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Treatment – Complimentary and Alternative Medicines

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a painful, chronic condition that is often difficult to treat. The disease begins when clogged hair follicles cause bumps that can lead to abscesses, inflammation, and more.

Many people with HS turn to complementary and alternative therapies to help with the symptoms related to HS. While these therapies may help many, these may not fit your needs. Discussing these options with your doctor may help manage some of the symptoms related to HS. Selection of various treatments depends on how severe your symptoms are and any additional health conditions you may have.1

Bleach baths

If your doctor determines that certain bacteria grows on your skin, the doctor may recommend that you take 5- or 10-minute bleach baths. If this is something your doctor thinks may benefit you, your doctor will instruct you on how to make these at home.2

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral. Zinc is found in some foods and is also available as a natural supplement. Zinc has many functions in the body. Deficiencies of zinc have been linked to skin problems and problems with immune system functions. Some studies have shown that zinc may be beneficial for some people with HS to improve immune system function. Zinc can cause problems if too much is taken. Always talk to your doctor about if this supplement may be valuable to your treatment plan.3,4

Turmeric

Turmeric is a flowering plant of the ginger family. Turmeric has been used medicinally for years in traditional Indian medicine, as well as Chinese and Eastern Asian medicine. Curcumin is an active component of turmeric. Today, curcumin is promoted as having anti-inflammatory benefits and is used as a supplement for a variety of conditions. Because of various side effects of prescribed medications that work on the immune system, turmeric and curcumin may be a helpful alternative. Your doctor will be able to tell you if this supplement may be helpful for you.5

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree. This has been used traditionally for many years as a therapy to help decrease bacterial growth on the skin. This may help with some of the painful growths on your skin. Tea tree oil should not be swallowed and is applied to the skin only.6,7

Castor oil

Castor oil is derived from a seed. This oil may be used as a topical treatment for HS to decrease the inflammation related to HS. This can be used as a pack, with the oil applied to cloth that is then applied to the skin.1

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a liquid that is distilled from the dried leaves, bark, and trees of the witch hazel plant. This liquid has been used as an alternative treatment for various skin conditions, including HS. Witch hazel has been used for relief of skin itching and inflammation. Witch hazel has also been used in moist compresses to promote drainage of abscesses in HS.8,9

Manuka honey

Manuka honey is a rich, dark honey with known antimicrobial properties. Research has shown that manuka honey has medicinal properties for healing wounds. The honey is applied directly to the wounds in an effort to promote healing.10,11

When considering complementary and alternative therapy for HS, reach out to your doctor. Like approved medical treatments, complementary and alternative therapies are not always appropriate for everyone. Having the conversation with your doctor first is a good first step when wanting to implement these therapy choices for treating the symptoms related to HS.

Written by: Katie Murphy | Last reviewed: December 2020
  1. Penney, S. (2015). Naturopathic Currents. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at https://www.naturopathiccurrents.com/articles/hidradenitis-suppurativa. Accessed 8/13/2020.
  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Diagnosis and Treatment. Available at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/hidradenitis-suppurativa-treatment. Accessed 8/13/2020.
  3. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc. Available at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Accessed 8/16/2020.
  4. Dr éno B, Khammari A, Brocard A, et al. Hidradenitis Suppurativa: The Role of Deficient Cutaneous Innate Immunity. Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(2):182–186. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.315.
  5. Aggarwal BB, Gupta SC, Sung B. Curcumin: an orally bioavailable blocker of TNF and other pro-inflammatory biomarkers. Br J Pharmacol. 2013;169(8):1672-1692. doi:10.1111/bph.12131.
  6. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Tea Tree Oil. Available at https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tea-tree-oil. Accessed 8/17/2020.
  7. Witmanowski H, Szychta P, Stępniewski S, Mackiewicz-Wysocka M, Czyżewska-Majchrzak L, Wasilewska A. Acne inversa goes an extra mile than hidradenitis suppurativa. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(4):255-260. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.37037.
  8. Natural Ingredients in Dermatology. The Dermatologist. Available at https://www.the-dermatologist.com/article/4325. Accessed 8/17/2020.
  9. University of Michigan. Witch Hazel Topical. Available at https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/d03762a1. Accessed 8/13/2020.
  10. Johnston M, McBride M, Dahiya D, Owusu-Apenten R, Nigam PS. Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS Microbiol. 2018;4(4):655-664. Published 2018 Nov 27. doi:10.3934/microbiol.2018.4.655
  11. Cooper R, Molan P, Krishnamoorthy L, Harding, K. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis (2001) 20:758–759. doi:10.1007/s100960100590.