Styes, Chalazions, and Cloves, Oh my! A Holistic Remedy For Your Swollen, Bumpy Eyelid

I’m not going to get into definitions of styes and chalazions, but I suffered with a chalazion for about a week until my friend A insisted on whipping up a clove infusion, over my protests that I was handling it just fine. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten one, and before it had gone away on it’s own. I’d been applying warm washcloths as compresses, but only succeeded in making the skin around my eye raw and sensitive like that worn spot that develops under your snotty nose in winter. At times it seemed to be getting worse.

My friend A was born and raised in Morocco, where she learned this home remedy from her mother. She gave me a single clove to chew on while she worked. She instructed me to soften the tip with my front teeth, and then dab it along my eyelid as I would with an eyeliner. It stung a bit. I don’t think this served any functional purpose except to warm me up for what was to come.

She presented me with a brown liquid in a cup – clove mashed into room-temperature water. She dabbed a bit with her finger and motioned around her entire eyelid and underneath. I did as she said: “Go all around, keep the eye closed.”

The sting crept up slowly and then hit with the force of a jalapeño, but a thousand times worse, because your mouth is used to that sort of thing and your eye ISN’T. I gasped and whined at how much it stung. She insisted I wait. I reached for the wet washcloth on the table in front of me, which elicited another “Please, please! Wait!” She didn’t stop my hand or move the washcloth out of reach. Just this quiet plea followed a promise that the sting would go away. My eye poured tears while we both fanned my face, and I wondered for a culpable moment if there was any reason this woman I’ve known for 6 years, that my daughter looks to like an auntie, would harbor the kind of ill-will that would prompt her to want to blind me. Oh yeah — if you try this at home, DON’T do it alone the first time, or you’re likely to call 911 to report that you may have accidentally blinded yourself. THAT is how much it hurts. Have a fan or AC closeby, the cool air will ease the burning feeling. Keep your eye closed.

And then, in a matching decrescendo, the sting subsided. She told me to apply it again – this time it wouldn’t be so bad. She was right – there was still a little sting, but nothing remotely like the initial. After this round she said it was ok to wash it off and open my eye, so I got some more hot water and re-applied my compress for a minute. For the past week, every time I blinked or squeezed my eyes closed, a sharp ache would afflict the area around the infection. After a single treatment it was significantly more comfortable to open and close my eye. The overall swelling had gone down and I could see better definition of the 2 pus-lumps in my eyelid.

I performed this same treatment for the next two days, 3 times a day, around my meals (skipping the part with biting the clove and using it like an eyeliner). All you need to do is mash the following together:

  • 10-15 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of water
It helps to soak the cloves for a couple minutes before chopping or grinding them with a mortar and pestle, and the liquid should be very brown when you’re done (see photo).

After applying 1-2 times, each time waiting for the sting to subside, I followed it with a compress – a washcloth dipped in hot water and wrung out, for 1-2 minutes or until it cooled.

48 hours later, my eye was almost entirely back to normal and I no longer needed to cover my quasimodo-like appearance with sunglasses. There was a little remaining lump, barely visible, but I decided to stop the treatment and let my immune system do the rest of the work, which it did.

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