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[4 min read] Tea tree oil for actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a scaly, red, and occasionally itchy patch of skin that sometimes resembles a mole. These lesions usually appear on patients over 50 years of age but can also manifest in younger adults, especially those with prolonged sun exposure. Patients often have many lesions at one time.

Often referred to as sunspots, or solar keratosis, there is a risk that these lesions will develop into squamous cell carcinomas or melanomas, but the exact risk is unknown and it can’t be predicted which ones will progress. Therefore, early treatment is the best option.

Current treatments include photodynamic therapy combined with topical preparations. This method requires several weeks of application to be effective and tends to cause a huge inflammatory skin response – leading to reduced compliance as the side effects are often worse for the patients than the original lesion.

In 2010, Australian research highlighted a new, promising topical option. Scientists at the University of Western Australia studied the anti-tumour effects of tea tree oil when applied subcutaneously. Tea tree oil regressed melanoma in mice models.

In 2017, a further Indian review of tea tree oil highlighted the vast array of medicinal properties of tea tree oil, including the anti-cancer activity of the active ingredient: terpinen-4-ol.

Further studies have been undertaken at the University of Kentucky (USA), which validated earlier work and also tested a fully formulated product, utilising terpinen-4-ol, to regress actinic keratosis.

Although the exact mode of action for tea tree oil is unknown, one study showed that it appeared to stimulate an immune response where anti-tumour efficacy is facilitated by a direct effect on subcutaneous AE17 tumour cells in vivo.

Several clinical trials support the efficacy of specially-formulated tea tree oil products for the treatment of actinic keratoses, with fewer side effects and less irritation than other topical methods.

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Read more recent research.

Source: 5 August 2019. Newmaker press release. Australian Research leads to global solution for treatment of Actinic Keratosis (AK Sunspots). Complimentary Healthcare Group.

11 comments on “[4 min read] Tea tree oil for actinic keratosis

  1. I used 100% pure and natural tea tree oil. I dipped a Q-Tip into the bottle of oil and held it against the spot for a few minutes to half and hour a night, occasionally rubbing the spot with the swab. Initially the surrounding area became a little red and irritated but I treated that with aloe and gave it a rest for a day or so. It has been less than a month and the spot is now almost completely gone.

  2. I’ve been using undiluted tea tree oil with a q tip directly on the spot, once nightly and after 2 weeks it is almost gone. I will post before and after later. No side effects.

  3. The key is to get the active terpenol – the smell basically – below the skin surface. I’d guess the active holding and frequent application were the key to getting it to actually absorb, just rubbing it on the surface will have limited and very slow effect. The last study mentioned above was a cream that never progressed past animal trials which contained the terpenol-4-ol from tea tree oil, vanillin as a vasodillator to get it below the skin surface and parrifin oil to act as an evaporation barrier and keep the active terpenol in the skin longer. If you search the web you can find a long and complex patent application for the cream( Curaderm / tea tree oil delivery system ), but in a nutshell the parrifin oil is nasty to have on your skin especially in hot climates, so I’ve just been using 50/50 tea tree and vanilla essence – yep – from the baking section at the supermarket. I put it in a small spray bottle and spray it on, but it’s like balsamic vinegar, doesn’t mix, so you need to shake it up all the time. Aldara has a more aggressive vasodillator and it is this that causes a lot of the skin redness and inflammation, so vanillin seems to be the next best option. From what I have read imitation vanilla essence has as much vanillin in it as the pure stuff. I’ve been doing this on and off once a day for weeks now, and it’s definitely the first thing EVER that is having an effect on my AK that started in my teens ( now 52 ). I’ve tried all the natural options and nothing worked for me. This has promise, but isn’t fast, so you’re gonna have to stick with it and see how you go. I find it works quicker so far on may arms than my legs, better circulation I guess? Anyway, no promises, but hope this helps people out there.

  4. EDIT, sorry wrong thing to search on above, “Curaderm” is basically the eggplant compound cream, you need to search on “Zena Pharm”, now abandoned it seems. I did also find the Curaderm patent and the basic process to extract the active component they use from eggplant, but it’s very very involved, solvents and the like, a full on chemical process. It did show however that just using eggplant in vinegar won’t work, as you extract as much of the antagonist compound as the stuff you want, and they cancel each other out. I did try that for a time too….fail.

    1. I did use Curaderm for those of you wondering, it works but it is VERY invasive! So unless you plan on doing multiple dressing changes! Buying hibaclens to clean the wounds during dressing changes and having open wounds for weeks, don’t try it but it got rid of 4 AK spots! I’m trying Diclofenac and Hyaluronic acid (not solaraze, I mixed myself) will let you know results! Have not truly tried tea tree yet.

  5. I applied tea tree oil directly to my A K on my forehead. I got a allergic reaction, with itchy scratchy pain.The blisters increased in size and went very raw red. I also got a crawly skin feeling, like a fly was walking on my head…Never again.

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