bottles of listerine and white vinegar

Don’t you love it when doctors characterize a condition as “idiopathic.” That is a fancy medical term for “we ain’t got a clue as to what causes this.” That’s the case with granuloma annulare. If you want to see what it looks like, here are some photographs on the website. Even if it is accurately diagnosed there are no obvious cures. When there is no dermatologist sanctioned treatment, people start looking for home remedies, just like this reader.

Help for Granuloma Annulare?

Q. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with a skin condition called granuloma annulare (GA). It manifests itself on the arms, legs, and back with round red or purplish circles that look like ringworm. There are no other symptoms. It’s just very unsightly.

I have been to several dermatologists who tell me that GA is idiopathic and that there really is no effective treatment for it. Light therapy sometimes helps; however, since I have had a melanoma, this is not recommended. Medicines and ointments are useless. Do you have a suggestion for a natural treatment that will help?

A. Doctors do not know what causes granuloma annulare, and there is no accepted medical cure (American Family Physician, Nov. 15, 2006).  Apparently, GA goes away on its own about half of the time. But what can you do about the other half?

Home Remedies for Granuloma Annulare?

There is no research on home remedies for GA that we are aware of. Consequently, our recommendations are based solely on other readers’ testimonials.

Some have reported that applying white or apple cider vinegar to the rash daily speeds healing. Others have used the antifungal cream Vagisil for the same purpose. Since GA is not a fungal infection (though ringworm is), we don’t know why or how this would help.

Linda in Issaquah, Washington offered a turmeric remedy:

“In response to the comments on grannuloma annulare, I have my own experience to add. I too, had the rash on my hands, but also on my arms and back. it would get worse in the cooler months of the year, and much better in the summer-I’m guessing from the sunlight.

“I saw a dermatologist and got a topical cream and got cortisone injections in the worst spots, neither of which did anything to reduce all the large bumps.

“It wasn’t until I started taking turmeric supplements that I noticed a difference. All of the spots disappeared fairly quickly and have not returned. I have been taking Turmeric (with pepper extract) for over two years now, and haven’t had any flare ups at all. I hope this helps someone.”

Diane Relied on Tincture of Time:

“I have had granuloma annulare for over 2 years. You name it and I have tried it, but I drew the line at injections. I finally decided to ignore it.

“The bumps on my hands have gotten much smaller and the inside of my thighs is almost completely clear and my elbows have lightened up considerably. I just tell people that I have a skin condition and it and it is not infectious to others.”

Many times granuloma annulare goes away by itself, just as mysteriously as it arrived. Diane’s experience is not unique.

Jacqueline got corticosteroid injections:

“I had several on my legs and 1 on my ankle. Also one on my middle finger.

“My dermatologist 1st tried cortisone creams and occlusive dressings……no improvement whatsoever. Then intra dermal cortisone injections. After 6 treatments they were completely vanished. Just a smallish white indentation remains.

“This was back in 1986. New one has now appeared on my ring finger 22 years later. I am going straight to the dermal injections…painful though it was.”

C.C. has had some success with a home remedy:

“I read your column recently about the raised spots on your arms, legs etc. I tried using the vinegar (white and apple) and low and behold the spots are flat and very smooth. They have not disappeared as yet but i will keep trying. I am elated to find out about this process in your articles. Thank you so much.

“A dedicated reader.”

H.H. shared his experience but didn’t name the antibiotic:

“I must tell you about my granulola annulare that appeared on my legs and back 17 years ago. I doctored with a skin specialist for over a year, just using a topical ointment, but to no avail… nothing.

“One day he came in with a big smile on his face and when I asked him why he was so happy, he told me he had heard the cure was antibiotics.

“He gave me a shot of some kind of antibiotic. I can’t remember if it was just the one shot of not, but my spots disappeared completely.”

Anonymous offered this:

“I am writing in response to your reader with the condition of granuloma annulare.

“After visiting numerous doctors and trying many treatments, I have found that taking two apple cider vinegar tablets each day works to keep this rash at bay. The vinegar also keeps my skin soft, and the tablets are inexpensive.”

The People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

Why vinegar would be helpful is mysterious. Several people insist that it can be helpful. We wish some enterprising dermatologist would test some of these remedies and let us know which might be most effective.

Let us know what has worked for you in the comment section below.

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  1. Linda
    South Carolina

    I have ga for over 3 years it had started to go away but now is back worse than ever. I take plaquenil percribed by my dermatologist. No doing anything. I take 3 turmeric pills a day still getting worse. I wish some magical thing could take this away. It is everywhere the first time it didn’t itch this time it does.

  2. cynthia
    senatobia, ms

    I have had Granuloma annulare for about 10 years I have used cream that the dr. had me to try but it never went away I have it on both of my arms and legs and stomata but the ones on my stomata are different than the one on my arms and legs they are small bumps they don’t look like the round ones the look like ringworms now I notice one on my neck I have been reading everyones reply on thing I am going to try two of them that I have seen the most talked about

  3. John
    New Jersey

    I have had GA for twenty years. It started on my right shin as a few red bumps. My doctor prescribed a corticosteroid cream but to no avail. I went to a Dermatologist for another skin problem, and he did a body scan and took some biopsies and lo and behold: skin cancer. He also noticed my GA and advised me to come back for more tests. Over the next few years various creams, pills, and an acne treatment were tried. Now it has progressed to the point where both legs are covered up to my knees and my arms are covered to the elbows. Humira may be the next step but the side effects are very serious with my numerous skin cancers. Winter is coming [Game of Thrones] so I will wear my long pants and shirts and not be embarrassed.

  4. Jill

    I was diagnosed a few months ago. I take Tumeric with black pepper every day. I have been taking it for 2 years but this is not helping my GA.

  5. Cheryl H.
    McGregor Ont

    How much turmeric do you take, and how do you take it? I’ve had granule annulare for 5yrs. It seems to be getting worse. I’m willing to try anything. Thank you !

    • Tricia
      Nashville, TN

      I was wondering the same thing. I already take Turmeric but in a Curamed pill, and I’m wondering if it’s not enough.

  6. Teri

    I’m wondering with these things to try like turmeric, and vinegar, do folks use topically and orally and how much, I put a gauze soaked in vinegar on my shoulders and my eyes water and i start sneezing, I have vinegar pills and also some turmeric pills from Costco, I wonder how much to take?

  7. Angie

    My 9yr old has had a qicked rash on ankle for about 1year…numerous creams,childrens dermatologist…noone I reseaeched myself before the next appt with dermatologist and brought up GA…she said “yep ..thats exactally what it is”…were now on a new month on 2x a day,one month completly off…shes on the 3rd week of her off time and its grown larger ,clumpy and purple(its worse in cold and its friggin cold here )…weird thing is 2years ago we were playing at the park and collecting catipillers …withen a week everytime she was in water she would break out in large full body red/purple welts(thats now stopped but ankle started about 6months later)…is it connected?im gunna now try the turmeric for her…jus not sure if its available in topical ?is it ok for kids?

  8. steven

    As a Dermatologist, I have treated numerous patients with GA; I have a very large referral practice and therefore I see extensive GA. Humira is a very, very effective Rx in eliminating the GA. I also prescribe an anti-inflammatory diet with supplements (Tumeric, cinnamon, Fish Oil e.g.) I also advise about various endocrine disrupters in our diet. I suspect that Humira will be approved for extensive GA. Hope this helps.

  9. Bob F
    West Virginia

    As an Osteopathic Physician I usually tell patients and medical students that when a doctor uses the term, “idiopathic” disease, it means “us Idiots” don’t know what causes it or what to do for it. That should be a cue to look deeper for causes starting first with nutritional and environmental possibilities. When I went to a macrobiotic/plant based diet with little or no refined or processed foods my Granuloma Annulare faded away.

    • Joanne

      I was on Humira for a year and it took it completely away but now is back just as before. Any thoughts?

  10. Carol
    North Carolina

    In 2012, my 9 yo son was bitten on the abdomen by a mystery insect. The bite site developed a red flushed rash and swelling. The CDC bulls-eye rash diagram for Lyme Disease hung on the examining room wall. Without this classic bulls-eye rash, his doctor felt it was a nonvenomous spider bite and recommended compresses and time. The site healed but within 6 weeks, a ring-shaped rash formed on his foot. Diagnosed by this same doctor as ringworm, we tried multiple topical anti-fungals as well as oral anti-fungals. A few weeks later, my son began complaining of abdominal pain and constipation. I took him to a major medical center pediatric gastroenterologist who said he had chronic constipation and put him on magnesium oxide to move his bowels. Once, his abdominal pain was so great that we took him to the ER for that medical center. My son was seen by his primary doctor, a gastroenterologist, a dermatologist, and an ER doctor, and all diagnosed him with ringworm and chronic constipation. Each was told that the ringworm type rash formed on the heels of the bite. After a year and a half of searching for help for both the increasing abdominal pain and the spreading “ringworm,” a nurse whispered to me to google “ringworm mimic.” Low and behold, granuloma annulare popped up as the first link. I took my son to another dermatologist who confirmed my suspicion and said it could be caused by an insect bite. She was unconcerned about his previous bite and said it would resolve on its own in time. My son’s abdominal condition deteriorated to the point that he began vomiting multiple times a day. He gained weight, was constantly hungry, and looked bloated. His pancreatic and liver enzymes were out of range, and I knew he would die if someone didn’t listen to me about the link between the original bite and what was happening. I then took him to a well-respected local gastroenterologist who immediately diagnosed a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and placed him on a strict Paleo diet. Within 2 months, the bloating went away and the rash began to fade. Unfortunately, the bowel problems lingered and my son had a colonoscopy and endoscopy. He had inflammation and was diagnosed with IBS. 22 vials of blood were tested for everything including Lyme. His blood results were a train wreck but he tested negative for Lyme. He was placed on numerous antibiotics for the SIBO, but his abdominal pain worsened. By a weird stroke of luck, he caught strep throat and we saw a new nurse practitioner at his primary doctor. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “This child has Lyme Disease. He may have strep or mono along with it, but I know he has Lyme.” I told about the negative Lyme result and she said the Western Blot and Elisa were crap, with 50% false negatives. With the IGeneX test, he tested positive for multiple bacteria, including Borrelia, the primary Lyme culprit. I immediately got him in to treatment with a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLD) who began the treatments that my son truly needed. Within two months, the abdominal pain, the nausea, the ringworm rash were all gone. My son is now 14 and suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome as a result of misdiagnosis by 9 doctors and 2 major medical centers. Granuloma annulare (GA) is an autoimmune response brought on by at least an insect bite. Other triggers can also cause this response, but my research has confirmed the autoimmune link. Regardless of the cause, my recommendations are (1) test for Lyme Disease with IgeneX as a possible cause of the GA, (2) clean up your diet with organics and non-gmo’s, (3) go Paleo, (4) give your liver a break and remove all toxins from your life such as aluminum deodorants and fragrances, and (5) find a certified Integrative Specialist. Heal your gut, your body, and your GA.

  11. Malinda

    I also have this condition. A dermatologist prescribed a couple of different creams which didn’t work. I decided to try diaper rash cream, 40% zinc oxide, usually sold under the name of Desitin, maximum strength, and this appears to have helped a lot. When I notice bumps around the elbows or under my armpits and even the groin area, I apply the 40% zinc oxide and it improves the condition dramatically.

    • Emma
      Leicester, UK

      This article is very interesting. I’ve recently been diagnosed with GA. suspected all started on my hand from a kettle spout burn, then progressive got worse going up my arms, to my legs and buttock.

      The one on my hand changes in colour when it’s cold or hot. I’ve had it about 2yes now, the rest coming up to a year.
      I’ve tried lotions and shower gels and so far nothing has changed.

      Original diagnosed with Lichen Plantus by a private Dermo. Also treated it for ringworm too.

      I’m starting to wonder if mine is either related to vaccines (since having them it’s gotten worse) or from mosquito or flea bites. I react really bad to bites. Mor lesions appeared 8momths after visiting Thailand where I was bitten badly.

      However, since coming back from Philippines Dec 2017 I have had gut problems for over 5months, it seems to be better… ultrasound was fine, my stool sample results normal, and bloods normally apart fro, high white blood cell count which can be related to my pet hair alllergys/underlining asthma (also only just diagnosed with) – it’s all happening this year!!!

      I’m going to trial turmeric and fish oils – we use those in the veterinary industry so hoping it will help. Relulant to think steroids will work plus there so bad for you!

      Thank you, Any tips welcome 🙂

  12. Pam
    Miami, Florida

    Since the early 1980’s, I have had numerous Granuloma Annulare “spots” on my legs, hands, arms and one on my back. At first they responded well to cortisone injections. Still later they responded to Cordran Tape, if I kept it on 24/7 for 2-3 weeks, but their disappearance took more time.

    Several months ago I began taking turmeric, for another purpose, but I have noticed that all of the ones on my hands and arms have disappeared, and the ones on my thigh are fading.

    Before, without treatment, they lasted forever and became more numerous. Turmeric may be the answer!

  13. Tina
    Burlington, NC

    I was relieved to recently notice that the persistent granuloma annulare on my ankle had disappeared. I had no idea why until I read Linda’s response about turmeric helping her condition. Come to think of it, about six months ago, I started adding turmeric to my daily smoothie. Perhaps that is the reason my granuloma annulare has resolved!

  14. Frances

    I had granuloma annulare for 7 years, mostly around my elbows and knees. I had a 95 food test to see if it was an allergic reaction. No foods stood out as a problem. I decided it must be exposure to some substance.

    I realized that about 7 years earlier I had started to use petroleum jelly as a “butt butter” in my bicycle shorts. I bought new bicycle shorts and tights and I started using coconut oil instead. I quit using any products with petroleum jelly in it such as hand cream. Within 3 weeks about 1/2 of the GA cleared up. In the next 6 months, the rest of the GA slowly cleared up.

  15. Nancy

    My daughter was diagnosed with it at age 3, when her daycare wouldn’t let her come back until her “ringworm” went away… guess what?!?
    The dermo said it is an autoimmune deficiency that runs in families with diabetes in the genetic history, and that as she grew and got older, the little rings would eventually grow lighter and lower, and out in diameter, until they would just disappear, which is exactly what happened.

  16. Kat

    I have had it for years. The one thing that finally worked was niacinamide serum 6% solution. I applied to my elbows daily for about 3 months and finally the unsightly circle of bumps was gone!

  17. Sarah

    I had a very bad case of GA on arms, legs and torso. Several weeks of PUVA or light box therapy at the dermatologist’s office cleared it up but it came back within a year. To avoid skin damage from further light therapy, I tried a complete dietary overhaul–no processed food of any kind, just delicious produce, meats, brown rice, yogurt. Maybe that’s non-gluten, but the key for me is nothing out of a package. Within 3-6 months, my GA went away. It returned after eating bread one time, but when I got back on track with careful food choices, it was gone again in 3-6 months. The pleasant benefit of this diet is energy, weight loss, and enjoying great meals.

  18. Peggy McCorkle
    Greensboro NC

    I was diagnosed with GA years ago and was told that I would have to live with it. The severity of it comes and goes. It is on my back. It never goes completely away. I have been taking turmeric recently for other reason, and the GA does seem better. I also drink apple cider vinegar in water with honey each day. Maybe there is something to these suggestions.

  19. Liz

    I also had GA for over 15 years. I was also told there was no cure.

    One day I got frustrated with the small portions of frozen dinners and decided to quit using them. At the same time I backed off of canned items. To my surprise, the GA and another chronic, rare disease disappeared.

    Yes, it could be coincidental, but I think there is something in processed food that I must be allergic to.

    Thanks again for all that People’s Pharmacy does for us!

  20. Diane

    I have this condition on my hands. I have had prednisone injected, and that does make a big difference. I also used apple cider vinegar on the largest spots. But I also have found that taking flax oil pills twice daily has stopped it. I see a difference when. I am out of the flax oil. I am mostly clear now.

    • JulieQ

      Is the flax oil still helping?

  21. Cathy
    Chapel Hill

    My daughter, now in her 40s, had this mystery skin disorder when she was around 2-4 years old. Nothing the pediatrician tried worked. After looking at the pix on the link you provide and reading the info–this struck me: “Granuloma annulare occurs most frequently over the joints or in areas that experience mild injury.” I believe her ‘mild injury’ was from bath soap! Don’t recall how I came to try bathing her in Aveno colloidal oatmeal powder (later just regular uncooked oats tied into a washcloth ball), perhaps the pediatrician suggested? But the lesions disappeared in weeks and did not return. Neither did the commercial soap products.

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