acidity sufficiently makes the body and inhospitable environment for bacteria and viruses and kills them off.
There are two important risks to consider. This may not be true of all infections so if it is a serious infection it is wise to consult a doctor.
The other important risk is with cardiovascular diseases. Calcium might add to plaque in the arteries. This could kill you. Consult with a doctor before you try calcium if you even think you might have cardiovascular problems."Replies
[YEA] 02/22/2011: Larry from Missoula, Mt. Usa replies: "The comments on using calcium to reduce the acidity, and thus make the body less a host for the invading organism, is right on. I found, quite by accident, some years ago, that eating hot peppers, such as in spicy mexican food, at the sign of a cold or flu would quickly eliminate all symptoms. The peppers are alkaline, and thus return the body's natural acid/base balance.
On the net a while back, I found a natural "detox" solution that I now keep on hand to treat any type of infections. It is made up of hot peppers, garlic, myrrh gum powder, 100 proof vodka, and ionic silver water. I'm not a doctor, and not advising this for anyone else, or for treatment of any specific ailment. It is only MY observations, based upon what has worked for me."
07/17/2011: Desiree from Portland, Or replies: "Hi, Can you please send me your detox recipe, including the amounts and name brands. Name brands will help me locate the product. Thanks!"
[YEA] 03/11/2014: Karen S from Calgary, Alberta: "Castor Oil Packs are near miraculous!!
My 12 yr old son caught his big toe under a door and part of his nail ripped off. He was in a alot of pain, and is somewhat of a nervous nellie-patient, so I only had time to wash it with warm soapy water and then lather it with manuka honey and turmeric. While this worked great for a week or two, there was a minor infection underneath the nail and a scab, that he would not let be touched. Castor Oil packs to the rescue! I was able to wrap his toe in flannel and then some plastic wrap, with a hot water bottleon top for 1hr two nights in a row. This was able to turn the skin pink and healthy immediately, and then the scab and torn nail flaked off on their own the next day. The packs were able to heal from the inside. I never woud have even heard of them without this site. I luv EC!!"
03/15/2013: Mesem from Riez, France: "24 Dec 2012, I was bitten by a cat. Later that day I got a tetanus injection and antibiotics. My hand stayed highly swollen for more than a month. My problem is that there is still infection in my hand (can't make a fist with my hand) still painful, slightly inflammed and circulation decrease. Doctors will not look at it! I have been to 2 and they just say silly things and do nothing. This is in France! The infection has remained isolated in my hand, no sign on skin. Help."Replies
03/15/2013: Om from Hope, B.C. Canada replies: "Re: cat bites. I have had many rescue cats and not many bites at all. The ones treated at hospital took weeks and were unpeasant. But here is THE remedy. Would you believe next morning you can hardly discern the bite, all looks good and normal, no pain? The remedy is good quality turmeric. Stick your affected part into the powder and press it on right away. The bleeding will stop, the pain disappears. I always have turmeric in at least two places in the house. Any bleeding will be stopped. Antibiotics suppress the immune system so govern yourself with common sense. Next morning I could hardly see the tooth mark. By the way, when a cat bites, something is wrong with the animal and try to find out what you can do to help. Turmeric is a gift from the gods! Om"
03/15/2013: Catherine from Wellington, New Zealand replies: "Sounds dreadful, I can only think of colloidal silver that might help?? or ionic silver.. Supposed to be very antibacterial. Check it out on the internet. Also bathing the hand in magnesium chloride flakes might help with the swelling."
03/15/2013: Joy from Battleground , Wash replies: "I wonder if the cat could have a parasite in its saliva. An antibiotic and tetenus wouldn't treat that."
03/16/2013: David from Fountain Inn, Sc replies: "Two items will work wonders: For bites use echinacea, an herb. Buy the extract and apply onto white cloth or white paper towel and let dry against the bite. Apply ten drops more and let dry. Do it again.
One spider bite case I came across, I had the application on the bite (neck) for a dozen applications over a twenty four hour period.
While this poultice is working, take five drops of the echinacea in a glass of water and drink over an hour. An hour later another five drops in a glass of water and drink. I learned the amazing wonder of echinacea anti venom effect reading a book written by a Texas doctor who used it for any spider bite and even snake bites. The book was written about 1910. (Certainly I'm not saying to ignore going to an emergency room in case of any bite such as snake or dangerous spider.)
And also don't forget colloidal silver which can kill virus, fungus and bacteria. Apply topically with the same technique as echinacea discussed above. Also drink two tablespoons every waking hour for two days... Longer if the infection has been present for over a month. In the case of a long term infection the "bug" could have gone systemic and so I would keep using the silver or two months to make sure the infection is killed.
The bite you describe would have me using both echinacea and the silver. But if you can't get one, use the other. Echinacea also works great on ANY bite that I've come across... Any insect and when I get odd "itches" on tops of feet or hands, legs etc. , I just drip some echinacea on top of irritated area (any itching spot) and let the drops dry. Ten minutes later I re apply. It will dry slightly "tacky" but after the second application, the itching is gone."
03/16/2013: Mesem from Riez, France replies: "Thanks, the swelling is slight, all is internal, no wound marks at all. This silver remedy, drink it, swim in it, what to do? I eat pretty well; fruit and vege. The attitude of doctor is scary."
03/17/2013: Mesem from Riez, France replies: "Thanks David, I will see if I can actually buy colloidial silver, the echinacea yes. I repeat that I no longer have a wound or any sign of. The cat bit my thumb, but it's always been the little finger side that has been most affected."
[YEA] 02/20/2008: Rachel from Cambridge, UK: "I tried the Chamomile bath above for an infected cut in my foot after the doctor told me I would have to take oral antibiotics (my fourth course in 2008!) if it did not improve in two days. I bathed the cut twice a day for fifteen minutes (two tea bags in a litre of water). I also used an antibacterial cream and a paste of tumeric and honey (kept on for fifteen minutes after the chamomile bath - dyed my food yellow). Day three and the infection is nearly gone."
[YEA] 07/05/2007: Marinette from Cleveland, U.S.A: "One of the best remedies for infections is strong chamomile tea. Our family has used this for many years. An elderly woman we knew years ago, fell down the stairs which resulted in an ugly infection in her hand. She was diabetic and the doctors could not heal her. My mom made a pan of strong chamomile tea and the woman soaked her hand in it for 15 minutes. Immediately you could see a difference. She continued doing this for a few days and was completely healed. It is best to make the tea fresh each time. Thank you for this excellent website!"
[YEA] 06/22/2014: Mama to Many from Tennessee: "My 84 year old father was visiting and had an infected finger, sort of like an infected hangnail. The finger was red and a little swollen and it looked like it had some puss. I put a charcoal/flax poultice on his finger for the day. By evening, when I checked there was A LOT of puss. (The charcoal draws the infection to the surface.) I sterilized a needle and gently poked a hole in the skin, which was soft from wearing the poultice all day. I got out a lot of thick, opaque, puss. It was pretty gross! I put a new poultice on it over night. It looked pretty good in the morning but I went ahead and dressed it again and send him with some poultices "to go" since he was returning home that day.
A few months ago my father had scraped his arm and it wasn't healing well and was inflamed looking. I put charcoal poultices on it day and night for several days and it improved so much and finally did heal nicely.
~Mama to Many~"
[YEA] 07/07/2012: Jan from Cheshire, Ma, Usa: "When my oldest son was a young boy, he contracted a serious infection in the palm of his hand. He got up one morning with red streaks running up his arm past his elbow. I knew the seriousness of that, called the pediatrician, but the earlist they could get him in would have been 4 that afternoon, and I knew that would be too late. The only other alternative was take him to the ER. With two additional children under the age of 5 and no car, ER wasn't an option. I had read somewhere how to make a charcoal/flaxseed poultice for infections, and decided to give it a try.
It worked SO WELL! I applied warmed poultices to the palm of my son's hand every 10-15 minutes (starting at about 10 that morning) and could physically see the red streak being pulled down his arm by the poultice after just a few applications. By about 2 that afternoon, there was no redness in the arm at all, and he was touching the area around the wound in his palm saying, "Gee, it doesn't even hurt any more. "
The toughest part was actually calling and cancelling the appointment I'd made with the pediatrician. I was excitedly sharing the good news with the nurse when she interrupted me, told me that what I was telling her wasn't possible, that I would be "irresponsible" if I didn't bring my son in to see the doctor, because I'd described a serious, life-threatening condition to her. Even when I told her again that the poultice had worked amazingly well, she seemed not to hear me, and when she began to call me a negligent parent I told her she was simply being a very rude nurse, ended our relationship with that office, and hung up the phone.
Here's the recipe for a charcoal flaxseed poultice:
Grind 1-3 TBSP flaxseed in a blender. Mix with 1-3 TBSP activated charcoal powder.
Mix with 1/3 to 1 cup of water. Let set for about 10 minutes OR heat till bubbly and remove from heat, allowing mixture to gel. (For smaller amount, the ratio is 1TBSP/1TBSP/1/3 cup water; larger amount, 3TBSP/3TBSP/1 cup. )
Cut a rectangle of paper toweling twice the size of the finished "square" that you need--fold the rectangle in half to make your square, then open out again. Spread about 1/4 inch of the poultice mixture over half the paper toweling; fold the remaining half over to make a square "sandwich" with the poultice as the "filling. " Cut a piece of plastic wrap (a plastic sandwich bag also works nicely) about Â½ inch larger (all around) than your poultice. Place the poultice on the area to be covered, lay the plastic wrap over that, and then tape in place with cloth tape, or in a pinch, use bandaids.
These types of poultices work very well when left in place overnight. Infections are often gone by morning. If using overnight, or for a long period throughout the day, after securing plastic wrap with tape, wrap area with an ace bandage to hold all securely in place. (Obviously, that's not possible on every area of the body; if you can't ace-bandage leaving the area securely covered with just the plastic will work just fine.
If doing an emergency, intensive care poulticing, the way I did with my son, don't use an ace bandage; keep the area heated constantly by soaking a washcloth or other absorbent material in very hot water, and hold it in place over the plastic- covered poultice until the cloth cools off, (10 minutes) then re-soak in hot water, and keep re-applying for as long as necessary to see some improvement. Depending on severity of infection, the poultice itself can be changed/renewed if necessary after several applications of heated washcloth have been applied.
08/01/2012: Louise from Clarkston, Mi replies: "Thank you for including complete details. So often on this site these are not included. I will try this tonight. I have had a large infection behind my ear for a week now and started making a paste with activated charcoal, about 5 drops of cayenne tincture, and 5 drops of Goldenseal and enough water to make a paste. Last night I left it on all night and woke the most comfortable I've been. The infection area has reduced significantly. The "center" of it is still swollen but pain is gone and I just feel healthy again and clear thinking. I'll try the flaxseed and expect it will finish it off tonight."
07/14/2012: Randy from N. Baltimore, Oh, Usa: "Can I use a charcoal poultice on an infected area while taking the antibiotic Cipro?"Replies
07/15/2012: Lisa from Jacksonville, Fl replies: "Yes, my daughter and I both used topical applications while taking an antibiotic. It should speed healing. I used turmeric, silver cream, file and iodine also."
07/15/2012: Matt from Somerville, Alabama / USA replies: "Don't take the Cipro. It is a member of the flouroquinolones class of antibiotics. These antibiotics cause significant damage to many systems in your body for a significant percentage of people who take them. The percentage of people harmed is much higher than the few percent reported on the black box warnings. The effects are commonly seen weeks or months later and may require more than one round of treatment before they are seen. My daughter spent nearly 2 years suffering horribly from this drug. There are other much safer more effective antibiotics."
[YEA] 02/12/2013: Kgd from Saint Louis, Mo: "I had skin problems that got gradually worse over a 20 year period during my 20's, 30's & 40's. It manifested in several different ways...
1. acute skin infections mainly on upper legs and butt that would quickly swell up larger than a pimple but smaller than a boil... Topical tea tree oil would dry these out quickly. Otherwise the infections would remain and get larger eventually erupting like a giant pimple
2. a dense cluster of seemingly benign red spots on lower legs and ankles that didn't change very much and itched very little.
3. more recently... extreme sudden itching on the forearms and back of neck with no visible rash that could be relieved only by directly rubbing with freshly cut garlic
I was looking for remedies in a James Duke herbal remedy book and had the insight that this might be a systemic yeast infection manifesting through the skin.
I tested some of his remedies in isolation like high daily doses of garlic added to juice for 3 weeks then high doses of goldenseal for 3 weeks. These worked great, especially goldenseal, but the skin infections came raging back within a week after stopping each herb.
Then I tried echinacea root. I had been effectively using it to stop acute respiratory infections since 1996 by chewing a pinch of dried root for 45 minutes - typically once a day for 1-5 days at a time.
Since some people say it's OK to use it for up to 3 weeks before it loses effectiveness, I got the idea to do exactly that in August 2012. The skin infections stopped - even the spots on my lower legs that had been there for almost 20 years. Then I stopped the echinacea after 3 weeks and there was no rebound effect. Apparently the echinacea killed the microbe populations that were causing 3 different types of skin infections. I had 3 full months of relief. The tea tree oil bottle gathered dust because I didn't need it. During December the symptoms gradually returned so I did another 3-week round of echinacea in January.
In the central US you can just grow a patch of echinacea (purple coneflower) in your yard, then cut, dry, and store one root at a time as needed. It doesn't take very much, and a small amount stored in a sealed jar can last for several years without deteriorating."