​Cory Martin is the author of seven books including "Love Sick" a memoir about dating, life in Hollywood and dealing with MS. Her essays have appeared online with CNN, HuffPost, Everyday Health, Psychology Today, Folks, The Mighty, and more.
Leah Ansell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes painful pus-filled pimple-like boils that can leave scarring in areas such as the armpits and groin. The hallmark boils of the disease are caused by blocked hair follicles and sweat glands that become inflamed or infected.
These boils often erupt and seep pus that can have a smell due to a combination of infection and dead skin cells. Some people may experience itching or pain in the areas before the boils form.
A progressive disease, HS is categorized into three stages through the Hurley staging system. While there’s no known cure for HS, treatment is available to help minimize flare-ups and prevent progression to stage three
Living with HS can be mentally and physically painful, luckily there are natural remedies to help alleviate symptoms.
In this article, you'll learn about various natural treatment options for HS and lifestyle changes you can make to prevent flare-ups of the disease.
Martin Harvey / Getty Images
Many people with HS find that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) options are quite helpful at relieving symptoms and preventing flare-ups.
In one study from 2020, about 50% of participants reported supplementing with turmeric and zinc to help treat their HS, while around 90% said they've made dietary changes. Of those that made dietary changes, 46% noted the changes as beneficial.
While there are many options for treating HS at home, it is always best to talk with a healthcare provider before starting any new therapy.
Tea tree oil is an antimicrobial that’s known to kill certain bacteria. It can be applied to HS lesions to help prevent infections.
Turmeric (curcumin) is a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties, It can be added to many foods such as eggs, soups, and salad dressings.
Supplements that contain high quantities of turmeric can also provide similar benefits.
A dry warm compress such as a heating pad can help relieve pain from an inflamed pimple-like boil. Keeping the area dry can help prevent infection.
CBD, or cannabinoid oils, either applied topically or ingested have shown to anecdotally improve symptoms and pain. However, more research is needed.

Epsom salt baths can help relieve pain and reduce the inflammation that occurs due to HS.

Taking a bath in a diluted solution of bleach (sodium hypochlorite) has an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect that can occur within five minutes.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the proper dilution of the bleach with water.
Antiperspirants with multiple chemicals have been shown anecdotally to irritate the skin where HS lesions occur. Using a natural deodorant without aluminum can help prevent irritation.
Using aloe vera gel has been shown to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and wound healing effects on the skin.
Zinc is known to help the immune system fight infection and has been shown to help with symptoms of HS.
Zinc can be found in foods like oysters, crab, beef, beans, chicken, or taken as a supplement.
Honey is widely known to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat wounds.
Putting honey in food or drinking it in tea may help with HS.
Neem oil can help with wounds that don’t heal. The inability to heal is common as HS progresses.
One study from 2018 found that apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties. Applying a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar to the wound can help fight bacteria and prevent odor.
Wound care is very important with HS to limit scarring and prevent further infection.
Rubbing Alcohol can help keep the skin clean and prevent further flare-ups. Don’t put rubbing alcohol on open wounds as it will burn. Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean open wounds.
Flare-ups of HS can be painful, causing wounds that don’t heal and scarring. Taking steps to prevent flare-ups can make life with the disease more manageable. Options to prevent flare-ups include lifestyle changes and maintaining proper hygiene and a healthy weight.
The following options can help prevent or minimize flare-ups. They include but aren’t limited to:
HS is a progressive inflammatory disease. There's no known cure for HS, but treatment can help prevent flare-ups and stop disease progression.
There are many options for treating HS naturally, including making dietary changes, supplementing with turmeric and zinc, taking Epsom salt baths, and making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, among more. These can help relieve symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment to determine if it's the right fit for you.
If you live with HS, it's best to talk with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that works for you. Your provider will take into consideration your medical history and the stage of your HS. Most effective treatment plans for HS will combine natural and pharmaceutical methods to help you relieve symptoms and delay disease progression.
If you experience a severe flare-up and want to try a natural therapy, contact your healthcare provider immediately. While natural methods can be extremely beneficial it's always best to talk to your doctor before implementing them.
Non-irritating soaps are best for HS. Some dermatologists may recommend or prescribe a soap that contains benzoyl peroxide to reduce bacteria.
Topical antibiotics, retinoids, oral antibiotics, and biologics are all used to treat HS.
Smoking is known to delay or prevent healing of wounds. In HS, delayed healing can cause complications and infection.
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Price KN, Thompson AM, Rizvi O, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine use in patients with hidradenitis suppurativaJAMA Dermatol. 2020;156(3):345-348. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.4595
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Sivanand A, Gulliver WP, Josan CK, Alhusayen R, Fleming PJ. Weight loss and dietary interventions for hidradenitis suppurativa: a systematic reviewJournal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2020;24(1):64-72. doi:10.1177/1203475419874412
Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and health: a review of recent clinical researchPharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(2):121-127. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.204647
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