Whitlow is a painful condition that develops around the finger nails and causes a characteristic swelling that is both tender to touch and has a throbbing pain. This infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus, with many cases resulting from the Type 1 virus.

Typically, this infection often results from contact, usually through body fluids, with a person who is already infected by the herpes simplex 1 virus.


Accompanying symptoms of the condition, in addition to the pain and tenderness, include a burning sensation which may vary from mild to extremely intense, fluid-filled blisters in the affected finger(s) as well as redness of the affected skin. Some of the risk factors associated with whitlow include when one is suffering from a cold sore, a weak immune system as well as coming in close contact with one who is already infected.

Treatment for whitlow is available and inexpensive, with the affected fingers healing within a month or so. The good news is that there are a handful of home remedies available for the natural treatment of the condition. Note, however, that it is very important to seek medical attention if the pain is extremely unbearable and/or affects multiple fingers. Use some of the home remedies below to provide symptomatic relief from whitlow and speed up the process of recovery.

1. Ice Packs:

Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 5 Ice cubes and a clean cloth.
Difficulty: Easy


The throbbing pain that is felt in the affected finger is best dealt with using an ice pack. The low temperature in the ice not only provides pain relief, it also helps numb the affected finger. Ice alleviates the symptoms associated with whitlow, making it an ideal first remedy to use immediately you notice the swelling develop around the finger.

Remember you will need a clean cloth to wrap the ice cubes as it is discouraged to use them directly on the skin. Applying ice cubes directly on the skin is known to cause the damage of the skin’s upper layer, and this only complicates the symptoms of the herpes infection.


  1. Place the ice cubes on the clean cloth and wrap well.
  2. Use the pack to smother over the swelling and let the ice reduce the intensity of the pain.
  3. Alternatively, fill a shallow bowl with some water and add a few ice cubes.
  4. You will then dip the affected finger in the ice cold water for the same effect.
  5. Repeat this as often as you need to until you notice an improvement in the health of the affected finger.


2. Fresh Garlic Cloves:

Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 2 Cloves of garlic, a pestle and mortar, cotton wool and warm water. Garlic oil is also an excellent alternative.
Difficulty: Easy


Fresh garlic has been shown to have excellent antimicrobial properties that come in handy in the natural treatment of whitlow, a known herpes infection. Its natural anti-inflammatory properties also come in handy because they help reduce the inflammation in the infected finger(s) or toe(s).

Fresh garlic, according to research, has high amounts of allicin. Garlic oil on the other hand, is rich in ajoene. Both allicin and ajoene have an antiviral effect which helps to mount a response against the herpes virus. Both remedies are recommended for the natural treatment of whitlow. Follow the simple directions below to treat the condition.


Using Fresh Garlic Cloves

  1. Peel the garlic cloves and chop into small pieces.
  2. Transfer the chopped garlic and crush using a pestle and mortar. This is a key part of the remedy preparation because allicin is only activated when the garlic cloves are crushed to release the active ingredients. Salt is an optional addition to the remedy because it helps get a consistent mass.
  3. After crushing the garlic, you should end up with a paste that is easy to apply on the infected finger.
  4. Use cotton wool for the application process, doing so carefully to avoid cross contamination to other parts of the body such as the mouth.
  5. The remedy may cause a burning sensation, but this is a small price to pay considering the immense benefits garlic has on the body.
  6. Let the garlic paste dry on the skin for 20 minutes.
  7. Rinse the remedy off using warm water.
  8. Repeat this procedure twice daily until the symptoms of whitlow are completely cleared.

Using Garlic Oil

  1. Soak a piece of sterile cotton wool in the garlic oil for 30 seconds.
  2. Squeeze a few drops of the oil on the infected finger and then dab using the cotton wool.
  3. You may also opt to prepare home-made garlic oil as follows: Chop a few cloves of garlic and add them to olive oil in a pan. Fry the garlic until it is browned (but not burned).
  4. Strain the oil to get rid of the fried garlic, and use the strained oil for topical application.
  5. In addition to these remedy options, it helps to add garlic to your daily diet as a preventive measure for recurrence in the future.


 3. Licorice Root:

Time Required: 15 Min
What You Need: 1 Tablespoon each of licorice root powder and water as well as sterile cotton wool.
Difficulty: Easy


Licorice root has immense health benefits that make it an ideal choice for the natural treatment of whitlow. One of the key active ingredients present in this herb is known as glycyrrhizin whose anti-viral effects are able to fight off the herpes virus that is responsible for the infection.


  1. Mix equal amounts of the licorice root powder with warm water so as to create a paste. This is done to allow easy application on the infected finger. Make sure you prepare a consistent paste so that it does not keep running off the finger.
  2. Use sterile cotton wool to apply the licorice paste on the affected finger and let it dry on its own.
  3. Use this remedy thrice daily until the symptoms of whitlow are completely cleared.

NOTE: If this remedy causes skin irritation, it is best to avoid its use altogether to avoid further damage in addition to the whitlow infection.


4. PepperMint:

Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: Peppermint tea bag, 1 cup of water and honey to taste. Peppermint oil (optional).
Difficulty: Easy


Peppermint is a handy home remedy for the natural treatment of whitlow, thanks to its excellent virucidal effects on the herpes virus responsible for the infection. In addition to fighting against the virus, peppermint also has a cooling effect on the infected finger, effectively soothing the pain and reducing the discomfort in the affected finger.


Prepare Peppermint Tea:

  1. Steep the peppermint tea bag in a cup of boiling hot water for 5 minutes.
  2. Set the teabag aside and let the tea cool before taking the refreshing drink.
  3. Alternatively, refrigerate the used tea bag by placing it on a set of ice cubes. You will then put the cold teabag on the infected finger to cool it and provide much-needed relief from the symptoms of whitlow.

Using Peppermint Oil

  1. Soak a cotton wool ball in the peppermint oil for a few seconds.
  2. Dab the wet cotton wool on the infected finger. The oil has a cooling effect which comes in handy in eliminating the burning sensation experienced in the infected finger.
  3. Apply the oil severally daily until there is a notable improvement in the condition of the infected finger.


5. Virgin Coconut Oil:

Time Required: 15 Min
What You Need: Coconut oil, warm water bath and cotton wool.
Difficulty: Easy


Virgin coconut oil has great health benefits for the body. In the case of the natural treatment of whitlow, the oil’s antiviral properties help fight off the herpes virus. This happens when lauric acid, one of the key components in the oil, is converted to monolaurin, a type of fat to which the antiviral properties are attributed. Capric acid is also present in the oil, and compliments its healing effects.


  1. Coconut oil has a tendency to solidify when exposed to low temperatures. If this is the case, simply place some of the oil in a bowl, and then put the bowl in a warm water bath. This helps melt the oil indirectly, effectively maintaining the structural integrity of the oil.
  2. Once the oil has melted, dip the cotton wool in the warm oil and dab it on the infected finger.
  3. Let the oil dry on its own. Repeat the procedure thrice daily for best results.
  4. You may also want to introduce coconut oil to your daily diet by using it to cook.


 6. Hydrogen Peroxide:

Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 3% Hydrogen peroxide, cotton wool and warm water.
Difficulty: Easy


Use hydrogen peroxide to treat whitlow naturally. Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent disinfectant, and this is what makes it a befitting choice for whitlow remedies. When the infected finger is exposed to the solution, the peroxide helps counter the effects of the herpes virus, thus speeding up the process of recovery. Note, however, that the hydrogen peroxide used for this remedy must be 3%. Any solution that is stronger than the recommended 3% will cause skin irritation, which only adds to the discomfort and prolongs the recovery period.


  1. Soak some cotton wool in the 3% Hydrogen peroxide solution and gently squeeze the excess solution.
  2. Dab the wet cotton wool on the affected skin and gently rub it in. This may cause some slight irritation, but if the irritation is sustained, discontinue the use of the remedy immediately.
  3. Leave the remedy on for a few minutes and then rinse off using warm water.
  4. Repeat this procedure every few days to speed up the healing process of the whitlow finger(s) or toe(s).


7. Aloe Vera:

Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: Freshly cut aloe vera leaf, sterile cotton wool/clean cloth and warm water for rinsing purposes.
Difficulty: Easy


Aloe vera is one of nature’s most versatile remedy for the treatment of a myriad of skin conditions, among them, whitlow. The gel obtained from the aloe vera leaf acts as a pain reliever and this helps ease the discomfort. Additionally, aloe vera’s healing properties go a long way in fighting off the herpes virus. Follow the simple directions indicated below to make the best of aloe vera.


  1. Slice the fresh aloe vera leaf in order to expose the inner succulent tissues.
  2. You will then squeeze the gel from the succulent part of the leaf. Collect just enough gel for topical application on the infected skin.
  3. Using sterile cotton wool, apply the aloe vera gel on the finger and allow it to dry on its own.
  4. After about 20 minutes, rinse the aloe vera gel off.
  5. Use this remedy twice daily to help get rid of the symptoms of whitlow.


8. Tea Tree Oil:

Time Required: 15 Min
What You Need: 5 Drops of tea tree oil, 5 tablespoons of a carrier oil and cotton wool.
Difficulty: Easy


Tea tree oil is an effective home remedy that you can use to treat whitlow and eliminate its symptoms. The oil is a potent solution which not only helps relieve the characteristic throbbing pain, but also mounts an attack on the herpes virus. Studies show that the oil’s antiviral properties help speed up the healing process.

NOTE: Tea tree oil must never be applied directly on the skin to prevent skin irritation. Instead, the oil is mixed with carrier oils such as jojoba, almond, olive and vegetable oils.


  1. Dilute the tea tree oil by mixing it with the preferred carrier oil.
  2. Soak the cotton wool in the oil mixture and apply it on the infected skin.
  3. Do this severally daily until the infection clears.


9. Tips to Manage Whitlow and Prevent Recurrent Infections


  1. Avoid sharing items of personal nature to prevent infections from persons with the virus.
  2. Avoid sucking or chewing the fingers as this not only weakens the nail structure making it easy for virus entry, it also increases the risk of spreading the infection.
  3. Cut and trim your nails carefully to prevent the skin from breaking as these increases the chances of the herpes infection.
  4. Remember to wash your hands every so often.
  5. Avoid wearing contact lenses until whitlow is effectively dealt with. This is important because it prevents the spread of the infection to the eyes.
  6. Do not try to drain the fluid from the swelling because this is likely to spread the herpes virus to other parts of the body.
  7. Lastly, cover the infected finger using a light dressing to contain the infection, only taking it off during remedy application.


Whitlow causes great discomfort, but with the remedies listed above, you should be able to make a full recovery. If you are concerned about the spread of the infection, or the pain is so excruciating that you cannot carry on with your daily duties, make sure you seek medical attention.