Tea tree oil attenuates experimental contact dermatitis


Herbs and minerals have been used in clinical dermatology for hundreds of years and herbal ingredients are becoming increasingly popular with the public in treatment of various dermatological conditions characterised by inflammation and pruritus. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of traditional topical therapeutic agents with a moderate potency topical glucocorticoid on experimental contact dermatitis and contact urticaria. The effects of ichthammol 10% pet, zinc oxide 20% pet, camphor 20% pet, levomenthol 10% pet, tea tree oil 20 or 50% and clobetason butyrate 0.05% ointment were studied in the following experimental models: elicitation of allergic contact dermatitis to nickel, irritant contact dermatitis to benzalkonium chloride, and in immediate reactions to histamine and benzoic acid (non-immunological contact utricaria) respectively. Delayed reactions were evaluated using a clinical scoring system and immediate reactions were estimated by planimetry. Histamine-induced pruritus was evaluated using VAS. Tea tree oil reduced allergic contact dermatitis by 40.5% (p = 0.003), zinc oxide by 17.4% (p = 0.04) and clobetason butyrate by 23.5% (p = 0.01). Zinc oxide reduced histamine induced flare by 18.5% (p = 0.01), ichthammol by 19.2% (p = 0.02) and clobetason butyrate by 44.1% (p = 0.02). Irritant contact dermatitis and non-immunological contact urticaria were not influenced by the pre-treatments. Pruritus induced by histamine also remained unchanged. In conclusion, tea tree oil seems to be a more effective anti-eczematic agent than zinc oxide and clobetasone butyrate, while clobetasone butyrate is superior to both ichthammol and zinc oxide in topical treatment of urticarial reactions.

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Technical assistance of Elsa Larsson and Inger Nordgren is greatfully acknowledged. The study was supported by The Welander and Finsen Foundation and The Asthma and Allergy Foundation. The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Joanna Wallengren.

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Wallengren, J. Tea tree oil attenuates experimental contact dermatitis. Arch Dermatol Res 303, 333–338 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00403-010-1083-y

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  • Tea tree oil
  • Zinc oxide
  • Ichthammol
  • Clobetasone butyrate
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Contact urticaria