Tea Tree Oil – All You Need to Know About

Updated on January 22nd, 2020
Benefits of tea tree oil

Traditional medicine has always been a part of almost all growing civilizations. In fact, growing awareness of their inherent benefits has only made people want to use them more and experience their utility in their daily life. The hidden crown jewel of this discipline is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil, also known as the melaleuca oil, is an essential oil which is extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia tree that can be found in the Australian parts of Queensland, as well as New South Wales.

Studies(1) have shown that tea tree oil is most commonly used as a medication to cure skin conditions and other ancillary problems such as dandruff, fungal infections. However, it’s not limited to it.

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that can be used for several purposes such as keeping your skin and hair healthy, getting rid of bacteria from the mouth, preventing oral infections, etc.

Not only are the benefits scientifically backed, but the oil is also easily available at inexpensive rates and is quite safe when used in the right dosage and manner.

It may not be out of place to mention here that the tea tree oil is not a patented product. In fact, it is not even an approved drug type but is still used widely by people to cure common skin troubles. It should be noted that its consumption can be poisonous, and one should at no cost ingest any essential oils.

TEA TREE OIL – ‘Why Is It the Best Essential Oil’

History of Tea Tree Oil

The name of the oil comes from Captain James Cook’s description of the shrubs that he used to mix and drink in place of tea.

Commercial plantations of this oil began in the 1970s and 1980s where large quantities of tea tree oil began to be produced. The industry soon expanded to other nations to cover other species under its ambit for their extracted oil such as Egypt, Malaysia, and Tunisia.

Composition of Tea Tree Oil

As per International Standard ISO 4730 (2017), tea tree oil consists of terpinene-4-ol, γ-terpinene, and α-terpinene as 70-90% of the total oil. Other components forming the rest 15% part of oil includes ρ-cymene, terpinolene, α-terpineol, and α-pinene.

The color of the tea tree oil ranges from colorless to pale yellow and it has a fresh smell like that of camphor.

[Also Read: Unknown Benefits of Coconut Oil]

Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a well-known powerful antiseptic, its ability to heal wounds at the earliest is one of the reasons as to why it is widely used. In fact, it is one of the top antibacterial essential oils that you can find across the globe.

Let us take a look at some of the uses and properties of the tea tree oil and the ways in which it can be used:

  1. Fights Fungal
  2. Acne
  3. Dandruff
  4. Skin-Irritation
  5. Congestion
  6. More..
  • Helps Fight Fungal, Viral and Bacterial Infections:

Home Remedies for Bacterial Infections

Several studies such as Clinical Microbiology Reviews(2) show that the tea tree oil has a broad range of uses owing to its antibacterial properties. It is highly effective for diseases such as the athlete’s foot, bacterial infections and a number of other infections.

Researchers are constantly exploring new areas where the properties of this oil can be best utilized.

The tea tree oil can effectively hold back the growth of bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Haemophilus influenzae and Escherichia coli.

These bacteria are responsible for causing serious infections such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, respiratory illness, sinus infections, strep throat, and even impetigo.

Tea tree oil, according to several reports(3), also has antifungal properties and can cure infections such as jock itch, toenail fungus, and even candida.

The presence of the terpinene-4-ol in tea tree oil imparts its antiviral properties which are excellent in fighting herpes virus, cold sores, and influenza.

The antiviral properties of the oil are evident from the case study(4) of 2008 wherein the oil was applied topically to a wart on a patient’s middle finger. It was observed that after several days of applying oil to the affected area, the wart completely got cured and disappeared after around 12 days of treatment.

How to use: To use tea tree oil on infections and wounds, simply add a drop of the essential oil on your ointment cream and apply throughout the affected area once a day. You will soon begin to see an improvement.
  • Tea Tree Oil for Acne

Another great benefit of the tea tree oil is that it helps fight acne and other skin conditions by working as a natural remedy. It may be interesting to note that applying only 5 percent of the tea tree oil is as effective as using 5 percent of benzoyl peroxide for acne.

Even though tree tea oil is slow to soothe the affected area, it is less irritating to the skin. In fact, when applied consistently, you will begin to notice a reduction in the severity and the symptoms.

A 2017 study(5) carried out in Australia confirmed the useful effects of tea tree oil on acne. In this study, people were divided into two groups, one which used a face wash and the other which applied the oil over a period of 12 weeks.

It was observed that the latter group experienced a greater reduction of facial acne as compared to the former. In fact, this happened without any serious adverse reactions or side effects.

  • Tea Tree Oil for Dandruff and Dry Scalp

Get Rid of Dandruff
Image: ShutterStock

Tea tree oil is also used to cure dandruff and dry scalp. The oil, if used consistently for a certain period, has the ability to cure seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that causes patches on the scalp, as well as dandruff.

A 2002 study(6) published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the usage of tea tree oil shampoo for a period of 4 weeks showed a 41 percent improvement in the overall scalp condition. It also reduced the itchiness on the scalp of the patient.

How to use: All you have to do is mix your carrier oil with tea tree oil and apply the same on your scalp and hair. Allow the mixture to sit on your head for around 20 minutes. Thereafter, use a shampoo containing tea tree oil and massage your scalp using your fingers while you rinse your head.
  • Tea tree Oil for Skin Irritation

Apart from the several benefits enumerated above, tea tree oil is also useful in soothing skin irritations. In fact, applying the essential oil on the wound allows the wound size to reduce significantly in addition to reducing inflammation on the affected area. Tea tree oil can also be used to cure sunburns, insect bites, and even sores.

However, here is a word of caution, before you apply it on the affected area, it is strongly recommended that you test the tea tree oil on your skin to find out your skin’s sensitivity to topical application.

  • Soothes Congestion and Respiratory Troubles

In earlier times, when cough syrups were not popular, the leaves of the melaleuca plant were inhaled by crushing them to treat common diseases like cough and cold. History reveals that the leaves were also soaked to make an infusion in order to treat sore throat.

It is well established that the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil help get rid of respiratory diseases such as respiratory tract infections, chest congestion, common cold, and cough. This is one of the foremost reasons that tea tree oil is one of the essential oils for most respiratory tract related issues.

  • Tea Tree Oil for Lice

Lice treatment-min
Image: Shutterstock

Lice are small parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans. They are found on the scalp and are a common nuisance around the world. It has been noticed that tea tree oil is one of the most effective remedies for getting rid of lice and can even result in a 100 percent cure if applied properly.

Recent studies(7) point out that the presence of tea tree oil in shampoo can result in a whopping 78 percent reduction of growth of bacteria.

How to use: Purchase a shampoo that has tea tree oil as an essential ingredient. Add 7-10 drops of the essential oil to your shampoo that you use and shake well. Massage your scalp vigorously using the shampoo and rinse thereafter. You will see that the oil works wonders while helping the scalp get rid of lice and other bacteria.

Additionally, you can also make your own tea tree oil shampoo by using olive oil, vitamin E oil, filtered water, coconut milk, baking soda, and of course, tea tree oil.

Ensure that the tea tree oil does not get into your eyes while applying it to your hair. In case it does, rinse your eyes immediately. If redness or itching persists, seek the assistance of a doctor at the earliest.

  • Helps Get Rid of Bad Breath

The root of bad breath emanating from your mouth is the bacteria usually found in your throat, at the back of your tongue, and your tonsils.

Tea tree oil, having antimicrobial properties is very effective and efficient in fighting such as bacteria and works as a natural remedy for bad breath.

Tea tree oil acts as an antiseptic against oral pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, and Escherichia coli.

In fact, one great benefit of using tea tree oil is that it is extremely helpful after a dental surgery such as a root canal or extraction since it significantly reduces the risk of developing a fungal or bacterial infection.

How to use: Keep in mind that tea tree oil can prove to be fatal if swallowed. Make sure that you use it only as a mouthwash in order to get rid of oral germs. Only a couple of drops mixed in water are to be gurgled before you spit the mixture out and rinse your mouth with fresh water.
  • Tea Tree Oil for Scabies

cure scabies

A detailed study conducted at the Flinders University located in Australia has shown that tea tree oil is highly effective in reducing the survival of scabies mites.

In fact, the essential oil, having superb antimicrobial properties, works as a natural remedy for healing scabies that may trouble a person’s skin.

[Also Read: Natural Treatment of Scabies]

  • Dry Skin Treatment

Dry skin or the problem of eczema is quite common among people all over the world. Such a skin condition is quite common in children; however, adults are not immune to the same.

Symptoms such as dry and scaly skin, itching, and redness can help you identify the presence of this skin disease.

One of the greatest natural healers of dry skin is tea tree oil. Studies(8) show that it is more effective compared to zinc oxide and even clobetasone butyrate creams in treating the disease.

How to use: Mix some drops of tea tree oil into your regular moisturizer. Apply it on the affected area right after you have taken your shower and once before sleeping. In case you notice any side effects, stop the usage immediately and seek assistance from a certified dermatologist.
  • Tea Tree oil for Toenail Fungus

A trial that was published in the Journal of Family Practice revealed that an application of tea tree oil for 6 months on the affected fungal area on 177 people served as a deterrent for the growth of fungus. The infection not only disappeared over time, but the skin was also nourished and was rid of any itchiness altogether.

[Also Read: Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Toenail Fungus]

  • Helps Prevent Oily Skin

Having oily skin is a turn-off. People with oily skin are averse to using cosmetics and are also prone to developing acne on their skin. However, using tea tree oil can help reduce the amount of oil on your skin.

The essential oil has depigmentation effects in addition to having great penetrating and solvent properties, thus facilitating the reduction of oil and acne.

How to use: There are two key ways use tea tree oil on your skin. You can either mix a few drops in your moisturizer and apply it while going out or even mix it in bentonite clay to make it a mask and let it stay on the skin for some time before you rinse it off.
  • Tea Tree Oil for Psoriasis

psoriasis treatment
Image: ShutterStock

Consider applying this essential oil on the area affected by psoriasis. It helps lessen the inflammation caused on the area in addition to helping ward off the prevalent infection.

However, do not use too much of tea tree oil since there are chances that it may dry your skin more than before and may only add to the existing trouble you are facing.

In case you wish to find out if you are allergic to tea tree oil, try the oil on your skin elsewhere before you apply it on the affected area.

How to use: To help yourself relieve psoriasis flares, mix 10-15 drops of tea tree oil with 2 tbsp of melted coconut oil. Apply on the affected area at least 2-3 times during the day to experience best and instant results.
  • Assists in Treating Belly Button Infections

Tea tree oil is a natural and one of the best remedies to cure belly button infections. All you have to do is mix 4-5 drops of this essential oil and mix it with warm coconut oil. Apply the mixture on the affected area using a cotton ball. Leave it on the belly button for some time before you wipe it with a soft cloth or tissue.

Repeating this exercise twice or thrice a day can provide instant relief owing to the antifungal and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil.

  • Helps Heal Dry Socket Pain

Studies reveal that tea tree oil is used extensively in dentistry for relieving the pain from dry sockets. Such a situation, known as alveolar osteitis, arises where you experience enormous pain after having your tooth extracted.

How to use: Take a cotton swab and dab it in tea tree oil and apply it on the affected area. While doing so, ensure that you do not consume anything. Let the swab stay for around 5 minutes before you remove it. Repeat the exercise thrice during the day. The oil is quite helpful in preventing gum, as well as tooth infections, in addition to easing the pain.
  • Supports Cure of Blepharitis

According to a study(9) by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, antimicrobial properties of the tea tree oil helps heal blepharitis, a condition where the eyelids are inflamed. Such a condition may be caused by dust mites that enter the eye and cause severe inflammation.

Since it is very difficult to thoroughly clean the eyes from the inside and stop the mating of mites, scrubbing the eyelids with tea tree oil can go a long way in relieving the inflammation and getting instant relief.

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Right Dosage of Tea Tree Oil

Before you can enjoy the advantages of tea tree oil, it is important that you recognize the right quantity that has to be used while deploying it for various purposes. You can refer to the table below to know more.

Purpose Proposed Quantity
Dental Plaque 2.5% mixed with water.
Dandruff Shampoo containing 5% of tea tree oil.
Acne 5% of tea tree oil in your moisturizer or application in the form of a gel.
Eye infection To be used as an eyelid scrub for around a month and a half in 50% quantity.
Skin allergies 100% original tea tree oil can be applied to the affected area. A skin patch is highly recommended before the application of it.
Vaginal Infection Up to 20% of the mixture can be applied to the area with the help of soaked tampons.

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Tea Tree Oil Side-Effects

Even though several studies confirm the inherent benefits of using tea tree oil, there is no certainty of whether the usage of it is safe for all skin types or not.

tea tree oil benefits

Therefore, the occurrence of any side effect caused by using tea tree oil cannot be ruled out. In fact, being fully aware of the probable reactions can help you mitigate any damage. In this section, we will tell you of the possible side effects that can occur while using tea tree oil for various purposes.

  • Allergies

It is quite possible that you develop an allergy with the use of tea tree oil. An allergic reaction can either result in skin rashes or even skin inflammation ranging from a mild one to a severe one. This is one of the foremost reasons that a patch test is imperative before you use the essential oil on your skin.

Skin irritation or allergy is most common to arise when the oil is applied to an open wound or dry skin. Side effects may also include severe itching and even a feeling of stinging. Also, people who are allergic to substances like guava, cloves, or even eucalyptus have a higher chance of developing such skin allergies. In fact, the older the tea tree oil, the higher are the chances of the occurrence of a skin rash.

Remember, in case you find out or feel that you are allergic to the usage of tea tree oil, avoid using even cosmetics or other substances that may contain even a small quantity of tea tree oil in them.

  • Hormonal Imbalance and Side Effects

Tea tree oil has been found to cause the growth of breasts in adolescent boys. In fact, this oil has the ability to become a potential endocrine disruptor and can cause the enlargement of breasts in young boys.

A study report (10) published by The New England Journal of Medicine shows that gynecomastia or growth of a man’s breast was one of the most common side effects post the discontinuation of the usage of this essential oil.

  • May Cause Diarrhea

Tea for Diarrhea

Another negative effect of tea tree oil is diarrhea. Ingestion of this oil can cause severe diarrhea in certain cases. Therefore, it should be ensured that tea tree oil is never to be consumed or swallowed even while rinsing your mouth with a mixture that contains the oil.

[Also Read: Essential Oils to Treat Diarrhea ]

  • Ear Damage

Tea tree oil’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties help cure ear infections. However, you must also realize that the application of it in an undiluted form to the mucous membranes can cause severe discomfort and can also lead to swelling. It may also cause damage to the ear.

It is, therefore, strongly recommended that tea tree oil is applied by mixing it in a carrier oil like olive or almond oil to treat infections effectively and also to avoid any side effects.

To include tea tree oil in the treatment of ear infections, apply it by mixing it in a warm carrier oil and keep your head tilted on the opposite side for some time till the oil seeps out and the liquid can travel through the canal of your ear.

Applying tea tree oil for treating ear infections can be quite a dicey task. It is recommended that you visit a doctor to get yourself tested before you take any further action.

  • Skin Irritation

Anyone who is prone to suffering from skin irritation or dryness of skin should use tea tree oil with extreme care and caution.

Applying the oil to such types of skin can cause redness and even severe burning. To save yourself from any potential side effects, you can use other alternative remedies such as applying lavender or rosemary oils as such oils are gentler in their nature but serve as an equally efficacious remedial measure.

Excessive usage of tea tree oil can also adversely affect the outer layers of the skin, thus heightening the occurrence of toxicity arising out of dermal absorption.

  • Interaction with Several Drugs

It is important to note that tea tree oil can also interact with certain compounds and medications that a person is already consuming. These might include any antibiotics or medications for curing infections or drugs that affect the hormones. Therefore, it is advised that you consult a doctor before you begin your dosage of tea tree oil along with other medications.

Prefer applying tea tree oil that is already diluted rather than diluting it yourself since you might be unaware of the ratio in which it is to be mixed with other substances.

Myths of Tea Tree Oil

When it comes to using tea tree oil, there are certain exaggerations that are necessary to be substantiated and clarified at the same time. These myths range from the uses of tea tree oil to its safety and ill effects. In this section, we try to debunk certain myths that may help you to develop a better perception of tea tree oil and its usages.

  • Myth 1:  Pure and Unadulterated Tea Tree Oil Does Not Expire

Essential oils are complex mixtures. Since almost all essential oil constituents are made of unsaturated compounds which contain carbon, they undergo the same reaction and thus have a high chance of being spoiled or oxidized.

Using tea tree oil that is old or has been retained for long in a container can lead to skin allergy or skin irritation. Exposure to such essential oils may also cause serious skin rashes.

It is, therefore, best that tea tree oil is used as soon as it is purchased or at the earliest before it gets spoilt and harms your body.

  • Myth 2: Essential Oils Do Not Trigger Allergic Reactions

Tea tree essential oil contain a large number of small molecules, also known as haptens, that bind to the proteins in the body forcing an allergic reaction. While such allergies are rare, there are well-documented reports of such reactions.

Even the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy(11) or NAHA emphasizes carrying out of skin patch test before such essential oils are applied on the body.

  • Myth 3: Tea Tree Oil Is Safe If Ingested

Most products containing tea tree oil are required to be spat out after use. For instance, the presence of the oil in dental products like mouthwash, as well as toothpaste, is considered safe because they are not meant to be swallowed.

As mentioned in the above sections, if ingested, tea tree oil can cause serious stomach problems like diarrhea.

  • Myth 4: Tea Tree Oil Is the Only Best Antiseptic Available

There are a lot of antiseptics available, of which some are gentle while others are strong. Even though such antiseptics are not natural, they still help in curing wounds and getting rid of skin diseases.

People who are allergic to tea tree oil should not resist exploring other options of antiseptics or essential oils to treat skin infections and rashes.

Other Tea Tree Oil Uses

Tea tree oil has become really popular over the last few years as a lot of people have come to realize its inherent properties and its importance in curing infections of different types.

In fact, these days, the essential oil is used while preparing skin care and cosmetic products such as moisturizers, nail creams, shampoos, soaps, and even lotions.

Here are some everyday uses of tea tree oil that you can take note of:

  • Hand Sanitizers

hand sanitizer benefits

Tea tree oil makes for a natural and a very effective hand sanitizer. Studies(12) show that it helps kill several types of bacteria and virus such as E. coliH. influenza, and S. pneumoniae that play a key role in spreading various diseases. You can also make your own natural hand sanitizer by following the given recipe:

    • 5-10 drops of any essential oil such as lavender.
    • 30 drops of tea tree oil.
    • 1 tbsp of high proof vodka.
    • 100% aloe vera gel amounting to 8 ounces.
    • 1 quarter tbsp of vitamin E oil that acts as a natural preservative and helps increase the shelf life of the hand sanitizer in addition to softening the hands.

You can also carry this sanitizer in small containers in your purse or handbag and use it whenever required.

  • Insect Repellent

Tea tree oil helps keep insects away. In a certain study(13), cows were treated with tea tree oil by applying the oil on their skin. It was noticed that post 24 hours of the application of the oil, these cows had 61% fewer flies around them as compared to those not treated with the essential oil.

It has also been observed that tea tree oil has a better and greater ability to repel mosquitoes than DEEP, which is considered as the most common and effective ingredient used to make commercial insect repellents. Make your own insect repellent at home using the following ingredients:

    • 20 drops of citronella and lavender essential oils.
    • 20 drops of tea tree oil.
    • 20 drops of lemongrass and geranium oils.
    • 1 tsp vodka.
    • Distilled water.

Pour all the oils in a spray bottle and give it a good shake. Next, spray it on all parts of your body that are not clothed.

  • Natural Deodorant

It has been noticed that bacteria are the main source of odor that emanates from the underarms. It is to be noted that sweat in itself does not smell. It is the secretions, which upon combining with the bacteria on your body, resulting in a strong odor.

However, using tea tree oil can help reduce such odor significantly because of its antibacterial properties. Since your armpits are an extremely sensitive area of your body, make sure that you test the presence of tea tree oil on another patch of your skin to first find out if your skin is allergic to such oils or not before you use it on your underarms.

  • All Purpose Cleaner

Tea tree oil also works as a great all-purpose cleaner in addition to sanitizing various types of surfaces.  Another benefit of using tea tree oil as a cleaning agent is that it does not leave any trace of chemicals.

Here is the recipe to make your own antibacterial and all-purpose antimicrobial cleaner:

  • Combine 20 drops of tea tree oil, 3 quarters of water, and half a cup of apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle.
  • Shake the bottle well so that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  • Spray the mixture on the surfaces directly and wipe the area with a clean cloth.
  • Ensure that you shake the bottle with every use for best results.

Natural Preserver of Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly healthy and tasty. However, exposure to a moist climate can result in the growth of mold on them, making the produce unfit for consumption.

However, using tea tree oil on them can help you prevent the occurrence of the mold altogether. All you have to do is add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil to the water in which the fruits and vegetables are rinsed followed by washing them thoroughly.

Studies(14) reveal that the essential oil’s antifungal components such as 1,9-cineole and terpinene-40ol help reduce the growth of mold and ensures that the produce stays fresh for longer periods even in humid and moist climates.

  • Toothbrush Cleaner

tea tree oil with toothbrush

Tea tree oil can also be used as a toothbrush cleaner. All you have to do is soak it in a cup of water and add a few drops of authentic tea tree oil. Ensure to rinse your toothbrush thoroughly before you bring it in contact with your mouth for subsequent use.

  • Laundry Freshener

It is interesting to note that adding a few drops of tea tree oil during the process of washing clothes can help remove any stale scent in them, especially that which emanates from towels.

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How to Make Tea Tree Oil Infusion at Home

In case you have fresh tea tree leaves easily available, you can conveniently make your own oil infusion using simple ingredients.

Here is a step-by-step process that you can follow:

  • Fill a jar containing dried tree leaves with any carrier oil of your choice, such as rosehip seed oil, olive oil, lavender oil, or even jojoba oil.
  • Close the lid of the jar tightly and keep it in a warm and sunny area for around three to five days and let it infuse over time.
  • Shake the jar occasionally.
  • You can use a coffee filter or cheesecloth to cover the jar.
  • In case you require a stronger infusion, allow the jar to remain undisturbed for a few more weeks before you finally use it.
  • Remember not to expose it to direct sunlight for long durations for it may adversely affect the quality of the oil.

Tea tree oil can be immensely helpful for treating a host of conditions. It is an inexpensive natural remedy that helps cure several infections and skin problems. Apart from that, it can also be used for a variety of purposes in our everyday lives, such as for making hand sanitizers to protecting eatables from molds, etc.

Aside from appreciating the several benefits of tea tree oil, it is to be remembered that this essential oil is not a magic potion. It does have the potential to cause side effects, depending on person to person, as well as the form of use.

It is, therefore, advised that you be cautious while putting this oil to use and utilizing its several medicinal and advantageous properties.

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