Eric Bakker N.D.May 6, 2022

Cellulitis is a common but serious bacterial skin infection. The affected skin is swollen, red, painful, and heated to the touch. Aside from the lower legs, cellulitis can affect the face, arms, and other places.

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Do You Have Cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a relatively common (and potentially serious) skin infection that involves bacteria. I’ve often found it to mostly affect the lower legs and/or feet. It will appear as a hot, swollen and very tender area that can itch like crazy for some. Cellulitis can spread to different areas of the body and even potentially be life threatening in some of the more rare cases. It isn’t contagious so don’t worry about “catching” it from others!

Cellulitis can affect the deeper tissues of the body as well as the skin’s surface and it can also at times spread to your lymph nodes and get into the bloodstream and cause more widespread systemic infection. I’ve found this particularly so in those with very high levels of stress and poor diets.

It is most often caused by staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria, but at times can also be caused by other types of bacteria. Most cases I’ve seen generally resolve within several days or a few weeks, but with some of the more serious cases it can drag on for months and months. The longer the infection, the higher the risk of cellulitis becoming more severe and even quite dangerous, leaving you wide open for a major systemic (and life threatening) infection.

If you are worried and don’t seem to get a handle on things, in spite of trying my suggestions below, then do see your doctor for a correct diagnosis and treatment. It is important to get right onto these kinds of infections promptly, and if it resolves and doesn’t come back then great, but if you find yourself with recurring cellulitis or antibiotic-resistant cellulitis then don’t waste your time taking repeated courses of antibiotics! You will only end up in a lot bigger mess than you did before.

Causes Of Cellulitis

Cellulitis occurs when streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria enter through a break in your skin. The incidence of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a much more serious staphylococcus infection and is increasing, it is one of the main reasons why I don’t like antibiotics.

Cellulitis can occur where the skin has been broken, and the lower limbs are often affected because the circulation to these areas is often less great than it is to the upper extremities. This will mean that less oxygen and nutrients reach the area, and fewer waste products and returned back to the liver and kidneys for processing. So make sure you treat any cuts, grazes, scratches, insect bites, ulcers, burns or surgical wounds promptly. Skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema or candida fungal infections can also make you more prone to cellulitis.

You don’t get cellulitis unless your immune and/or circulatory systems are compromised. You may like to read more about adrenal fatigue, I’ve found those who suffer with adrenal fatigue to be much more prone to cellulitis. With a good immune system, the bacteria on your skin’s surface will cause you no harm, even with cuts and scrapes, because infections will be promptly dealt with by a swift immune response. However, when your immune response is poor or weak, bacteria that penetrate the skin’s surface and much more likely to cause an infection that can lead to cellulitis.

Certain types of insect or spider bites also can transmit the bacteria that start the infection. Bacteria can also enter through areas of dry, flaky skin or swollen skin.

Factors that can predispose you to developing cellulitis are

  • Any injury. A cut to your skin, any fracture, burn or scrape that may give bacteria an entry point. Get right onto any acute kind of injury at once!
  • A weakened immune system response. Conditions that weaken your immune system — such as adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, diabetes, shingles, chicken pox, leukaemia and HIV/AIDS — leave you more a lot more susceptible to different kinds of infections. Certain drugs like antibiotics corticosteroids can also weaken your immune system, especially if used recurrently.
  • Different skin conditions. There are many different kinds of skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, shingles and chickenpox that can cause breaks in your skin’s surface and allow bacteria an easy entry point.
  • Diabetes. Those with diabetes are much more prone to developing cellulitis, and I’ve seen many diabetics with this condition, especially those who were quite overweight with poorly controlled blood sugar levels.
  • Candida patients. Men or women with recurrent or chronic candida yeast infections are more prone, they have a weakened immune response and can develop cellulitis more easily than those without any yeast infection.
  • Lymphedema (chronic swelling of your arms or legs). Swollen tissue cause by an accumulation of lymph fluid may crack, leaving your skin especially vulnerable to bacterial infection.
  • Poor circulation. Do you have varicose veins or haemorrhoids? Do you have problems with cold feet or poor circulation to your legs? You may be at a higher risk of cellulitis.
  • A previous history of cellulitis. Have you previously had cellulitis, especially of the lower leg? Then you may be more prone to develop it recurrently.
  • IV drug use. People who inject illegal drugs have a higher risk of developing cellulitis, as well as a whole host of other diseases like hepatitis.
  • Being overweight. This is a big cause, I’ve found that being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing cellulitis and having recurring episodes.
  • Poor diet and lifestyle. Those people who eat the wrong (junk) foods and who lead a lifestyle that includes the ‘sitting’ disease, i.e., they don’t get off their chair enough and move around.

Signs And Symptoms Of Cellulitis

There are many possible signs and symptoms of cellulitis, and no two cases will look exactly the same. As I’ve mentioned previously, the infection mostly occurs on the lower legs but at times if chronic and more serious may occur anywhere on your body. In most all cases, the affected area usually looks red and swollen, and feels hot, tender and painful. It may itch and this can range from mild to severe and most extreme. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms:

  • Red, hot skin
  • Tight skin
  • Red spots on the skin
  • Painful skin to touch
  • Warmth and/or heat
  • Itching skin
  • Tingling or ‘pricking’ skin sensations
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness ranging from mild to severe
  • Blisters
  • Skin infections
  • Dimpling of the skin

Natural Treatment Of Cellulitis

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, and while you may not like this kind of treatment (nor do I) there is a time and place for this kind of treatment, especially if the infection is serious or not responding to any kind natural treatment (rare but possible). I’m interested in recommending you the most effective natural treatments, but sometimes the pharmaceutical drugs may need to be called upon.

If you have a fever and a bad case of cellulitis you will want to go to your emergency room promptly, you may well be requiring intravenous antibiotics by this stage, but if you follow my recommendations on this page you may well be able to fast track your recovery and avoid all these more invasive (and side effect) treatments.

The trick is to treat ANY skin infections promptly and don’t let the infection get out of hand! Use Tea Tree Oil (Australian) immediately on any cut, scrape or wound. It makes sense for you to avoid an infection getting out of hand in the first place, rather than trying to treat a full-blown infection. Would you try and put out a house fire when the entire structure is in flames, including the roof? I think it would be a bit wiser to put out the fire in the pan on the stove first, don’t you?

1. Tea Tree Oil

Australian tea tree oil is one of the most potent (and my favourite) of the essential oils when it comes to curing skin infections. Tea tree oil (be sure it is Melaleuca alternifolia, Australian tea tree oil) is renowned for its strong antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and is therefore highly beneficial for treating cellulitis. The indigenous Aboriginal people of north-eastern New South Wales (a State of Australia) had known about the healing and disinfecting properties of tea tree oil for tens of thousands of years, long before the development of any pharmaceutical drugs. They applied poultices of crushed tea tree leaves to cuts and wounds and inhaled the volatile oil from the crushed leaves to alleviate congestion and respiratory tract infections.
The scientific discovery of the plant’s virtues came in 1923 when the leading state government chemist, Arthur Penfold, tested the oil of the tea tree and determined its antiseptic action was about 12 times stronger than the widely used carbolic acid. Extensive clinical trials with medical and dental colleagues in London and Sydney led to glowing reports in the distinguished scientific journals of the day.

The Near-Perfect Antiseptic

Indeed, the 1930’s and 1940’s saw tea tree oil widely acclaimed as a “near perfect antiseptic”, so much so that during World War II Australian soldiers were issued with tea tree oil in their first aid kits. The troops also sang the praises of tea tree oil’s insect repellent and anti-fungal properties. At home, it was put to an amazing spectrum of uses from shampoo, toothpaste and smelly feet to boils, acne and head lice. It is absolutely perfect for cellulitis.

Here is how you use tea tree oil:

  • Put one or two drops of 100 percent pure tea tree essential oil on a cotton bud and dab it on the site of the infection. Leave it on for at least two to three hours before it is washed off.
  • You can also mix several drops in coconut oil, or aloe vera or New Zealand Manuka honey, applying it directly to the skin and just like the tea tree oil, leave it there for several hours before removing it.
  • Use Australian tea tree oil at least once per day on the affected areas.

2. Coconut Oil

The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae (palm family). This amazing tree of life as it is called is found throughout the tropic and subtropics and is well known for its incredible versatility as can be seen in the many domestic, commercial, and industrial uses of its different parts such as the husk, oil, water and copra.

Like tea tree oil and garlic, you will inhibit the reproduction and even kill-off many diferent kinds of bacteria as well as candida particularly well if you include some coconut oil and coconut cream in your diet each day. Coconut contains fatty acids that inhibits many pathogens including yeasts and bacteria, and in addition contains many beneficial properties that help prevent bacterial and viral infections. It is also tastes great. It supports immune system function, supplies important nutrients necessary for good health and improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients from proteins and carbohydrates.

The saturated fat in coconut oil is easily digested and absorbed, unlike the unnatural man-made hydrogenated fats or oils that act just like plastic in the body. Coconut oil places very little strain on the digestive system and provides a quick source of energy necessary to promote healing.

The big difference is that coconut oil, cream and butter are absorbed into bloodstream directly from the intestines through the lymph system, whereas other fats require pancreatic enzymes and bile to break them into smaller units and then they transported to the liver, where they are processed before entering the bloodstream. That is why these excellent saturated fats put very little strain on the digestive system, even for people who have had difficulty digesting fats, have gall bladder problems or if they do not have a gall bladder. I have found women who have had their gallbladders removed can easily tolerate coconut oil without the reflux or nausea experienced with other oils or fats.

When buying coconut oil look for one that is cold or expeller-pressed, unrefined, unbleached, un-deodorized and non-hydrogenated. Coconut oil is highly resistant to spoilage and has a long shelf life (at least 2 years or more at room temperature), so it is not kept refrigerated. It is kept in the cupboard or on the kitchen counter. Many people freak out when I tell them to consume more coconut oil and cream, when in fact coconuts have been consumed for thousands of years by many cultures that lived long and healthy and productive lives. We have been led to believe that all saturated fats are bad for our health, which is far from the truth.

Like other saturated fats coconut oil goes solid when cooled below room temperature. Coconut oil has a high burning point and is the perfect oil for cooking. It can be used alone, or mixed with butter, a little lard or other good fats for cooking and frying. Coconut oil can be taken by the spoonful with meals to aid digestion or melted on cooked foods. The most common healing reactions are stomach upsets and diarrhea because coconut oil is anti-fungal so it kills off candida and also helps clean out toxins. Stomach upsets can be caused by candida being killed off, and diarrhea is a way for the body to get rid of toxins. Other healing reactions may include increased mucus in the intestines, throat, nose, sinuses, lungs, etc.

Coconut oil contains many different kinds of medium-chain fatty acids which helps fight bacteria and yeasts. Coconut oil is also soothing for the skin and has healing properties. I recommend that you use it as a ‘carrier’ oil for treating cellulitis, i.e., mix some tea tree or oregano oil in with it and apply it to the areas affected.

Here’s what you do with coconut oil when it comes to cellulitis:

  1. Apply coconut oil on the affected area, but mix a few drops of Australian tea tree oil in with it first.
  2. Leave it on for several hours and then wash it off.
  3. Re-apply at least two to three times daily until the cellulitis is cured.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric belongs to the ginger family, it is a root that is commonly grown in many Asian countries and is used particularly in curry dishes, giving the characteristic yellow colouring so prevalent in Asian cooking. Turmeric has become very popular the past five years especially, although naturopaths like me have been recommending it for more than twenty years if not more. Turmeric is a powerful natural antibiotic and antiseptic to prevent and treat cellulitis. Its active ingredient curcumin also provides anti-inflammatory benefits.

Make sure you buy fresh turmeric powder, the brighter the yellow/orange colour (the colour can vary widely) the better the turmeric. You can buy it at your local Asian grocer, I tend to buy it in a large amount because I use it for lots of different applications. Turmeric contains a fatty substance (curcumin) that works best when liberated in a fat or oil before it is applied. You can spend lots of money on fancy turmeric dietary supplements but when should you? Just buy turmeric powder!

Here’s what you do with turmeric powder when it comes to cellulitis: 

  • Mix one teaspoon of a good quality turmeric powder (look at the colour) in a glass of milk (cow’s milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc.) and warm it up – without boiling it. You can also add a little New Zealand Manuka honey. Drink warmed turmeric milk twice daily until the infection clears, take 4 t0 8 ounces at a time.
  • If you don’t want to drink turmeric milk, you can take 500 to 600 mg of standardised curcumin powder, three times daily for two to three months. In my opinion, the drink works better, it is my clinical experience.
  • Make a turmeric poultice by mixing one tablespoon of New Zealand Manuka honey and add one level teaspoon of turmeric powder in addition to four drops of tea tree oil. Mix all this together, then add two teaspoons of bentonite clay, enough to make a smooth paste. Apply this turmeric poultice on the affected area and leave it on for at least 30 to 45 minutes minutes before rinsing it off. Use it daily for a up to two weeks, more if you benefit from its use.

4. Calendula

Calendula is an herbal medicine I use frequently for speeding up the healing of skin. It is perfect for wounds and infections and allows the skin cells to heal more rapidly. Calendula flowers are pretty orange flowers and common in gardens in summertime. Calendula is very soothing for red, swollen, tender and irritated skin, it helps to fight bacterial infections in particular and is found in many personal care products for this reason. In addition, calendula promotes the flow of blood and lymph fluid to affected areas and stimulates the production of collagen, thereby promoting the healing of wounds, burns and scars.

Here’s what you do with calendula when it comes to cellulitis: 

  • First you ned to get hold of some calendula flowers. Steep one tablespoon of crushed calendula flowers in a cup of very hot water, cover at once and leave for 15 minutes. Dip a clean piece of clean cloth in this herbal infusion and apply it on the affected area – especially to the edges of any wounds, cuts, infections or ulcers. Leave it on for at least 20 minutes. Repeat for at least three times daily for two weeks.
  • If you can’t get any calendula flowers, try to get some calendula herbal tincture, mix one teaspoon into a tablespoon of warm water and use this instead of the calendula infused water.
  • You can also apply a good quality calendula cream a couple of times a day until you see improvement.

5. Oregano Oil

Oregano (origanum vulgare) is a perennial herb growing to a height of 20 inches, with purple flowers and spade-shaped, olive-green leaves. It is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.
Oregano is well known in the Mediterranean world (Greece and Crete) for its ability to slow down food spoilage through its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and anti-oxidant activity. It was used many centuries ago, and still is today, in conjunction with meat dishes to stop contamination of bacteria from spoilage, long before the discovery of refrigeration.
The related herbs thyme and marjoram are also effective when used as anti-microbial, but possess little of oregano’s miraculous healing properties. Oil of oregano is a completely natural substance derived from wild oregano species. The plant grows in remote mountainous regions free of pollution. Only the leaves of the flowering plant are used and they are picked precisely when the plant is highest in essential oil. Ideally being grown wild, top quality oregano oil is grown chemical-free and the oil is extracted via a completely natural process without the use of chemicals or solvents. The oil is the source of virtually all of the plant’s active ingredients.

Oregano is a superb antibacterial and anti-fungal herb; it contains many different volatile oils that are highly active against the majority of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts, including staph, strep, and E.coli. Furthermore, just like garlic, bacterial and fungal resistance to oregano oil is exceptionally rare, it just doesn’t happen and the drug companies will never let you in on that secret!

Oregano is such a potent anti-fungal agent that it is capable of destroying even resistant fungal forms such as the mutated fungi which result from antibiotic therapy, I have noticed this on many occasions when treating resistant cases of yeast infection. I’m a big fan of oregano oil in cases of yeast infection and believe that the best results come to those who use the powerful double-hitting combination of an allicin rich garlic extract AND a carvacrol rich oregano oil.

You just can’t beat nature! From what I believe, and in my experience, there are no side effects and oregano oil is compatible with any other natural remedy or prescription drug. Being nature’s antibiotic, oil of oregano is a particularly effective natural medicine for cellulitis. It contains many different phenolic compounds like carvacrol and thymol with antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory qualities.

An interesting study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in the 90’s found that the application of a 3 percent oregano extract ointment reduced bacterial contamination and subsequent infection in patients with post-surgical wounds.

Here’s what you do with oregano when it comes to cellulitis:

  • Dilute 10 drops of oil of oregano in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil, or jojoba oil. You can use different kinds of carrier oils, but I believe that coconut oil is the one to pick with cellulitis, choose jojoba oil as a carrier for excessively dry skin however. Apply it on the affected area and leave it on for a minimum of two hours, you can re-apply a few times daily. Cover the areas affected very well.
  • You can also take oregano oil internally, and I recommend the oregano oil from Allergy Research, it is in a capsule for your convenience because it tastes VERY strong!   You can get this product from my Doctor Supplement Store, but you will have to register first if you are not already a member, then you can conveniently order online. Take one capsule three times daily with foods for several weeks, reduce if you notice heartburn, gas or bloating, just cut the dosage to one or two capsules daily.
  • Another option is to mix 5 drops of oregano oil in a glass of water or juice. Drink it three times daily for a few days and then reduce the dosage to three drops as a maintenance dose for about 10
  • NOTE : Be careful if using full-strength oil of oregano on broken skin, it may sting or burn – you are best to dilute it down first. Pregnant women should avoid taking oil of oregano because it can interfere with their pregnancy by stimulating the uterus.
  • Externally: (use the liquid oil or open a capsule) Oil of oregano may also be applied (sparingly – avoid use around the eyes) topically to treat itches, infections of the skin, gums, teeth, and just about any orifice in the body. Exercise care if you use it in the genital region where it is best mixed with olive oil or coconut oil before application (1 drop per teaspoon of olive oil or coconut oil/butter).

6. Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is native to the country I live in, New Zealand. For thousands of years honey has been known for its special properties. Certain honeys from specific plants have a greater range of attributes than others, and the honey that comes from some varieties of the New Zealand Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) is one of these.

Be sure to get the real deal, not some fake honey claiming to be Manuka (more common than you may think), it has to be New Zealand Manuka honey, and it should have a high UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) rating (the range is up to 30), the higher the better. To oficially receive a UMF® grading, a honey must have the presence of DHA (dihydroxyacetone), Methylglyoxal, and Leptosperin. The UMF® rating is a measure of the attributes and values that make up Manuka honey, and assures purity & quality.

Manuka honey with a good UMF rating is particularly rich in phytochemicals that are effective in controlling different kinds of infections, especially staph infections. The active compounds mentioned above have also been found to inhibit antibiotic-resistant MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). Besides being anti-bacterial, Manuka honey will also help speed up wound healing and is most effective I’ve discovered with ulcers, burns, healing the skin after any kind of surgery as well as cellulitis.

Here’s what you do with Manuka honey when it comes to cellulitis:

  1. Please make sure it is real Manuka honey, especially if you live outside of New Zealand.
  2. Spread the Manuka honey on the affected area, and especially on the edges of any badly affected areas of cellulitis.
  3. Leave it on for at least 2 hours before washing it off.
  4. Do this twice daily until you are satisfied with the results.

7. Garlic

Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, and chives. With a history of human use of over 7,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Garlic was well known to ancient Egyptians, and has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for many thousands of years.

Garlic is one food that has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and several scientific studies have found it to be as effective as the popular pharmaceutical drugs in destroying bacterial as well as yeast infections. Garlic in my opinion is the number 1 food that counters a yeast infection and should be consumed daily. One important difference between taking drugs like antibiotics and antifungals, and taking garlic, is that bacteria and fungi are not likely to develop a resistance to garlic. This is great news for you, and one the drug companies are not likely to tell you.

Just like oregano, garlic is another powerful and completely natural antibiotic for fighting infections, thanks to its active compound allicin that has strong antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. In addition, garlic helps reduce inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory activity.

  • If you can, eat one or two crushed raw garlic cloves daily for several weeks. If you are bothered by its strong taste and smell, then chew some fresh parsley after or drink some milk afterward.
  • You can also place several cloves of crushed garlic cloves in some coconut oil, leave it for a few weeks then strain the oil, and apply it on the affected areas of skin. Leave it on for several hours before washing it off. Use it twice daily. Calendula flowers can also be placed on coconut oil like this, left for some time then the oil is used.
  • Simply apply finely chopped or crushed garlic cloves on the infected skin site for several minutes may also help, but it is not suitable for those with sensitive skin. Test some cut garlic on your skin first.

 8. Intravenous Vitamin C

I’ve kept the best until last, intravenous vitamin C. The intravenous delivery of vitamin C is a very safe and effective way to provide your body with high-dose vitamin C, that gets to work at once. The advantage of intravenous (IV) therapy over taking oral vitamin C doses is that the vitamin C bypasses your digestive system and get delivered directly into the bloodstream and into the cells and tissues of the body that need it the most.

In chronic and depleted conditions (like cellulitis), where the immune system is often compromised, large doses of vitamin C call be delivered comfortably and safely without causing any digestive discomfort which is what commonly occurs when large oral doses are taken (diarrhea).  IV administration typically allows for much larger therapeutic doses of vitamin C to be administered without causing any gastrointestinal disturbances whatsoever.

IV vitamin C is an extremely safe form of treatment and very rarely has any side-effects.  It is much safer than most drugs made by pharmaceutical companies. IV C treatments have a long history of use by medical doctors and naturopathic doctors locally and internationally, and are extremely effective when it comes to potentially serious infections like cellulitis.

You cannot administer intravenous vitamin C yourself, you will need to work with a healthcare professional who is experienced in the area. Dosages generally will range from 20,000 up to 50,oo0 units or even more. Treatments can range from once per day to several times weekly and is totally dependent on the case.

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