Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Tea tree, also known as melaleuca, is well-known for its powerful antiseptic properties and ability to treat wounds. Tea tree oil (TTO), the volatile essential oil derived mainly from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia has been widely used throughout Australia for at least the past 100 years. And for over seven decades, it’s been documented in numerous medical studies to kill many strains of bacteria, viruses and fungi
Tea tree oil uses are numerous: making homemade cleaning products, diffusing it in the air to kill mold, applying it topically to heal skin issues and using it to treat viral infections. It’s becoming an increasingly popular active ingredient in a variety of household and cosmetic products, including face wash, shampoos, massage oils, skin and nail creams and laundry detergents. Tea tree’s natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions make it an essential oil that should truly be part of everyone’s natural medicine cabinet.
Tea Tree Oil Benefits
While records show that tea tree has been used for thousands of years by some indigenous people, thankfully today science is finally catching up and describing why tea tree oil is so effective. To date, over 327 scientific studiesrefer to tea tree oil’s antimicrobial prowess alone.
Some of the many traditional uses for tea tree include healing:
Congestion and respiratory tract infections
Fungal infections (especially Candida, jock itch, athlete’s foot and toenail fungus)
Halitosis (bad breath)
Itchy insect bites, sores and sunburns
Boils from staph infections
And this list doesn’t even include the many household uses of tea tree oil that can replace store-bought products in your cabinets:
Anti-microbial laundry freshener
Acne face wash
Removes foot order
In many cases, doctors of functional medicine will prescribe essential oils like tea tree oil and oregano oil in replacement of conventional medications because they’re just as effective and without the adverse side effects. An article published in the Journal of Phytomedicine evaluated the relationship between various essential oils and found that none (including tea tree) caused adverse reactions when taken with several different antibiotics. In fact, they discovered that some essential oils even had a positive synergistic effect, meaning they could help prevent antibiotic resistance from developing!
Top 10 Tea Tree Oil Uses
1. Tea Tree Oil for Acne
One of the most common uses for tea tree oil today is in skin care products, as it’s considered one of the most effective home remedies for acne. One study found tea tree oil to be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide, but without the associated negative side effects that many people experience including red, dried and peeling skin.
You can make a homemade gentle tea tree oil acne face wash by mixing five drops of pure tea tree essential oil with two teaspoons of raw honey. Simply rub on your face, leave on for one minute, then rinse off.
2. Tea Tree Oil for Hair
Tea tree oil has proven very beneficial for the health of your hair and scalp. Like coconut oil for hair, tea tree oil has the ability to soothe dry flaking skin, remove dandruff and even can be used for the treatment of lice. To make homemade tea tree oil shampoo, mix several drops of tea tree essential oil with aloe vera gel, coconut milk and other essential oils like lavender oil.
3. Tea Tree Oil for Cleaning
Another fantastic way to use tea tree oil is as a household cleaner. Tea tree oil have powerful antimicrobial properties and can kill off bad bacteria in your home. To make homemade a tea tree oil cleanser, mix with water, vinegar and lemon essential oil then use it on your counter tops, kitchen appliances, shower, toilet and sinks.
4. Tea Tree Oil for Psoriasis and Eczema
Tea tree oil can help relieve any type of skin inflammation, including being used as a natural eczema treatment and for reducing psoriasis. Simply mix one teaspoon coconut oil, five drops of tea tree oil and five drops of lavender oil to make homemade tea tree oil eczema lotion or body soap. In addition, if you have eczema or psoriasis, you should consider going on the GAPS diet and supplementing with vitamin D3.
5. Tea Tree Oil for Toenail Fungus and Ringworm
Because of its ability to kill parasites and fungal infections, tea tree oil is a great choice to use on toenail fungus, athlete’s foot and ringworm. Put tea tree oil undiluted on the affected area using a clean cotton swab. And for stubborn fungi, consider mixing it with natural anti-fungal oil of oregano. Tea tree oil has also been proven beneficial for treating and removing warts, so simply put tea tree oil directly on the area for 30 days once or twice daily.
6. Tea Tree Oil Kills Mold
A common problem many people experience in their homes is mold infestation, oftentimes without even being aware of it. Consider buying a diffuser and diffusing tea tree oil in the air around your home to kill mold and other bad bacteria. Also, you can spray tea tree oil cleaner onto shower curtains,your laundry machine, dishwasher or toilet to kill off mold.
7. Tea Tree Oil Deodorant
Another great reason to use tea tree oil is to eliminate body odor. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties that destroy the bacteria on your skin that causes body odor. You can make homemade tea tree oil deodorant by mixing it with coconut oil and baking soda. (Yes, you can see that coconut oil uses and baking soda uses are many as well!) Also, if your kids play sports or if you’re a runner, you can add tea tree oil and lemon essential oil to your shoes and sports gear to keep them smelling fresh!
8. Tea Tree Oil for Infections and Cuts
Tea tree oil mixed with lavender essential oil is the perfect ingredient in a homemade wound ointment. Make sure to clean a cut first with water and hydrogen peroxide if necessary, then put on tea tree oil and cover with a bandage to help fight off infections. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology even found tea tree oil helps kills MRSA and staph infections.
9. Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste for Oral Health
Because of tea tree oil’s ability to kill off bad bacteria and at the same time soothe inflamed skin, it’s a perfect ingredient in homemade toothpaste and mouthwash. It’s been shown to reduce the bleeding of gums and tooth decay. Simply mix tea tree oil with coconut oil and baking soda for an amazing homemade toothpaste.
10. Tea Tree Oil For Cancer
both tea tree oil and frankincense oil have been proven to have anti-cancer benefits. For abnormal skin lesions, you can mix frankincense oil, raspberry seed oil and tea tree oil, then place on the area three times daily.
Tea Tree Oil Research and Studies
Historically tea tree plants’ volatile essential oils (Melaleuca alternifolia) have been capitalized on most for their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions.
The Melaleuca genus belongs to the Myrtaceae family and contains approximately 230 plant species, almost all of which are native to Australia. A 2006 report published by The School of Biomedical and Chemical Sciences at The University of Western Australia stated that tea tree’s primary active ingredients responsible for its ability to reduce harmful bacteria include terpene hydrocarbons, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.
After examining over 800 tea tree samples by gas chromatography, the researches observed more than 100 different chemical components and various ranges of concentrations. These volatile hydrocarbons are considered aromatic and capable of traveling through air, pores of the skin and mucus membranes.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that tree tree essential oil is “a powerful disinfectant and is non-poisonous and gentle” to the body. Amazingly in 1923, Dr. A.R. Penfold found that tea tree oil was twelve times more effective at healing infections than the conventional antiseptic (carbolic acid) at that time.
Therefore during the 1930s and 1940s, tea tree oil became widely known as the go-to antiseptic for Australian World War II soldiers who were given tea tree oil in their first aid kits.
One of the most incredible studies done recently done on tea tree oil investigated its ability to fight skin cancer. In a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Sciences, tea tree oil was found to have a rapid effect on reducing cancerous tumors and boosting immunity.
DIY Tea Tree Oil Recipes
Tree tree oil can be used in the following ways:
Aromatically: Diffuse tea tree oil throughout your home using an oil diffuser. You can also directly inhale the oil by sniffing it right out of the bottle or applying some to your skin and clothes and smelling it that way, similar to a perfume.
Topically: You should always dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio before applying it directly to skin. Similarly to tea tree, coconut oil also has its own long list of benefits for skin and immunity, so these two together make an even better combination.
NOT for Internal Use: According to the National Poison Center, tea tree oil is known to be poisonous if swallowed. Tea tree oil should NOT be taken by mouth for any reason, even though some traditional uses include tea tree oil as a mouthwash, treatment for bad breath, and treatment of toothache and mouth ulcers. If using tea tree in your mouth, spit out the oil afterwards to prevent potential side effects like digestive issues, hives or dizziness.
Always look for 100% pure essential oils and check that the correct species name is listed on the bottle’s label (Melaleuca alternifolia). Ideally look for oil that’s therapeutic grade and organic, which ensures it’s been tested and meets all criteria, plus it will be free from chemical toxins, fillers or solvents. The composition of tea tree oils sold are regulated by an international standard for “Oil of Melaleuca—terpinen-4-ol type,” which sets minimum and maximum standards for 14 active components of the oil. Six common varieties, or chemotypes, of M. alternifolia are normally sold as tea tree essential oil, but to date no obvious differences in their bioactivity or effectiveness have been found, therefore all seem like good choices.
Light, heat, exposure to air, and moisture all affect oil stability of essential oils, so keep your tree oil stored in dark, cool, dry conditions preferably in a glass container.
Homemade Melaleuca Lemon Household Cleaner
Most commercially sold cleaners are made with synthetic fragrances and harmful chemicals. This Homemade Melaleuca Lemon Household Cleaner is just as effective thanks to tea tree’s antimicrobial properties. It’s made with only 4 ingredients, is easy and fast to make, plus it will leave behind a naturally refreshing aroma.
Total Time: 2 minutes
8 oz water
4 oz distilled white vinegar
15 drops tea tree oil
15 drops lemon
Glass Cleaning Spray bottle
1. Fill spray bottle with ingredients. Close bottle and shake to mix.
2. Swirl/shake bottle before each spray.
Note: Citrus essentials oils are highly concentrated and are full of healthy acidic properties! Because of this, we recommend you use glass containers when storing them so they do not eat away any of the plastic.
Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil + Precautions
Tea tree is generally considered safe and doesn’t cause side effects in most cases. However, if you have sensitive skin, it’s possible that you might experience a reaction. Keep tea tree oil away from your eyes, contact lenses, inner nose and sensitive parts of your skin. This essential oil possesses a sharp camphoraceous odor followed by a menthol-like cooling sensation, which can make your skin feel like it’s slightly burning if you apply too much.
When used in topical products at a concentration of 5% to 10%, it normally doesn’t cause allergies or skin rashes, but stronger concentration have been reported to cause dermatitis reactions. In 1999, tea tree oil was added to the North American Contact Dermatitis Group screening panel and test results showed that about 1.4% of patients referred for patch testing had a positive reaction to tea tree oil. It’s always a good idea to do a small skin patch test first on your arm or leg to make sure you don’t have a negative reaction before using larger amounts or applying it to your face, chest or neck.
A BBC News piece released in early 2018 was a cause for concern for many over the possible estrogenic effects of tea tree and lavender essential oils. Journalists reviewed case studies of a total of 6 young boys diagnosed with a condition known as gynecomastia, a condition in young men who develop breast tissue.
While gynecomastia during puberty is considered normal and usually idiopathic (without a known cause) and clears up on its own, these six case children developed extra breast tissue before entering puberty, which is a cause for concern, and all had been exposed to lavender oil alone or with tea tree essential oil. In the first review of three cases, the authors confirmed that removing the substance from the boys’ exposure resulted in a reversal of their condition. The second grouping of studies was unclear whether or not the substance was removed or if the condition was reversed.
Another review on these two oils demonstrated that they do seem to act like estrogens in lab settings (in vitro studies).
This may seem like a convincing piece of evidence to prove that lavender and/or tea tree oil could cause estrogen-like activity in men. However, don’t throw away your oils just yet — these case studies and lab results aren’t enough to give scientific proof. Other evidence points the opposite direction.
For instance, a risk assessment on tea tree oil found that while certain compounds in the oil do have in vitro estrogen qualities, those aren’t the compounds that are “bioavailable,” meaning absorbed into the skin. Tea tree oil isn’t safe to ingest, so skin absorption is the only way the active compounds enter your body. No human studies have recorded estrogenic side effects of tea tree oil.
The only (very mild) instance of lavender and tea tree oils definitively acting in an estrogenic way in humans is in a study in women with mild idiopathic hirsutism (male-pattern hair growth), in which the oils did seem to be somewhat effective in reducing this hair growth. No other reactions were reported.
However, other attempts to replicate lavender oil’s supposed estrogen-like actions have failed in animals.
Multiple accounts have reviewed these findings and come to the conclusion that these case studies (and their portrayal in the media) are reporting something that simply cannot be proven. The close relations of the boys in each of the separate case study reports suggest there may be another underlying cause in the products that seemed to cause gynecomastia in these subjects. At least one author has suggested a potential toxic response to pesticides or other hormone-disrupting chemicals, as none of the essential oils in question were organic, and the products considered responsible were not tested for other potential toxins such as these.
Basically, it seems unlikely that these isolated incidents were the result of essential oils that have been used safely for decades, but rather just that: isolated, and possibly the result of other factors. However, if you notice any estrogen-like reactions in young boys, you should always consult your doctor in case this points to something more serious.
Source: Dr Axe