What is scabies?

Scabies rash is a skin condition that is caused by tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites burrow into your skin and cause itching and discomfort. They can cause rashes, redness, and blisters on the skin. Scabies won’t go away without treatment and it’s highly contagious. The female scabies mite burrows under the skin and lays eggs. The eggs hatch a few days later and move to the skin surface and begin the cycle again.

Many traditional treatments for scabies can cause serious side effects. Some people do not respond to these treatments and can develop a resistance. Therefore, you may wish to use natural home remedies to treat your scabies.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any medical concerns please check with your doctor before using any of the remedies.

1. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an effective topical treatment for scabies since it relieves itching and heals the rash on the skin, but it doesn’t work as well on the eggs deeper in the skin. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil to a squirt bottle, and spray it on your bedding.

A review of studies from 2016 suggests that tea tree oil is a promising treatment option for scabies, especially for cases that did not improve using typical treatments. Tea tree oil has been shown to effectively treat scabies in lab tests and in people, though more large-scale, randomized controlled trials are needed. It is possible to be allergic to tea tree oil. If you develop an allergic reaction, discontinue use.

Tea tree oil is:

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • acaricidal (able to kill mites)
  • antipruritic (relieves itching)

2. Neem

Neem oil, soaps, and creams can be a useful alternative treatment for scabies. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and analgesic properties.

The active components of neem have been shown to kill scabies in laboratory tests. This study from 2008 found that using neem seed extract shampoo successfully cured scabies in infested dogs. Most of the ten dogs showed improvement after seven days. After 14 days of using the shampoo, eight of the dogs were totally cured, and the remaining two dogs only had a few mites. Further studies are needed on humans and using larger sample sizes.

3. Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel has a soothing, healing effect on sunburned skin. It can also alleviate itching and kill scabies. A 2009 study found that aloe vera gel was as successful as benzyl benzoate (a common prescription treatment) in treating scabies. No side effects were noted.

This was a small study testing only 16 people with aloe vera, so larger sample sizes are needed. If you use aloe vera gel, ensure that you’re buying pure aloe vera gel with absolutely no additives.

4. Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper can be used to relieve pain and itching from scabies. Some people believe it can also kill the scabies mite, but scientific evidence for this is lacking. The capsaicin in cayenne desensitizes the neurons in the skin when it’s applied topically. A study from 2010 found that capsaicin cream was effective in reducing chronic soft tissue pain when people used it for three weeks. Always do a skin patch test before use.

5. Clove oil

Clove oil has antimicrobial, anesthetic, and antioxidant properties that contribute to its healing powers. It’s also an effective insecticidal. One study published in 2010 showed that clove oil was effective in killing scabies. The laboratory tests used scabies from pigs and rabbits. Nutmeg oil was somewhat effective and ylang-ylang oil was the least effective. More human studies are needed to demonstrate the full potential of these oils.

Though research is mostly anecdotal, the following essential oils are recommended to treat scabies:

  • lavender
  • thyme
  • peppermint
  • ylang-ylang
  • anise seed
  • clove
  • lemongrass
  • orange
  • nutmeg

Cleaning up

The scabies mite can survive for up to four days when not on a human host, so it’s important to treat your home to prevent a reinfestation. Wash all bedding, clothes, and towels in hot water (122°F or 50°C), and dry them in a hot dryer. Items that cannot be washed should be sealed in plastic bags for at least five days. If multiple people live in a home where an infection was discovered, everyone should go through the same cleaning routine, regardless of whether they were actually bitten.

When to see a doctor

Do not expect to get rid of scabies rash immediately. It will take some time, and the itching may persist after as the rash starts to heal. However, if you are still experiencing symptoms after a few weeks of treatment you should see a doctor. Your doctor may determine for certain if you have scabies by doing a skin test. Your doctor may prescribe a cream to use. More serious cases may require prescription pills.

The takeaway

Scabies will not heal overnight and you may experience itching for quite some time. Practicing healthy habits during your treatment may help you see results faster. Get some extra rest and exercise if you can. Eat as healthily as possible since all of these factors will help you to get better sooner.

Be mindful of the fact that scabies is contagious and take measures to ensure you do not infect others. Focus on getting better each day and taking the best possible care of yourself.