written by: Annette Pope
• edited by: Diana Cooper
• updated: 12/31/2010
For those plagued by the discomfort and unsightly symptoms of dermatitis, chemically created creams and other medicinal treatments seem like the only solution. But a more natural and holistic remedy exists for dermatitis - tea tree oil.
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Created from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree in Australia, tea tree oil has proven itself as an effective bacteria and fungi killer as well as a medicinal agent. Available in numerous forms of body care products, including shampoo, soap, skin cream and pure oil, tea tree oil is used for multiple treatment applications, such as fungal nail infections and athlete's foot. Skin irritations such as dermatitis, burns, and acne may benefit from daily application of tea tree oil without the need for additional, more harmful chemicals.
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What Is Dermatitis?
Dermatitis is a catch-all term that refers to any inflammation of the skin. This inflammation can be due to direct contact with an irritant, or a result of allergies, stress or genetics. It can occur just about anywhere on your body, causing red, itchy skin that may swell or develop lesions. Dermatitis is not a contagious skin condition, or considered a health risk unless over-scratching leads to an infection. If the itching is preventing you from sleeping or self-treatment has no effect, see your doctor.
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How Is Dermatitis Traditionally Treated?
Treatment of dermatitis usually involves hydrocortisone creams and antihistamines to help alleviate the inflammation and itching. Applying cool, damp washcloths to the area can also help and will prevent you from scratching the area, aggravating the problem. In some cases, where the dermatitis is caused by stress or emotional troubles, mood elevators and anti-depressants may be prescribed.
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What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a product created by steaming the leaves of the tea tree.Tea tree oil has been used as a general antiseptic and medicinal agent for thousands of years by aborigine tribes. It's used to treat and heal skin ailments, as well as prevent infection. Because of the oil's healing qualities, it became standard issue for World War II soldiers in the Australian Army. As a holistic remedy for dermatitis, tea tree oil works well.
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The healing qualities of tea tree oil have been known for thousands of years, and now it may be just the thing to heal your dermatitis. Tea tree oil is available in a variety of quality ranges, and the lower quality oil might do more harm for your skin than help. Read on to find out how to tell the good quality tea tree oil from the bad and how to use it to clear up your ailing skin.
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Treating Dermatitis: Tea Tree Oil
The skin healing qualities in tea tree oil make it an obvious natural alternative to help soothe and heal the pain and irritation of dermatitis symptoms. But, although many people swear by the oil for symptom relief, there are no official hard and fast recommendations that will work for every user. Some people will see a distinct difference while using it, while others may not. Results, as the television commercials like to remind us, may vary.
Tea tree oil may be applied directly to the skin in its pure oil form daily to soothe symptoms and promote healing. Use as much or as little as you feel necessary to cover the entire area. To make an application mixture, add 50 drops of pure tea tree oil to 1 tbsp of cold pressed olive oil or fragrance free cream or lotion. Mix well and store in a glass container in a cool, dark place. Apply the mixture to your affected area daily.
Tea tree oil may cause additional skin irritation in people allergic to it, so apply a small amount to a healthy section of skin for an allergy test. A good standard is to wait 24 hours and check the test area for any reaction. If the area is clear, you are free to use the oil on your dermatitis.
Use tea tree oil as a topical agent only, as ingestion of even small quantities can cause severe reactions such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and reduced immune system function. Do not use it in your ear, as it may cause inner ear damage. Keep pets away from the oil, as it can be fatal to cats.
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Finding Quality Tea Tree Oil
Commercially sold tea tree oil is available in a range of grades, with varying degrees of quality. To find a good quality oil, check the cineole and terpinen-4-ol numbers listed on the label. These are the two active ingredients in tea tree oil, and the proper ratio makes for better quality. Look for a brand with a low cineole percentage, and a high terpinen-4-ol percentage. Pharmaceutical grade tea tree oil will have 3% or less cineole and 37% or more terpinen-4-ol, while technical grade oil will only have a 10%-/30%+ ratio.
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Tea tree oil has been used for its medicinal qualities for thousands of years. However, as with any other holistic remedy, results will depend on the severity of the dermatitis, the quality of the oil, and the individual using it. Natural remedies don't always work better than their pharmaceutical counterparts, nor are they always 100% safe. Always use common sense when using natural supplements or herbal extracts, and should any side effects appear, such as a burning sensation or increased irritation after application, stop using the oil immediately and see your doctor.
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Mayo Clinic: Dermatitis - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dermatitis-eczema/DS00339
Mayo Clinic: Tea Tree Oil - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tea-tree-oil/NS_patient-teatreeoil
WebMD: Tea Tree Oil - http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/tc/tea-tree-oil-melaleuca-alternifolia-topic-overview