Tea Tree Oil Shampoo Effective Dandruff Treatment
Adults with dandruff may show significant improvement in their symptoms by washing their hair once a day with a shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil, according to a new study in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2002;47:852–5). The authors of this report believe that tea tree oil helps kill a specific type of fungus that is thought to be the underlying cause of dandruff.
In the new study, 126 people aged 14 years and older with dandruff were randomly assigned to wash their hair once a day with shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) or the same shampoo without the tea tree oil for one month. The area of involvement and severity of dandruff were measured initially and after two and four weeks. Participants were also asked to rate the degree of scaliness, itchiness, and greasiness of their scalps.
The area of involvement and severity of dandruff significantly decreased by 28% and 23%, respectively, in the group using tea tree oil shampoo, whereas a 13% reduction in area of involvement and 3% drop in severity of dandruff was observed in those using the placebo shampoo. Compared with placebo shampoo users, the tea tree oil group also reported statistically significant reductions in itchiness (23% versus 12%) and greasiness of the scalp (26% versus 8%). Scaliness of the scalp also became less severe with tea tree oil, but the improvement was not statistically significant. Although improvements were observed in those using tea tree oil shampoo, only one individual had complete resolution of his dandruff by the end of the study. The authors suggest that some people with dandruff may have a better outcome by using tea tee oil shampoo for a longer period of time.
Dandruff is a condition of the skin, characterized by flakiness, dryness, and itching of the scalp. Some, though not all, studies suggest that dandruff is caused by a specific type of fungus called Pityrosporum ovale, and some cases of dandruff can be effectively treated with anti-fungal medications such as selenium sulfide, ketoconazole (Nizoral®), and terbinafine (Lamisil®). Tea tree oil has been shown to be an effective anti-fungal agent, which may explain why it is beneficial for those with dandruff.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil (i.e., an oil “essential” to the plant for protection and reproduction and gives the plant its characteristic aroma) extracted from the leaves of a shrub-like tree native to Australia. Preparations containing tea tree oil have been used topically to treat various types of fungal infections (such as Athlete’s foot, toenail infections, thrush, and vaginal yeast infections). Topical tea tree oil is also an effective treatment for acne. However, some people may experience an allergic reaction to tea tree oil, resulting in itching or a rash, so some physicians recommend testing a small amount on the skin first before using it in larger amounts. Tea tree oil can be toxic if ingested and can cause burns if it gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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