Scabies

I’ve never met the patient with Scabies who wasn’t profoundly upset about it. The intense discomfort and itching of Scabies can probably only be appreciated by someone who has had to deal with it and the social and emotional toll that it can take can be frankly devastating.

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here and please understand that I cannot advise you any further than what I have written here without seeing you in person in my clinic.

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Diagnosis

There is a lot of information on the internet on scabies already so I won’t replicate that here but rather I want to mention several approaches that I have seen be of much help. However before getting into any of that you need to first of all be very sure that you are in fact dealing with actual scabies.

The issue of diagnosis with scabies is a subject that is fraught with difficulty. I strongly recommend, wherever you are, to see if you can visit with a person who has special training in this area so that they will closely examine your skin under magnification and take some small scrapings for microscopic examination to confirm if you actually have scabies or if it is just that your body is reacting as if it did.

I'm serious about this. Even the thought of getting scabies will get people itching and you should never under-estimate the power of the mind to convince us of things that may not necessarily be there. A professional opinion should be obtained if at all possible, and then reviewed after a reasonable amount of time and treatment to see if the problem has been resolved. Even if this incurs some expense for you, I assure you the peace of mind of knowing definitely 'yes or no' will be worth it.

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Secondary inflammation

Something that is not so well covered in the literature is the secondary inflammation that is a common after-math of having a scabies infection. This comes back to the immune system whereby it has registered a significant invasion and mounts a potent defence via its white blood cells which in turn produce a heightened level of inflammation in the body.

The net effect of this for many people can be increased skin sensitivity and itching after the infection has been cleared. Of course this can very easily be interpreted as a recurrence and I have met people who have gone back into treatment and damaged their skin with unnecessary chemical treatments in the mistaken belief that they are fighting scabies when in fact they are simply feeling the secondary inflammation working itself out.

Even after successfully treating a scabies infection it can easily take a month, sometimes two months for the system to settle down and the skin to go back to feeling normal.

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Clean fingers!

All the advice you will read about scabies and cleaning and re-cleaning your bedding etc. and being ultra-paranoid about cleanliness in general is painfully true. What is less emphasised is how much of a difference the state of your hands has on the spread of infection -- the intense itching of scabies is very hard to control in the day and more or less impossible at night. Hence it is extremely important to limit the spread of the mites by taking extra special care of the hands.

Everyone with scabies is prone to getting at least some of it in their nail beds and around their hands -- so the first step to prevent spreading and re-infection is to get the hands and fingers as clear and clean as possible.

Carefully trim your nails down as short as you safely can without damaging the delicate tissues underneath and then use a soft nail brush to gently clean all around the nails. Note the word gently. Damaging your fingers by brushing too hard will not help matters one bit. Use warm soapy water and/or warm water diluted with some Tea-tree oil as discussed below.

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Tea-Tree oil

The second step I recommend is to use Tea-tree oil -- possibly a lot of Tea-Tree oil!

Before I go further you need to know that people’s ability to tolerate Tea-Tree oil varies a lot. Please be cautious until you know how sensitive you are to it. For example start by diluting it with water to the ratio of half a tsp of Tea-Tree into half a cup of water.

The way to use it is to wash it over your body in general and then use a soft brush to gently work the Tea-Tree in to affected areas -- as with the nails, taking care not to damage the skin by being too vigorous.

If you know you are a very sensitive person then only apply the Tea-Tree to one small part of your body first to see how you react to it. It is very rare to see any kind of allergy to Tea-Tree, most reactions happen to it from simply using it too strong and without enough dilution.

Sensitivity to Tea-tree does happen and will usually take the form of a red rash in the area coming up in the place where you have put it on about a day or so afterwards.

That said, in each case of scabies that I have worked with we have used a lot of Tea-Tree and the person affected has been able to apply it very strongly indeed, perhaps even up to about ‘half and half’ water to Tea-Tree (50% dilution) and even sometimes directly, i.e. undiluted, on places such as the hands or feet.

Don't rush to use the Tea-Tree in these strengths or you may damage your skin and that will be an unnecessary set-back. It will not work overnight; you have to give this several weeks of daily use so allow a few days to build up the strength of the treatment whilst making sure you can tolerate it ok.

Proceed with caution but, at least from my experience, also with some confidence. I suggest washing your skin and gently scrubbing in the diluted Tea-Tree no less than two times a day and no more than three times a day. Give it time and believe me when I say I really hope it helps!


Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea-Tree flower & oil)

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Immune health

Part of the cultural 'cringe' of getting scabies is that it is associated with a lack of good personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home. Unfortunately that stereo-type will not be going away anytime soon despite many people with impeccable personal and home cleanliness succumbing to the condition simply because of who they have been in contact with...

General immune health, on the other hand, most definitely can influence how long it takes scabies to resolve and how likely it is to re-occur. If there is any possible upside to getting infected with these despicable critters it's that you have an opportunity to ask yourself some penetrating questions about how healthy you are in general -- if the truth is that you need to be looking after yourself better then this dreadful chapter in your life may be the turning point into taking that care.

Immune health is a big subject in itself and I suggest you read here for an over-view of what can be involved in building up good immunity.


Red & White Blood cells

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Neem & Rosemary

These last two suggestions are not from my own clinical experience but colleagues overseas have often talked about the effectiveness of Neem oil in treating Scabies infections. I gather it is a remarkably pungent smelling treatment and, thus far, I have found that the Tea-tree oil used in sufficient amounts has always been up to the job but no one thing works for everyone and the Neem oil may be very worth looking into further.

Another approach I wanted to mention is from clinical herbalist Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir (included here with her permission) who writes: "Living here in a place where folks come back with scabies from travels, I've gotten excellent results with 1/2 ounce rosemary essential oil in 1 pint castor oil. These two need to be mixed well. Apply topically twice per day as needed to smother, kill and extract the buggers as well as bring down the inflammation and bring up vitality. It can be sticky, but most find it soothing."


Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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