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Psoriasis, and specifically plaque psoriasis, is an inflammatory skin condition that causes thick, red, and scaly plaque on the skin. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that tea tree oil can help manage the itchiness and pain of psoriasis, especially on the scalp.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil, meaning that it is the distilled extract of a plant that contains beneficial compounds in high concentrations.
As essential oils can be highly potent, people often mix them with a carrier oil to make them safe for use.
In this article, we explore the benefits of tea tree oil and the evidence for its use in treating psoriasis symptoms.
Tea tree oil is a yellow essential oil that comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, which people refer to as the tea tree plant.
The plant grows in Australia, where locals have used it for nearly 100 years to treat minor wounds and skin issues.
Early studies suggest that tea tree oil has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.
As a result, people use tea tree oil to alleviate many skin irritations and health problems, such as acne, lice, and possibly psoriasis.
Anecdotal evidence has suggested that it is a safe treatment, but no clinical studies have confirmed either the effectiveness or safety of tea tree oil.
Some suggestions for using tea tree oil for psoriasis include:
- mixing the oil with water, applying it to the skin with a cotton ball, leaving it overnight, and washing it off in the morning
- diluting tea tree oil with olive oil or another carrier oil, applying it to affected areas, allowing it to dry, and then washing it off
- adding a few drops of tea tree oil to a bathtub and bathing in lukewarm water
- combining one part of tea tree oil with 10 parts of shampoo
Tea tree oil is readily available and present in a wide range of skin care products. While the only evidence supporting its use is anecdotal, it is safe when a person uses it correctly.
People should try different remedies for psoriasis until they find an option that is effective and comfortable for symptom relief.
Some people have reported allergic reactions, including:
- severe rashes
If these occur, stop using the oil.
Take care when using tea tree oil and other essential oils. Applying them directly to the skin without a carrier oil can be harmful. Dilute the oil to reduce the risk of side effects.
Never consume tea tree oil by mouth. Swallowing tea tree oil could lead to the following adverse effects:
- stomach upset, including diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ache
- blood cell anomalies
- severe rash
Some people should apply caution before using tea tree oil, including:
- women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- people who are taking vancomycin, an antibiotic
- people with linear IgA disease, an autoimmune skin disorder
- boys who have not yet reached puberty, as tea tree oil can increase the growth of breast tissue
- people with a known allergy to tea tree oil or its source plant
No studies have examined the effectiveness of tea tree oil for psoriasis. The risk of side effects when using tea tree oil means that people should be careful before using it to manage the symptoms of psoriasis.
Also, due to the potential complications with certain medical conditions, anyone considering using tea tree oil should inform their doctor first.
Some people use other common herbal remedies to manage the symptoms of psoriasis.
- Aloe vera: A person with this condition can apply a cream containing at least 0.5 percent aloe to the skin up to three times a day. It may help to reduce scaling and redness associated with psoriatic lesions.
- Capsaicin: This is the chemical adds the spicy flavor to hot peppers. Creams containing capsaicin may help reduce psoriasis-associated discomfort, redness, and scaling.
- Epsom salts: Adding Epsom salts to a bath can soothe irritated and itchy skin, and may help to reduce some of the scaling found in psoriasis. Most people tolerate this remedy well.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These are nutrients available in vegetable oils, fatty fish, soy products, nuts, and seeds, as well as in supplement form. Some evidence supports the use of fish oils, which have high quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, in managing psoriasis symptoms.
Remedies that work for one person may not have the desired effects in another. These natural treatments should also not replace the medical treatments for psoriasis, which are scientifically proven and often require a doctor’s prescription.
They can, however, provide further relief when used alongside these treatments.
People can enhance physical comfort and the appearance of psoriatic plaque by taking certain measures at home.
Some examples of effective home care methods for psoriasis include:
Bathing: Bathing and showering can help remove dead and inflamed skin and may also help reduce psoriatic plaque. Adding Epsom salts to the water can also help to manage scaly skin, but avoiding hot water and harsh soaps is important for sensitive skin.
However, showers and baths can cause irritation and dry skin. You should limit baths or showers to one a day for only 5–15 minutes, keeping the temperature warm and not hot.
After bathing, a person should apply a heavy moisturizer while their skin is still moist. Coconut oil is an effective natural moisturizer.
Exposure to sunlight: Exposure to small amounts of sunlight can help improve symptoms. However, too much sunlight can trigger a flare-up of symptoms or make it worse, so speak with a doctor before beginning a regimen of light therapy.
People with psoriasis should apply sunscreen to any skin not affected by plaque.
Being aware of triggers: Finally, people should keep track of what triggers their psoriatic symptoms and avoid them if possible. Keeping a journal of symptoms and possible triggers can help pinpoint what causes psoriatic flares.
Anyone using tea tree oil or other natural remedies for psoriasis should talk to their doctor, as some of them can cause an allergic reaction. Some of these remedies may also be dangerous if they interact with other medications or medical conditions.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also consult their doctor.
Most people need medication to control the symptoms of psoriasis. Options include topical creams, light therapy, and systemic medications.
Topical medications: These are creams and ointments that people apply directly to the affected skin. The most commonly prescribed topical medications are corticosteroids, a class of anti-inflammatory drugs.
However, people using these creams for a long time may at some point find that their symptoms can get worse, making other medications necessary. Other types of medication include synthetic vitamin D creams, topical retinoids, and calcineurin inhibitors, such as Protopic or Elidel.
Light therapy, or phototherapy: Mild exposure to natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) light can ease symptoms and decrease psoriatic affected areas. Light exposure should be monitored by your doctor. Tanning beds are not recommended for psoriasis treatment.
Systemic medications: People with severe cases of psoriasis may take these drugs by mouth or by injection. Most of these medications alter the immune system, helping to reduce inflammation and the overproduction of skin cells. However, these present a risk of serious side effects.
Biologic medications: For some types of psoriasis, and especially for moderate-to-severe symptoms, a doctor may prescribe a biologic medication. This type of drug will aim to reduce the number of flares and manage symptoms by targeting a specific part of the immune system.
In order to ensure the best treatment, a person with this condition should always inform their doctor about changes in symptoms.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that some anecdotal evidence suggests has beneficial effects on psoriasis symptoms.
However, no scientific evidence is available to confirm these benefits, and using tea tree oil in the wrong way runs a high risk of adverse effects.
Be sure to follow instructions, never take tea tree oil by mouth, and always dilute it in a carrier or base oil.
Other natural treatments include bathing in Epsom salts, capsaicin, and omega-3 fatty acids. No natural treatment for psoriasis is a suitable replacement for medical treatment.
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Can any form of physical exercise help psoriasis symptoms?
Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease that is brought on by certain triggers, such as stress, sunburn, illness, or even the weather.
Exercise can definitely help some people alleviate stress through physical exertion, or even using yoga to calm their mind. In addition, exercise should reduce the chance or severity of obesity, which has several other benefits that make treating psoriasis more responsive to medications and reduces the risk of developing other diseases that can cause further psoriasis triggers, such as diabetes.
If your exercise routine involves going outdoors, be sure to apply sunscreen, as sunburn might act as a psoriasis trigger. Likewise, if it’s cold outside, be sure to bundle up as the dry cold air could also cause a trigger.
Also, ensure you wear clothing that reduces any friction on the skin.
Lastly, be sure to bathe after your exercise and wash off any sweat, since this can be a trigger. Be sure to moisturize thoroughly after a bath.Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.