An abscess is a painful collection of pus that is caused by a bacterial infection. Abscesses can be divided into two types:

  • those that develop just under the skin, and
  • those that develop inside the body.

A skin abscess often appears as a swollen, pus-filled lump under the surface of the skin, or it may look more like an open break in the skin. Abscesses are often red and painful. A boil is a common example of a skin abscess.

Abscesses inside the body are not usually visible, making them more difficult to identify. They can develop within an organ, such as in the lungs, or brain, or in the spaces between organs, causing pain in the affected area.

Anyone can develop an abscess, and they can occur almost anywhere in the body.

In most cases, skin abscesses affect people who are otherwise well. They are caused by an infection in the root of a hair, or by a blocked sweat gland. Skin abscesses are more common among people who have diabetes.

Internal abscesses often develop as a complication of an existing condition, such as an abscess in the tonsils after a bout of tonsillitis (known as quinsy). People who have an underlying health condition, or damage to their immune system, are more likely to be affected by internal abscesses.

An abscess is usually treated in aromatherapy by means of hot compresses placed over the swelling, to reduce pain and inflammation and 'draw out' toxic matter. For a dental abscess, hot compresses should be applied to the face until a dentist can be consulted.

The most effective essential oils for treating an abscess are Bergamot, Camomile (especially for a dental abscess), Lavender and Tea tree (singly or in combination). The person's general health should also be considered. Advice on a non-toxic diet and maybe vitamin/mineral supplementation may be needed, especially if the condition is recurrent.

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