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Can Tea Tree Oil Help Psoriasis?

Posted on August 06, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H.

Tea tree oil is a popular natural remedy for different skin conditions. Some people use this essential oil to relieve psoriasis symptoms. It is a complementary therapy, meaning the oil is used alongside other psoriasis treatments.

There is not yet a cure for psoriasis, and tea tree oil is not a magic bullet. However, it does offer some anti-inflammatory benefits. Some people with psoriasis have found it effective in helping to control plaques and itching. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist before trying tea tree oil or any complementary or natural remedies for psoriasis.

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is a type of essential oil that comes from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant native to Australia. Oil is extracted from the plant through pressing or steam distillation.

The use of essential oils for health and therapeutic benefits is sometimes called aromatherapy. Scents may be breathed in, and some oils may be applied topically. Tea tree oil is usually applied directly on the skin after its diluted with another oil, such as coconut oil. Tea tree oil is also an ingredient in some skin care products, including lotions, serums, and shampoos targeted at skin conditions such as acne or dandruff.

Skin-Friendly Properties of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has been found to have many properties that may help keep the skin soothed and healthy, though research is ongoing.

Anti-Inflammatory and Antimicrobial Properties

According to some research, tea tree oil possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that make it an effective treatment for inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. Research also shows that tea tree oil is effective for healing different types of skin wounds.

Antioxidant Properties

Several components of tea tree oil have been shown to have antioxidant effects, which help to reduce environmental and free radical damage to your skin.

Antibacterial Properties

Tea tree oil has antibacterial effects, meaning the oil can help fight infection-producing bacteria on the skin. One study found that tea tree oil may be helpful in treating the bacterial skin condition methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections and may be difficult to treat.

Antiviral, Antifungal, and Antiprotozoal Properties

Tea tree oil has been shown to be beneficial in fighting viruses, fungal infections, and protozoa (single-celled organisms) that can hurt the skin. Tea tree oil is also used as an effective alternative treatment for head lice. Its antifungal properties may help to reduce itching.

How Tea Tree Oil May Help Psoriasis Symptoms

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the skin, leading to dry, discolored, itchy plaques and scales. Scientists have noted that because tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it has the potential to alleviate psoriasis symptoms such as inflamed, itchy skin. Despite the promise, there is currently not enough research to establish any effectiveness of tea tree oil on psoriasis-related skin symptoms.

That said, anecdotal examples of people using tea tree oil for psoriasis suggest that it is likely beneficial. As one MyPsoriasisTeam member said, “I make a healing ointment that really makes a difference. I put in colloidal oats, coconut oil, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil. I use it as a facial oil, on my scalp psoriasis, as a face mask to heal my lesions, and as a body oil after the shower.” Another member shared, “I’ve been using an organic coconut oil with tea tree oil mixture. … It helps the itching and redness.”

How To Use Tea Tree Oil for Psoriasis Symptoms

Before testing tea tree oil or any new product for psoriasis, speak with your doctor or dermatologist. If you have a known allergy to tea tree oil, you should not use it on your skin. If you are not allergic and your doctor gives their approval to try tea tree oil, there are several ways you can use it topically (on the skin). You should never ingest tea tree oil. Tea tree oil can be poisonous if swallowed.

Make Your Own Body Oil

You can make your own tea tree oil mixture to try directly on affected areas of your skin. When choosing a tea tree oil to purchase, make sure the oil is 100 percent pure tea tree oil and from a trustworthy health store.

You should never apply any tea tree oil directly to the skin. Dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba, or olive oil. Make a mixture with a ratio of 1 drop of tea tree oil to about 12 drops of the carrier oil.

Before trying the oil mixture on your skin, conduct a patch test to see how your skin reacts. To do this test, apply the oil mixture to a small area of skin that is not affected by psoriasis. If the skin becomes irritated, bumpy, or itchy, you may be allergic. You should not use the mixture on other areas of your skin.

If your skin does not react to the patch test, rub a small amount of the oil mixture onto areas affected by psoriasis. Let the oil absorb into your skin.

Look for Tea Tree Oil in Skin Care Products

Instead of making your own tea tree oil mixture, you could look for products that use tea tree oil. Many lotions, moisturizers, and shampoos include tea tree oil in their ingredients. Read the ingredient list of a product to check if it contains tea tree oil.

Risks of Using Tea Tree Oil

There are several risks to be aware of if you do decide to try tea tree oil for psoriasis.

Allergic Reactions and Irritation

Some people experience an allergic reaction when using tea tree oil. “I tried taking the tea tree oil. It helped with the itchiness, but I think I was having an allergic reaction to it,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Every time I used it I struggled to breathe until I washed it off. I have a lot of allergies to outdoor things and especially to several trees, so it makes sense.”

The Mayo Clinic notes that tea tree oil can also lead to skin irritation including stinging, burning, discoloration, and scaling, which may appear to make psoriasis worse.

If you do not know whether you are allergic or sensitive to tea tree oil, try conducting a patch test first. One method entails making a small amount of tea tree oil mixture at twice the concentration you plan to use. Apply some to a bandage and affix the bandage to the inside of your forearm. Remove the bandage after 48 hours and check for irritation.

Lack of Regulation and Research

Essential oils are not regulated by any government entity like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, there is no guarantee of the purity or legitimacy of a particular seller’s oil. Be mindful of advertisements about essential oils and the claims that they make about treatment or cure. For a product to be considered a treatment for any condition, it has to be approved and regulated by the FDA.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, only use tea tree oil after consulting with your doctor. The safety and efficacy of tea tree oil has not been tested on babies and young children.

Connect With People Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 96,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Have you tried tea tree oil for your psoriasis? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H. is an Associate Editor at MyHealthTeam. She holds a Master's in Public Health from Columbia University and is passionate about spreading accurate, evidence-based health information. Learn more about her here.

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