Tea tree oil is a potent essential oil known for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Over the years, research and studies have shown that it has the ability to heal wounds and can destroy a wide spectrum of fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Sometimes referred to as Melaleuca oil, tea tree oil has a scent similar to camphor, with color that varies from colorless to pale yellow. This essential oil is extracted through steam distillation from the leaves of the small Melaleuca alternifolia tree that thrives mostly in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. While it bears the word “tea” in its name, it should not be mistaken as an extract from leaves that are being used for black, oolong, or green tea.
Tea tree oil has been a part of natural medicine of Australia’s native Aborigines for hundreds of years. They would bathe in water where tea tree leaves have fallen to heal skin disorders. They also treat coughs and colds by inhaling the oil extracted from crushed tea tree leaves, or applying it directly on the skin. Tea tree oil is widely sold today in a pure and undiluted formulation, also known as “neat” oil. You can also find diluted forms of the oil, usually in 5 to 50% strength, and specifically used as topical skin application. Tea tree oil is composed of powerful components that include terpinen-4-ol which is strong against certain types of fungus, bacteria, and viruses. This component also stimulates white blood cells to help defend the body against invading microorganisms. This antimicrobial property gives tea tree oil the added advantage of healing bacteria and fungi-related skin disorders as well as preventing infections.
Tea Tree Oil’s Healing Benefits
Because of its many health benefits, tea tree oil can be considered as the Swiss Army Knife of herbal medicine. Its antibiotic properties heal and reduce the chance of infection in cuts, burns, wounds, rashes, dandruff, and other skin problems. With its versatility and many uses, you may want to make tea tree oil a constant part of your medicine chest. If you are using it for the first time, you should know the many benefits you can derive from it.
As a Treatment for Acne
The terpenes found in tea tree oil are noted for their effectiveness in treating acne. While it is known to destroy MRSA, the oil is also known to kill stubborn bacteria that live within hair follicles and cause inflammation that could lead to acne. Tea tree oil also has a soothing effect to reduce the itchiness and pain of an acne flare-up. Studies have shown that a blend made with 5% tea tree oil can have the same effect of a similar amount of benzoyl peroxide when applied to the affected area. While treatment may take a while with this herbal acne killer, there will be less damage to the skin during the healing process. An effective acne face wash can be easily made by diluting five drops of tea tree oil in two teaspoons of raw honey. Lightly rub the oil and honey blend on the affected area, leave it on your face for about a minute, and rinse it off with cool water afterward. We cover this topic in more detail at Best Tea Tree Oil Brand For Acne.
As a Topical Application to Heal Wounds and Infections
Tea tree oil contains active components called terpenes that enable the oil to heal wounds and defend against infections. In 2006, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology published the results of scientific research where tea tree oil proved to be effective against the superbug MRSA, a Staphylococcus strain of bacteria that is highly resistant to most standard antibiotics. Because of this, the oil has become a natural treatment and anti-infective of choice for minor blisters, burns, and wounds.
As a Treatment for Ringworm
Ringworm, otherwise known as tinea, is a common variety of skin infection caused by fungi. It can appear on the skin anywhere on the body (tinea corporis), on the scalp (tinea capitis), on the groin as jock itch (tinea cruris), or the feet as athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). One can easily catch it through contact with infected persons, animals, or objects. In 2002, the Australasian Journal of Dermatology published a medical study result showing that tea tree oil is an effective solution for treating ringworm in more than 64% of test subjects in 4 weeks. The oil’s fungicidal components show success in treating ringworm as well as stopping it from spreading to other areas of the body. To treat a ringworm infection, dilute pure tea tree oil in carrier oil and apply 2 to 3 drops of the mix on the affected area twice or thrice a day. In order to prevent ringworm from spreading, use a tea tree cleanser to disinfect any item that has been in contact with the fungal infection.
Get Rid of Smelly Feet
Foot odor can be an embarrassment. To keep your feet from having an offensive odor, you can make a DIY foot powder with tea tree oil. Mix one-fourth cup baking soda with the same amount of cornstarch. Add 10 drops each of tea tree oil and lavender oil. Make sure your feet are dry before wearing your shoes. Powder your feet liberally as well as the interior of the shoes and you will have no problem with smelly feet.
As a Treatment for Toenail Fungus
Tea tree oil has powerful fungi and parasite-killing capabilities, making it the ideal solution for getting rid of toenail fungus (onychomycosis), athlete’s foot, ringworm, and other fungal infection of the skin. Studies have revealed that its effectiveness is just as good as that of commercially-sold chemical skin applications. For toenail fungus, apply tea tree oil undiluted on the infected area twice a day. This will reduce some of the symptoms and, with diligent treatment, thoroughly eliminate this unpleasant disorder. For more stubborn toenail infection, you can blend in some oregano oil which is an effective fungicide as well. Medical tests have shown that oregano oil is very effective against candidiasis, an infection caused by a fungus that resides within your body. Read more on How to Treat Toenail Fungus with Oregano Oil.
Promote Healthy Hair and Scalp
Hair and scalp health is one of the many benefits of using tea tree oil. The oil is normally used as a gentler and safer alternative to strong chemical-based anti-dandruff shampoos that can damage your hair and scalp. Tea tree oil, in fact, does a lot of wonders to heal scalp flaking and itching, thanks to its potent components that moisturize the dry flaky scalp and get rid of dandruff. If you are spared from having dandruff problems, you can experience an itchy scalp. While this may sound like a minor inconvenience, it can result in more serious problems like thinning hair. Itching of the scalp is more often brought about by a bacteria, fungus, or allergy and can be remedied by tea tree oil. The oil is even known to treat folliculitis and eczema of the scalp as well. There is various shampoo with tea tree oil formulation that you can find to treat scalp and hair issues. If you are more of a DIY person, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil to coconut milk and aloe vera gel to make a great scalp cleaner and conditioner.
Eliminate Head Lice
Tea tree oil blended with peppermint oil has the capability to prevent the onset of head lice infestation in young children. It can also be an effective natural anti-parasitic solution even when lice is already present on a person’s head. Since it works effectively against human head lice, it doesn’t mean that it will work as well for pets. Certain components in the oil can create side effects that can prove harmful to small pets. If you have been plagued by head lice in the past, then you can easily relate to the enormity of the problem. It’s quite a relief when a scientific study revealed that tea tree oil is a potent natural deterrent against head lice. A study conducted in 2012 which was published in Parasitology Research has shown can get rid of lice in both nymph and adult stages, and significantly lower the number of lice nymphs that hatch from the eggs. More promising results, as published in BMC Dermatology, were discovered in researches made by the University of Queensland in Australia. Tests were conducted in which treatment, including a tea tree oil, proved more effective against head lice. Around 25% of children treated with anti-lice shampoo which contain chemicals like pyrethrin and piperonyl butoxide were later rid of head lice. On the other hand, almost all of the children who used the tea tree oil treatment were completely free from lice. The secret behind tea tree oil’s lice-killing success is two components known for their anti-parasitic properties – terpinen-4-ol and 1,8-cineole. What’s more, tea tree oil dissolves the sticky substance that enables the nits to cling to the hair shaft. This makes it easy to remove a lot of nits and lice eggs when the hair is combed.
As a Treatment for Sore Throat
The virus and microbes that cause colds and flu are also responsible for a sore throat. They bring on the pain and swelling of the mucous membrane that causes the discomfort in the throat. One remedy to reduce the inflammation and pain is a gargle solution that includes tea tree oil. Simply add a few drops of the oil in water and you’ll have a natural cure for sore throat. To make it more effective and prevent the problem from getting worse, use the solution when you feel the first symptoms of a cold or throat discomfort. NOTE: Be careful not to swallow any of the solutions as tea tree oil can produce some unpleasant side effects when ingested. (See Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil) Another way to use tea tree oil for your sore throat is steam inhalation. To do this, add a few drops of the oil in a pan of boiling water. Drape a towel over your head in such a way as to trap the steam inside. Lower your face towards the steaming pot and deeply breathe in the rising vapors for 5 to 10 minutes. This steam inhalation treatment will make your throat will feel better and help decongest your chest and sinuses. As an alternative, you can gargle with the oil like a mouthwash. Mix a couple of drops of tea tree oil with a glass of warm water. Gargle the solution for about a minute before spitting it out. You can use either the steam or gargle method twice daily to kill the infection-causing virus and reduce the swelling until the symptoms all disappear.
As a Treatment for Insect Bites and Stings
Tea tree oil gives wonderful results in the treatment of various insect bites and stings. It disinfects the bite and brings down any inflammation. Apply a tea tree oil and carrier oil dilution generously on the affected areas to disinfect the bite, stop itching, and prevent further swelling. Cover the bite or sting with a clean bandage to prevent the oil from drying up. Repeat the application once or twice daily until healing is achieved.
Promote Oral Health
Tea tree oil has active components that get rid of harmful bacteria and is therefore ideal to use as a do-it-yourself toothpaste or mouthwash to promote healthy teeth and gums. This means there will be less incidence of tooth cavities or bleeding gums. Studies held by the Tea Tree Group out of Australia found that many varieties of mouth bacteria that cause tooth decay are killed by tea tree oil even at low strength or dilution. Tea tree oil is particularly beneficial as a natural mouthwash to individuals who frequently suffer from mouth infections, whether fungal or bacterial-related. You can also add a drop of pure tea tree oil to your toothpaste just before brushing for healthier teeth and gums. If you are good at DIY stuff, you can make a homemade toothpaste with baking soda and coconut oil with some tea tree oil added. Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with one-fourth cup of coconut oil. Add in 10 drops of tea tree oil. Use this mix like any regular toothpaste. As mentioned, be careful not to swallow any of the oil as some of its components may produce harmful side effects when swallowed. (See Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil)
As an Insect Repellent
While tea tree oil is effective for treating insect bites and stings, the good news is it is a great frontline defense to keep flying and crawling pests at bay. It can function both as an insect repellant and insecticide. The oil’s anti-parasitic components kill or discourage the development of parasites like lice, ticks, fleas, and leeches. It is also great for warding off mosquitoes, ants, and other insect pests. You can keep the pesky insects away from your home by soaking cotton balls in tea tree oil and distributing them all over your house, focusing on places most frequented by the bugs. If you want to dine on your patio and want to drive away uninvited pests, mix a few drops of oil with water in a spray bottle and spray the exposed part of your body with a fine mist. If you have garbage cans outside your house, these will tend to attract flies which can later get into your garden and inside your house. Tea tree oil can drive away these germ-carrying pests. Just spray the upper portion of the garbage cans with the oil and water mix and watch it repel the flies like magic.
As an All-Around Household Cleaner and Disinfectant
Tea tree oil’s germicidal properties help the body fight various infections and disorders. This makes it an ideal multi-purpose household cleaner and disinfectant that can help keep your home safe from viruses and bacteria.
- As a natural deodorizer and air freshener, combine one cup of distilled water, 2 drops of lemon essential oil, and 3 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Spray the fine mist in the rooms of your home to give them that fresh clean scent. Shake the spray bottle well before using to distribute the oil in the water.
- To get rid of mold and mildew, add one teaspoon of tea tree oil in a cup of water and mix them well inside a spray bottle. Use the mix to kill molds where they breed by leaving it on for a few minutes before wiping the fungus off. You can use the mix as a mold and mildew deterrent by spraying it on possible breeding places like a toilet bowl, dishwasher, and shower curtains.
- As a laundry sanitizer, add 10 drops of tea tree oil to your laundry’s final rinse to boost the cleaning effect and inhibit bacterial growth on clothes.
- For a multi-purpose cleaner, combine 2 cups of hot water, one-half cup of vinegar, and 10 drops of the essential oil. Pour the mix in a spray bottle. You can use the mix to clean and sanitize table tops, bathroom fixtures, mirrors, counters, and other places in your home.
- As a tough bathroom cleaner, make your DIY scrub mixture by mixing together water, vinegar, castile soap, and baking soda. Add to this 10 to 15 drops of tea tree oil. This combination will effortlessly eliminate stains, as well as get rid of molds and bacteria.
As a Garden Protector
Because of its active ingredients like terpinen-4-ol that can kill a wide variety of fungi, tea tree oil is a perfect garden guardian against blights, mildew, and rots that are known to infect plants like barley, wheat, oats, strawberry, potatoes, sugar beets, and tomatoes. To discourage fungal growth on the leaves of your plants, mix two tablespoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water. Combine the solution thoroughly in a spray bottle and spray your plants with it once or twice a week. The oil can drives away white-flies that cause black mold fungus to grow on leaves. Morning is the best time to spray. Spray your plants less often during hot and dry weather so the leaves won’t get burned by the oil. To prevent future infections, get rid of dead leaves and other fungi-infected materials around the plants. To be doubly secure against the spread of fungi, use tea tree oil to disinfect tools you have used to trim away diseased plant parts. Just dip the tools in tea tree oil solution to clean them up.
Safe Usage of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has numerous claims to be successful in the treatment of many disorders and most of the claims have been proven true. It is highly effective against viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms and can help cure a range of skin problems like acne, wounds, dandruff, and others. However, there are certain things you must know with regards to its safe usage. Tea tree oil is normally considered safe for use and does not produce side effects in most of its users. Caution is advised, however, if you have hypersensitive skin as you are likely to experience some side effects. Make sure that your eyes, inner nose, and sensitive areas of your skin don’t get into contact with this essential oil. Pay attention even to your wristwatch, eyeglasses, and contact lenses. The oil has a strong camphor-like odor and a menthol cooling effect that can leave a mild burning sensation on your skin when too much is applied. When it is used as a topical application at 5% to 10% concentration, tea tree oil generally doesn’t trigger skin rashes or allergic reactions. A stronger concentration of the oil, however, has been documented to cause skin reactions. Users with sensitive skin should dilute concentrated tea tree oil with a carrier oil like olive, coconut, or almond oil. As with other essential oils for topical application, it is always a sound idea to first perform a skin patch test on a small area on your inner arm. This will ensure that your skin won’t react negatively before you go and use the oil on your face, neck, or chest.
How Safe Is Tea Tree Oil?
Though tea tree oil can be effective as oral health care when used with your toothpaste or mouthwash, it is advised not to ingest any of it. The essential oil has been found to be toxic if taken internally. Tea tree oil is meant to be used primarily as a topical application and should not be ingested as an antibacterial treatment. Like any new herbal treatment, you would want to add to your health regimen, first consult your doctor or a medical professional. If ingested,
the serious side effects of tea tree oil include:
- Severe rashes
- Upset stomach
- Abnormal blood cells
- General weakness
- In severe cases, coma
Always keep tea tree oil away from your children and pets.