by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM 

tea-tree-oilFrom antiseptic mouthwash to natural deodorant, tea tree oil is an essential oil with a multitude of uses and benefits. It tends to be pale yellow or colorless, with an aroma that is similar to eucalyptus or camphor and boasts antibacterial, antiprotozoal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Here’s a deep-dive into all that it can do.

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is distilled from the leaves of an evergreen shrub called Melaleuca alternifolia. The plant is native to Australia and used by Aboriginal people for cleaning wounds and other skin problems.

Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has a 100-year history as a natural remedy. The Bundjalung Aboriginal people would crush the leaves to create a paste to apply to the skin. They also made tea from the leaves to soothe a sore throat.[1]Here’s a look at how this oil can help you today.

Amazing Antibacterial Properties

Oregatrex™oregano oil blend is loaded with antioxidants and carvacrol, the active ingredient in oregano. Perfect for defending against harmful organisms.
The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil have been studied since the 1940s. Bacteria, including Streptococcus pyogenes (strep) and Escherichia coli (e. coli), have been tested in the lab to see how they react to the oil. Researchers found that the oil may target the cell membranes of bacteria and destroy them.[2]

Tea tree oil might have a helpful role against antibiotic resistance. Bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics, so finding alternative solutions is crucial. In several experiments, bacteria didn’t show resistance to tea tree oil.[3]

Healing Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinen-4-ol, which is associated with anti-inflammatory benefits. One experiment found that terpinen-4-ol could reduce inflammation caused by mites that attack the skin and eyes. This compound was able to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are signaling molecules that promote inflammation in the body.[4]

Surprising Antifungal Properties


Another benefit of this essential oil is its antifungal property. It may be helpful in getting rid of fungi such as mold, ringworm, or nail fungus. Researchers have focused on tea tree oil’s ability to fight the overgrowth of Candida, a type of yeast. It appears to attack the cell membranes of yeast by damaging them and making them nonfunctional.[2] Again, the active component in tea tree oil, terpinen-4-ol, plays a role in destroying fungi. It’s not the only compound involved, however, as 1,8-cineole also helps break down the cell membranes.[5]

Unique Antiprotozoal Properties

Protozoa are single-celled organisms such as amoeba. They are parasitic and can cause infections in people. For example, the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum causes malaria and kills 660,000 people every year.[6] In several studies, tea tree oil has shown that it can kill protozoa.[2] This antiprotozoal activity is linked to terpinen-4-ol.

Useful Antiviral Properties

Researchers have discovered antiviral properties in tea tree oil. One study, at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, focused on the herpes simplex virus, which can cause cold sores, and showed that tea tree oil reduced the total viral load from infection.[7] Another study at the University of Catania in Italy looked at the ability of tea tree oil to stop the influenza virus from replicating.[8] Once again, it appears that the compounds terpinen-4-ol and 1,8-cineole are crucial in these activities.

The Top 5 Tea Tree Oil Uses


For more than a century, people have used this oil for different ailments, ranging from eczema to athlete’s foot. Although researchers are still trying to catch up by investigating the full range of tea tree oil uses, the following benefits have been measured.

1. Improving Your Hair

Some of the most popular tea tree oil uses involve the hair. For instance, one study from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia found that a 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo resulted in a 41 percent improvement in dandruff.[9] Not only does the essential oil reduce dandruff, but it may also help suffocate head lice.[10] The shampoo also decreased greasiness and itchiness.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, some people find relief from scalp psoriasis by using tea tree oil shampoo.[11]

You can purchase tea tree oil shampoo or make your own. One of the easiest methods is to add the essential oil to your existing shampoo.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite shampoo
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Add two drops of tea tree essential oil per one ounce of your shampoo.
  2. Make sure the lid is secure on the shampoo bottle.
  3. Shake vigorously.
  4. Use the shampoo as you normally would.
  5. Rinse your hair with water.

Keep in mind that tea tree essential oil is highly concentrated and should never be used directly on the scalp. Always dilute it by mixing it with shampoo or a carrier oil such as olive oil.

2. Encouraging a Clear Complexion

Tea tree oil is present in many skin care products, such as face washes. A study from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital that compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel to 5 percent benzoyl peroxide lotion found that both products improved acne.[12] Although tea tree oil had a slower onset, it also had fewer side effects. In another study, researchers compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel to placebo and saw a significant improvement in acne among those who used the gel.[13]

Since we encourage using skin-care products free of harsh chemicals, here is an easy recipe to make your own:

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Add two drops of tea tree essential oil to one tablespoon of honey.
  2. Mix the ingredients to create a paste.
  3. Apply to your face. Make sure you avoid your eyes and mouth.
  4. Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Wash your face with water.

Try to find raw, organic and natural honey without added chemicals that can irritate the skin. You can also add a small amount of baking soda, such as half a teaspoon, to the paste for an additional antibacterial boost to fight blemishes.

3. Soothing Eczema

Many of the common tea tree oil uses focus on helping skin conditions, including eczema. When researchers at the Skåne University Hospital in Sweden compared tea tree oil to other topical products used to treat skin problems, they found that it was effective.[14] The soothing actions of terpinen-4-ol in this essential oil can also help reduce the irritation caused by eczema.[15]

Skin ointments, creams, and gels that contain tea tree oil are available for purchase, but you can also create your own.

Ingredients

  • Carrier oil such as olive, coconut, jojoba or other oil
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Since you can’t apply undiluted tea tree essential oil directly to the skin, you need to mix it with a carrier oil. Suitable options include olive, coconut, jojoba or another oil.
  2. Add one drop of tea tree essential oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil. Mix them.
  3. Apply to the skin, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

4. Getting Rid of Bad Breath

One tea tree oil benefit is its ability to eliminate bad breath or halitosis. Usually, bad breath is caused by bacteria, so the antibacterial properties of this essential oil can help get rid of it. When researchers in India compared different essential oils and looked at tea tree oil uses, they discovered that using it resulted in a significant reduction of oral bacteria.[16]

It’s important to remember that you don’t want to swallow any tea tree oil. It’s not safe to ingest because it can cause serious problems such as confusion and the loss of muscle coordination.[17]

You can find toothpaste and mouthwash that include tea tree oil as an ingredient. You can also add it to your regular toothpaste or mouthwash.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite fluoride-free toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Add one drop of tea tree oil to the toothpaste on your toothbrush.
  2. Add two drops of tea tree essential oil to one cup of mouthwash.
  3. Use the products as you normally would.
  4. Rinse your mouth with water.

5. Fighting Athlete’s Foot

Researchers at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital looked at 104 patients and found that a cream that contained 10 percent tea tree oil was just as effective as 1 percent tolnaftate for reducing the symptoms of athlete’s foot.[18] Another study at the same hospital showed that patients who used a 25 percent or 50 percent tea tree oil solution had an improvement in their athlete’s foot symptoms.[19]
Oregatrex™oregano oil blend is loaded with antioxidants and carvacrol, the active ingredient in oregano. Perfect for defending against harmful organisms.
Although there are over-the-counter creams and ointments for fungal infections, it’s easy to make your own natural formula.

Ingredients

  • Carrier oil such as olive, coconut, jojoba or other oil
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Don’t apply undiluted tea tree essential oil directly to the skin, mix it with a carrier oil like olive, coconut, or jojoba oil.
  2. Add one drop of tea tree essential oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil. Mix them.
  3. Add one drop of oil of oregano and mix.
  4. Apply to the skin.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly, avoid touching your eyes or mouth.

How to Apply Tea Tree Oil

You must use a diluted form of tea tree oil, never apply undiluted oil directly to the skin in its concentrated form. It’s best to dilute it with a suitable carrier such as jojoba or coconut oil. You can do this by adding one drop of tea tree oil to 12 drops of carrier oil.

Dermatologists recommend that people with sensitive skin use this product with caution. In some cases, it can make skin irritation worse. Apply it to a small patch of skin first to check for any reactions.

Today, widespread knowledge of tea tree oil benefits means it’s available in many products. You can find it in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, creams, gels, bath oils, and ointments. The essential oil version, however, is the most versatile since you can dilute it and add it to many products.

Are There Side Effects to Using Tea Tree Oil?

In general, most tea tree oil uses are considered safe and don’t have serious side effects. Rarely, people develop an allergic reaction, skin rash, or irritation after using it.[17] If you notice any problems, discontinue use immediately and consult your healthcare practitioner.

There are many practical uses for tea tree oil and it’s far from the only essential oil with a lot to offer. Consider learning more about other essential oils and how they can benefit you and your life.

References (19)
  1. Kamenev M. “Top 10 Aboriginal bush medicines.” Australian Geographic. 8 Feb. 2011.
  2. Carson CF, Hammer KA, Riley TV. “Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2006;19(1),50-62.
  3. Yap PSX, Yiap BC, Ping HC, Lim SHE. “Essential Oils, A New Horizon in Combating Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance.” The Open Microbiology Journal. 2014;8,6-14.
  4. Tighe S, Gao Y-Y, Tseng SCG. “Terpinen-4-ol is the Most Active Ingredient of Tea Tree Oil to Kill Demodex Mites.” Translational Vision Science & Technology. 2013;2(7),2.
  5. Mondello F, De Bernardis F, Girolamo A, Cassone A, Salvatore G. “In vivo activity of terpinen-4-ol, the main bioactive component of Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (tea tree) oil against azole-susceptible and -resistant human pathogenic Candida species.” BMC Infectious Diseases. 2006;6,158.
  6. Parasites.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 22 April 2016.
  7. Schnitzler P, et al. “Antiviral activity of Australian tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil against herpes simplex virus in cell culture.” Die Pharmazie. 2001;56(4),343-7.
  8. Garozzo A, et al. “Activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil on Influenza virus A/PR/8: study on the mechanism of action.” Antiviral research. 2011;89(1),83-8.
  9. Satchell AC, et al. “Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002;47(6),852-5.
  10. Understanding and Managing Head Lice.” NIH MedlinePlus Magazine. 2015;10(3),12-13.
  11. Herbs/Natural Remedies.” National Psoriasis Foundation.
  12. Bassett IB, et al. “A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne.” Med J Aust. 1990;153(8),455-8.
  13. Enshaieh S, et al. “The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study.” Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2007;73(1),22-5.
  14. Wallengren J. “Tea tree oil attenuates experimental contact dermatitis.” Arch Dermatol Res. 2011;303(5),333-8.
  15. Pazyar N, et al. “A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology.” Int J Dermatol. 2013;52(7),784-90.
  16. Thosar N, Basak S, Bahadure RN, Rajurkar M. “Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study.” European Journal of Dentistry. 2013;7(Suppl 1),S71-S77.
  17. Tea Tree Oil.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 1 Dec. 2016.
  18. Tong MM, et al. “Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis.” Australas J Dermatol. 1992;33(3),145-9.
  19. Satchell AC, et al. “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study.” Australas J Dermatol. 2002;43(3),175-8.

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