Tea tree oil is derivative from the leaves of the tea tree. It was named by 18th-century sailors that made tea which smelled as nutmeg from the leaves of the tree growing on the marshy southeast Australian coast. Don’t confuse the tea tree with the distinct common tea plant, which is used to make green and black teas.
Tea tree oil is used topically. It is usually applied to the skin for infections such as fungal infections of the nail (onychomycosis), acne, lice, Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), scabies, and ringworm. Tea tree oil is also applied topically as a local antiseptic for abrasions and cuts, insect bites and stings, for burns, vaginal infections, boils, toothache, recurrent herpes labialis, infections of the nose and mouth, ear infections, and sore throat. Many people add it to bath water to treat bronchial congestion, cough, and pulmonary inflammation.
How does it work?
The chemicals in tea tree oil can kill fungus and bacteria, and decrease allergic skin reactions.
You can use tea tree oil for treating the following ailments:
Applying a 5% tea tree oil gel seems to be as beneficial as 5% benzoyl peroxide (Benzac AC, Oxy-5, and others) for treating acne. It may work slower than benzoyl peroxide but appears to be less irritating, especially to facial skin. Tea tree oil eases some acne symptoms, including severity of acne. Apply 2 times a day for 45 days.
- Fungus Infections of the Nails
Fungus infections of the nails, also known as onychomycosis, can be effectively treated with topical application of 100% tea tree oil. You should use it 2 times a day for 6 months in order to cure fungal toenail infection. It can also improve nail appearance and symptoms in around 56% of patients after 3 months and 61% of patients after 6 months of treatment. A lower concentration of tea tree oil doesn’t seem to be very effective. For instance, there is an evidence that a 5 percent tea tree oil cream applied 3 times daily for 3 months has no any benefit.
- Athlete’s foot
Topical application of a 10% tea tree oil cream is effective as tolnaftate 1% cream (Ting, Tinactin, Genaspor, and others) for releasing symptoms of Athlete’s foot, including inflammation, scaling, burning, and itching. However, the 10% tea tree oil cream does not seem to heal the infection. In order to cure this infection, you need a stronger solution from 25% to 50% of pure tea tree oil. This solution appears to both release symptoms and eases the infection in about 50% people who try it for four weeks. Still, 25% or 50% tea tree concentrations do not appear to be as effective for healing the infection as medicines such as terbinafine or clotrimazole.
Insufficient Evidence for:
- Dandruff – some research claims that applying a 5% tea tree oil shampoo 3 minutes daily for 4 weeks lessens greasiness, scalp itchiness, scalp lesions, and scalp itchiness.
- Bad breath – a few studies show that placing tea tree oil to an essential oil mixture containing lemon and peppermint oils may reduce bad breath.
- Bacterial infection of the vagina – research suggests that this oil can benefit people with bacterial vaginosis.
- Dental plaque – some early research found that brushing the teeth with a 2.5% tea tree gel 2 times a day for 8 weeks can reduce gum bleeding but not a plaque. Moreover, using a mouthwash with this oil after a professional teeth cleaning doesn’t seem to decrease the formation of plaque.
- Cold sores (Herpes labialis) – studies suggest that applying about 6% tea tree oil gel five times daily doesn’t considerably improve cold sores.
- Hemorrhoids – a few researchers show that applying a gel containing this oil can reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids, such as inflammation, itching, and pain, in children.
- Gingivitis – result from research examining the effect of this oil on gingivitis are varying. But, rinsing with a specific product (Tebodont), which contains tea tree oil and a chemical known as xylitol seems to decrease gum inflammation.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection – evidence about the effect of this oil on this infection is still unclear. But, an early research claims that using a 5 percent of tea tree oil body wash and 4 percent of tea tree nasal ointment together with other regular treatments may have a small benefit.
- Lice – research claims that this oil may repel lice. Likewise, applying a combination of tea tree and lavender oil kills lice eggs and lessens the number of live lice. Yet, it’s unclear if the effect is caused by the tea tree oil alone or the blend of tea tree and lavender oil.
- Allergic skin reactions to nickel – developing research submits that undiluted tea tree oil might reduce the redness skin reaction in people who are sensitive to contact with nickel.
- Yeast infections in the throat and mouth (thrush) – a person with AIDS has a weak immune system and sometimes come down with an infection as thrush. Fortunately, there are a few pieces of evidence that tea tree oil may be beneficial for people with HIV/AIDS whose infection doesn’t respond to usual antifungal medicines as fluconazole. A swishing and expelling solution of tea tree for 2-4 weeks seem to improve the symptoms.
- Infestation of the eyelashes with a type of mite – research claims that tea tree may heal common eyelid infections and decrease the associated symptoms, including vision loss and eye inflammation.
- A skin infection caused by a virus – some research shows that applying a mixture of iodine and tea tree oil for 30 days can clear up warts in kids better than just iodine or tea tree alone.
- Vaginal infection is known as vaginal candidiasis – early research suggests tea tree might be beneficial for people with this type of vaginal infection.
- Vaginal infection known as trichomoniasis – early studies claim tea tree oil might be beneficial for people with this type of vaginal infection.
- Ear infections
- Sore throat
- Preventing infections in burns, cuts, insect bites, boils, stings, and abrasions.
- Other conditions
- Tea tree oil is probably SAFE for most people when applied to the skin. However, it can cause swelling and skin irritation. In some people with acne, it may sometimes cause itching, skin dryness, redness, stinging, and burning.
- Applying product to the skin that contains tea tree in combination with lavender oil may not be safe for younger boys who haven’t yet reached puberty. That kind of products may have hormone effects that can disrupt the normal hormones in the body. Occasionally, this has caused in young boys developing gynecomastia (abnormal breast growth). The safety of this kind of products, when used by young girls, isn’t known.
- Tea tree oil is UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Do not take this oil by mouth. As a basic rule under no circumstances take undiluted essential oils by mouth due to the risk of serious side effects. That can cause a rash, inability to walk, confusion, unsteadiness, and even coma.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Tea tree oil is possibly SAFE when topically applied to the skin. But, it’s UNSAFE if taken by mouth. Absorption of this oil can be toxic.
- Interactions with Drugs
Tea tree oil may possibly interfere with the way the body processes drugs that use the liver’s “cytochrome P450” enzyme system. Consequently, the levels of these drugs might be altered in the blood, and alter the wanted effects. People taking any medicines need to check the package insert and consult with their GP and/or pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Tea tree oil may possibly interact with agents for parasite infections, agents for cancer, agents for the skin, agents that affect the nervous system, agents for worm infections, agents that affect the blood, anti-acne agents, antibiotics, agents that decrease immune function, antihistamines, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, dental agents, antiviral agents, insect repellants, hormonal agents, skin drying agents, vancomycin, and Tween20/Tween80.
- Interactions with Dietary Supplements and Herbs
Tea tree oil may possibly interfere with the way the body processes drugs that use the liver’s “cytochrome P450” enzyme system. Consequently, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood, and alter the wanted effects. People taking any medicines need to check the package insert and consult with their GP and/or pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Tea tree oil may possibly interact with antibacterial, anti-acne supplements and herbs, antihistamines, antifungals, anti-inflammatory supplements and herbs, antivirals, supplements and herbs for cancer, dental herbs and supplements, , herbs and supplements that affect the nervous system, herbs and supplements for the skin, supplements and herbs for parasite infections, supplements and herbs that decrease immune function, supplements and herbs for worm infections, supplements and herbs that affect the blood, hormonal herbs and supplements, iodine, skin drying herbs and supplements, and insect repellants.
The following dosages have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
For acne treatment – 5% tea tree oil gel applied once a day.
For Athlete’s foot – 25% or 50% tea tree oil solution applied 2 times a day for 1 month. Or tea tree oil 10% cream applied 2 times a day for 1 month.
For nail fungus – 100% tea tree oil solution applied 2 times a day for 6 months.
More evidence is required to rate tea tree oil for the above-mentioned uses.