What Is Scabies?
Scabies is a skin condition characterized by a distinctive red rash and unbearable itching that worsens at night. Scratching of the rash creates open sores that can become infected and the skin may also blister.
Globally, Scabies is estimated to affect around two million people at any one time. The condition is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes Scabiei which is an eight-legged insect invisible to the naked eye and not dissimilar in appearance to a tick. These mites live on the skin and reproduce on the skin’s surface by burrowing into it and laying eggs. Scabies is highly contagious and is passed by skin to skin contact but can also be shared via infested clothing or bedding and even furniture. It is not classified as an STI – Sexually Transmitted Infection but can be transmitted through intimate skin to skin contact.
Scabies is not considered to be a serious disease in the scheme of things but it is very persistent and the cost of its treatment and eradication is endlessly ongoing for health systems. If persistent and untreated, Scabies can go on to be implicated in a downward health spiral causing other complications, usually because it is prevalent in poorer parts of the world where the standard of living is low and awareness of treatments are limited. It is more commonplace in (although not limited to) tropical countries, in areas of high population density amongst low-income communities. It is however by no means limited to these strata of society and is also present in other species like dogs.
What are the standard treatments for Scabies?
Upon a medical diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe one of the following creams or lotions:-
- Permethrin Cream – suitable for all age ranges including pregnant women but not infants under two months old. Permethrin kills both the mites and their eggs
- Lindane Lotion – not the usually the medication of first choice, Lindane tends to be used when other prescriptions have failed to treat the infestation or for people who cannot tolerate other medicines. Lindane is not safe to use on children aged under ten years or pregnant or nursing mums
- Crotamiton – a cream application product, this also has limitations in terms of prescription range so is not suitable in the very young or the elderly or pregnant or nursing women
In well established and persistent outbreaks, a doctor may also prescribe Ivermectin which is taken by mouth. This is also a treatment of choice for patients with a lowered immune response or a depleted immune system due to other illnesses.
Even these conventional treatments can take a while to overcome the mite infestation and the itching may persist for some weeks. Because of this, some people opt to use home remedies either alongside standard treatments or instead of for various reasons.
What are the Essential oil remedies for Scabies?
Essential oils have, well, an essential role in the treatment of scabies because they can be used to treat both the skin of the sufferer and the home environment which must be rid of the infestation otherwise the skin condition will just persist. Essential oils, therefore, play an important role in the all-round treatment of Scabies.
The most commonly used and effective essential oils for the treatment of Scabies are:
- White Camphor
According to this study, the most effective oils for scabies are: clove > palmarosa > geranium > tea tree > lavender > manuka > bitter orange > eucalyptus > Japanese cedar, in that order of efficacy.
Peppermint and Lavender for skin application
Use a carrier or base oil like olive oil, almond oil, even vegetable oil from the kitchen and add four drops each of Peppermint oil and Lavender Oil and mix well. Patch test the skin first before you use it as this concentration is stronger than the usual infusion which would be used in aromatherapy treatments. Bathe, dry the skin and then apply the oil solution to the itchy areas at least twice a day.
Add two drops of Rosemary oil and two drops of Lavender oil to a bath mixed first in a teaspoon of milk. When dry after bathing, apply the lavender and peppermint infusion.
Treatment within the home environment
Unfortunately, the mites reside everywhere so you should consider burning some clothing and bed linen and starting again. For anything you just want to wash, it must be laundered at a high temperature in order to kill the mites. Upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows which cannot be conventionally washed can be sprayed with an essential oil blend of White Camphor and Lavender mixed in alcohol in a ratio of 5:5:90. Blend together well and then dispense into a plant spray to use on fixed fabrics and cushions. The camphor can stain but this may well be the least of your concerns and take care not to inhale this fusion.
Skin can be uncomfortable for a while once the infestation has been eliminated and can benefit from the soothing and healing influences of Lavender, Myrrh and Neroli always blended in a base oil rather than applied direct. Usually, two drops of oil to a teaspoon of carrier oil is a good working rule of thumb. Apply to the dry, blotchy areas to aid with skin healing and nourishment.
Other oils to consider
- Neem – with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Neem does kill the mites which cause Scabies. Neem comes from the pressed fruits and seeds of the Neem tree
- Tea Tree Oil – a great reliever of itching and irritation as well as being renowned for its cooling and antiseptic properties
- Aloe Vera – safe and soothing, Aloe Vera will calm irritated and persistently itchy skin and will help eliminate the mite population living in the skin
Many people opt for natural remedies because they choose not to use chemical-based medical products. Whichever route you take, whether it is medical, natural or a combo, be prepared to persist as these mites are pesky little blighters and very hard to shift. Essential oils will make the skin much more comfortable during the outbreak and the aroma of the fragrances will have a soothing and pleasant effect on the mood of the sufferer.