Do you get that hard-to-resist urge to scratch your head? An itchy scalp or pruritus of the scalp can be annoying as well as embarrassing. So, what’s causing that itch? Many conditions can in fact! Some common ones include dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis), psoriasis, lice, and a fungal infection (tinea capitis). Let’s take a look at these conditions and some natural remedies that can help you deal with them.1
1. Itchy Scalp Due To Dandruff
Did you know that dandruff affects almost 50% of all adults?2 This condition can give you an itchy scalp as well as flake your skin. It is considered to be a mild form of a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis which causes itchy and flaking skin on other parts of the body too. Although we don’t yet know what exactly causes this condition, the growth of a yeast known as malassezia is associated with it.3
Antidandruff shampoos are usually used to control dandruff. But if you’re looking for a natural remedy, here’s what you can try.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has antifungal properties and can be useful in treating dandruff. One study found that using a 5% tea tree oil shampoo daily for 4 weeks significantly reduced itchiness and greasiness in people with mild to moderate dandruff.4
How to: Try adding a teaspoon of tea tree oil to your shampoo and wash 2-3 times a week to clear out your dandruff.
1-8, Cineol, a natural compound found in eucalyptus oil, shows antidandruff activity by inhibiting the yeast malassezia.5
How to: Mix around 10 drops of eucalyptus oil in your regular shampoo and massage it into your scalp. Leave it on for a couple of minutes before rinsing, allowing the eucalyptus oil to work its magic.
According to research, neem extracts are extremely potent against the fungus associated with dandruff.6
How to: Boil neem leaves in water, cool the mixture, and use it to wash your scalp and hair. You can also add a teaspoon of neem oil to your regular shampoo or massage neem oil into your scalp after diluting it in a sesame oil base to get rid of those annoying flakes.
Now, here’s a sweet remedy for that itchy scalp! Honey has antifungal and antioxidant properties that can help clear dandruff. In one study, participants applied 90% honey diluted in warm water every other day and left it on for 3 hours before rinsing it off with warm water. They experienced great relief. Itching and scaling were both resolved within a week. It was also observed that a weekly application of honey prevented dandruff from recurring.7
2. Itchy Scalp Due To Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a long-lasting skin disorder which results in itchy patches of reddish skin and silvery scales. This condition can affect not just your scalp but your knees, elbows, palms, back, face, and feet too. It occurs due to an issue with your immune system and can be exacerbated by factors like stress, infections, dry skin, and some medications. Your doctor may advise medicines or light therapy to deal with this condition.8 You can also try home remedies like:
Aloe vera has been valued for its soothing and moisturizing properties for ages. And research indicates that it can help you deal with psoriasis too. During one study, patients suffering from psoriasis applied a cream containing .5% aloe vera extract thrice daily for 5 consecutive days a week for a maximum period of 4 weeks. It was found that this treatment cleared psoriasis plaques significantly and cured 83.3% of those who used it.9
How to: Split open an aloe vera leaf and apply the gel inside to affected areas. Wash off after 20–30 minutes. This can help relieve itching and deal with psoriasis.
The exotic golden spice turmeric is another agent that could help you deal with psoriasis. A study found that when a gel containing turmeric was applied topically it improved psoriasis.10 It is thought that this is due to the effect of curcumin, a compound present in turmeric, which has been found to inhibit several inflammatory enzymes implicated in psoriasis.
How to: Mix in a little turmeric powder with water to make a paste and apply on affected areas thrice daily. Rinse off after a while. You can also incorporate turmeric in your daily diet to improve your fight inflammation.
Stress has been found to worsen psoriasis. So it makes sense that a relaxation technique like meditation can be helpful for some people in dealing with this condition. And research backs this up. One study suggests that meditation can clinically improve the symptoms of psoriasis.11 Another study also found that people who participated in a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention while undergoing light therapy healed quicker than those who didn’t.12 So, taking the time out to meditate might just free you of that itch!
Another remedy for psoriasis has been sitting on your kitchen shelf all along. According to research, antioxidant-rich, moisturizing honey can help you deal with this condition. In one study, participants with psoriasis applied medical grade honey to areas affected by psoriasis nightly for 2 weeks. It was found to be comparable in efficacy to an aqueous cream commonly recommended for this condition. 13
3. Itchy Scalp Due To Head Lice
Could lice be making you scratch your head? These parasites feed on human blood and usually spread through close contact. You can also get lice by sharing things like hairbrushes or hats with someone who has it.14 You can get lotions and sprays to treat head lice. But if you’re wary of strong chemicals and are looking for something natural, here are some home remedies that you can check out.
You get special combs that have closely spaced flat teeth which you can use to manually comb the lice out of your hair. Though these combs can be used on dry hair, they work best on wet hair which has conditioner applied to it. The lice will find it difficult to move because of the conditioner.
According to one study, petroleum jelly doesn’t just kill lice by suffocating them, it even works on the eggs, allowing only 6% of them to hatch. Do keep in mind though that this method might not be as effective as using a pesticidal lotion or manually removing the lice.15 It will take time and repeated effort.
Lab studies show that neem seed extracts can kill lice.16 Neem oil has also been traditionally used in some Asian communities to treat lice.
How to: So the next time you’re bothered by these parasites, add a few drops of neem oil to your shampoo when you’re washing your hair. 17
Tea Tree Oil
How to: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo, massage it into your hair, and let it sit for a few minutes. You can also add tea tree oil to your washing machine while you do laundry to disinfect pillow covers or sheets that may be infested with lice.19
4. Itchy Scalp Due To Fungal Infection
A fungal infection of the scalp, known as tinea capitis, can cause round patches of scaly skin that are red and inflamed. It can also lead to hair loss in the affected areas and make your scalp extremely itchy.
Essential oils like tea tree oil and lavender oil have antifungal properties and you may find the topical application of these to be helpful. 20
How to: Mix approximately 2 drops of essential oil diluted in 7 ml of carrier oil like almond oil and apply to the scalp. Wash after a while.
However, do keep in mind that fungal scalp infections are difficult to treat and may not respond well to home remedies. Your doctor may advise antifungal medication or a prescription shampoo to deal with it.
|↑1||Itchy scalp. Healthdirect Australia.|
|↑2||Seborrhoeic dermatitis. British Association of Dermatologists.|
|↑3||Seborrheic dermatitis. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Satchell, Andrew C., Anne Saurajen, Craig Bell, and Ross StC Barnetson. “Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 47, no. 6 (2002): 852-855.|
|↑5||Selvakumar, P. “Studies on the antidandruff activity of the essential oil of Coleus amboinicus and Eucalyptus globulus.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease 2 (2012): S715-S719.|
|↑6||Niharika, Anand, Johnson M. Aquicio, and Arulsamy Anand. “Antifungal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves extract to treat hair dandruff.” E-ISRJ 2 (2010): 244-52.|
|↑7||Al-Waili, N. S. “Therapeutic and prophylactic effects of crude honey on chronic seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.” European journal of medical research 6, no. 7 (2001): 306-308.|
|↑8||Psoriasis. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Syed, Tanweer A., S. Ashfaq Ahmad, Albert H. Holt, Seyed Ali Ahmad, Seyed Hamzeh Ahmad, and Mohammad Afzal. “Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: a placebo‐controlled, double‐blind study.” Tropical Medicine & International Health 1, no. 4 (1996): 505-509.|
|↑10||Sarafian, Golnaz, Minoo Afshar, Parvin Mansouri, Jinous Asgarpanah, Kosar Raoufinejad, and Mehdi Rajabi. “Topical turmeric microemulgel in the management of plaque psoriasis; a clinical evaluation.” Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR 14, no. 3 (2015): 865.|
|↑11||Gaston, Louise, Jean-Charles Crombez, Jacques Joly, Sheilagh Hodgins, and Marc Dumont. “Efficacy of imagery and meditation techniques in treating psoriasis.” Imagination, Cognition and Personality 8, no. 1 (1989): 25-38.|
|↑12||Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Elizabeth Wheeler, Timothy Light, Anne Skillings, Mark J. Scharf, Thomas G. Cropley, David Hosmer, and Jeffrey D. Bernhard. “Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing photo therapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA).” Psychosomatic medicine 60, no. 5 (1998): 625-632.|
|↑13||Fingleton, James, Davitt Sheahan, Andrew Corin, Mark Weatherall, and Richard Beasley. “A randomised controlled trial of topical Kanuka honey for the treatment of psoriasis.” JRSM open 5, no. 3 (2014): 2042533313518913.|
|↑14||Head Lice. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑15||Takano-Lee, Miwa, John D. Edman, Bradley A. Mullens, and John M. Clark. “Home remedies to control head lice: assessment of home remedies to control the human head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae).” Journal of pediatric nursing 19, no. 6 (2004): 393-398.|
|↑16||Heukelbach, Jörg, Fabíola AS Oliveira, and Richard Speare. “A new shampoo based on neem (Azadirachta indica) is highly effective against head lice in vitro.” Parasitology research 99, no. 4 (2006): 353-356.|
|↑17||Bond, Annie B. Home enlightenment: Practical, earth-friendly advice for creating a nurturing, healthy, and toxin-free home and lifestyle. Rodale, 2005.|
|↑18||Di Campli, Emanuela, Soraya Di Bartolomeo, Patricia Delli Pizzi, Mara Di Giulio, Rossella Grande, Antonia Nostro, and Luigina Cellini. “Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggs.” Parasitology research 111, no. 5 (2012): 1985-1992.|
|↑19||Olsen, Cynthia. Australian Tea Tree Oil First Aid Handbook: 101 Plus Ways to Use Tea Tree Oil. Lotus Press, 1999.|
|↑20||Longe, Jacqueline L., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Children’s Health: Infancy Through Adolescence. Gale, 2011.|