Guide to Tea Tree Oil and Scabies
Are you looking for an effective way to treat scabies or mites? Latest research shows you may be able to use tea tree oils as a safe and effective treatment for scabies without side effects.
Known as Sarcoptes scabiei (it sounds like some sort of Egyptian ruler), scabies are mite-like insects that burrow into your skin and lay eggs. Red bumps can form on your skin where the scabies have burrowed in.
The female mites are 0.3 – 0.4 mm. long and about one quarter millimeter wide.
The males are about 1/2 smaller than the females.
These little creatures hold onto your skin using a pair of suckers attached to their two front legs.
Symptoms of Scabies
Scabies can cause a lot of itching, usually at night. Some people can get scabies on their head or scalp, but the mites usually infect the areas between your fingers and your wrists.
The photos below show where the rashes usually occur. The main difference between head lice and scabies is that head lice usually don’t burrow into your skin, whereas scabies does.
Scabies can come with bacterial infections, so it’s important to deal with as soon as you’re infected.
Scabies are easily passed from one person to another through direct contact. It can also be spread by fomites, another word for clothing, bed sheets and furniture.
To stop scabies from spreading, you have to clean anything that has come in contact with the infected person. Make sure to vacuum and clean all your furniture in your home and you should wash all bed sheets, bath towels and clothing in really hot water.
However, you can also use a natural plant oil to eliminate the scabies.
Tea Tree Oil More Effective than Pesticides from Treating Scabies
It’s common to use strong pesticides, such as 5% Permethrin or Ivermectin, are to treat scabies infestations. However, the problem with pesticides is there’s an increased safety risk on young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Rather than use dangerous pesticides, it’s possible to use tea tree oil. Studies have shown that tea tree oil contains a powerful anti-microbial called Terpinen 4- OL that could be an effective treatment for scabies.
Researchers in Australia found that a 5% solution of tea tree oil killed off scabies at a faster rate than Permethrin.
Another study compared 5% tea tree oil to 5% Permethrin (Lyclear), 25% benzyl benzoate (Ascabiol), 1% lindane (Quellada) and ivermectin (Equimec) and the researchers found:
- Tea tree oil was just as effective as Quellada, Ascabiol and Equimec. There were no mites alive after exposure to tea tree oil.
- 5% permethrin (Lyclear) had the slowest killing time – 35% of the mites were still alive after 3 hours and 4% still alive after 18 – 22 hours exposure.
So it appears that some tea tree oils are as effective as commonly prescribed medications and pesticides to treat scabies. And the good thing is that these oils may pose a lower risk for side effects compared to some prescription drugs.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil on Scabies
- Apply 100% tea tree oil directly to a cotton swab and dab each lesion with the oil. If you have sensitive skin, you can use a diluted solution of 100% oil mixed with a carrier oil such as virgin olive oil (use on a 1:1 ration).
- Fill a tub with warm water and add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the water. Soak in the water for at least 20 – 30 mintues to allow the active ingredients in the oil to absorb into the skin. Tea tree oil can sting your eyes so avoid rubbing your eyes or splashing water into your eyes.
- Step out of the tub and gently dry your skin without using excessive pressure on the delicate sores.
- Apply 100% tea tree oil to a clean cotton swab/ball and apply it directly onto the lesions. Completely cover the affected area and leave the oil on your skin to dry.
- Repeat the above procedure twice a day; try doing once in the morning and again in the early evening before retiring to bed.
- Remember to thoroughly wash and clean your towels/clothing in hot water to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination. Do not share bedding, clothing and avoid close contact with others during your treatment.
- Do not ignore medical advice and contact your Doctor if your symptoms persist or get worse after 48 hours.
You can also use pre-formulated scabies kits that contain tea tree oils. You may also find specialized soaps and detergents that may also help eliminated or reduce mites or scabies infestations. For example, Kleen Free Naturally is a non-toxic product shown to be effective against scabies, mites, tick and other household pests.
Acaricidal activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil: in vitro sensitivity of Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis to terpinen-4-ol. Tea tree oil and scabies study. Archives of Dermatology. 2004 May;140(5):563-6
Studies in vitro on the relative efficacy of current acaricides for Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 2000 Jan-Feb;94(1):92-6.
Photos on tea tree oil and scabies webpage courtesy of Center of Disease Control and Center of Infectious Diseases