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.

scabies and tea tree oil

Female Scabies

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

Some people can get scabies on their head or scalp, but the mites usually infect the areas between your fingers and your wrists.

The bite marks from scabies can inflame the skin and cause itching and redness.

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.

The photos below show where the rashes usually occur.

diagram of scabies life cycle and areas on body where scabies are found

Life Cycle of Scabies

Scabies are easily passed from one person to another through direct contact.

It can also be spread by fomites, which is 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.

You may need to vacuum and clean all the furniture in your home as well as wash all bed sheets, bath towels and clothing in hot water.

The most common method for treating scabies infestations is with the use of strong pesticides, such as 5% Permethrin or Ivermectin.

While the pesticides are effective, there’s an increased safety risk for families with young children, pregnant mothers and people with weakened immune systems.

Fortunately, there is a more natural and safer treatment that may be just as effective….

Using Tea Tree Oil for Scabies More Effective than Pesticides

Studies have shown that tea tree oil contains a powerful anti-microbial called Terpinen 4- OL that could be an effective treatment for scabies:

A study published in the 2004 edition of Archives of Dermatology looked at the Acaricidal Activity of Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil) Against Scabies. Australian researchers found that a 5% solution of tea tree oil killed off scabies at a faster rate than Permethrin, a commonly used scabies pesticide.

And another study comparing the effectiveness of 5% tea tree oil on scabies to 5% Permethrin (Lyclear), 25% benzyl benzoate (Ascabiol), 1% lindane (Quellada) and ivermectin (Equimec).

The researchers found:

  • Tea tree oil was just as effective as Quellada, Ascabiol and Equimec, and found no mites were alive after exposure to tea tree oil.
  • 5% permethrin (Lyclear) had the slowest killing time with 35% of the mites still alive after 3 hours and 4% still alive after 18 – 22 hours exposure.

The study showed that tea tree oil was just as effective as commonly prescribed medications and pesticides to treat scabies.

And tea tree oils may pose a lower risk for side effects compared to using some prescription drugs or pesticides.

How to Use Tea Tree Oil on Scabies

  1. 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 (try a 1:1 ratio).
  2. You could also fill your bath tub with warm water and add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the water. Soak affected body parts in the water for at least 20 – 30 minutes to allow the tea tree oil’s active ingredients to absorb into the skin (Avoid this step if you have any open or unhealed sores). Tea tree oil can also sting the eyes so avoid rubbing your eyes or splashing water into your eyes.
  3. Then step out of the tub, gently dry the treated areas without using excessive pressure on any delicate sores.
  4. Re-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.
  5. Repeat the above procedure twice a day; try doing once in the morning and again in the early evening before retiring to bed.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Products such as Kleen Free Naturally are non-toxic and shown to be effective against scabies, mites, tick and other household pests.

Research References:

Acaricidal activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil: in vitro sensitivity of Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis to terpinen-4-ol. 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


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