Tea tree oil is one of the most popular ingredients for a host of cosmetics and skin treatment products these days. Most skin care brands usually carry at least one line of products dedicated to this multi-purpose essential oil. However, little is known about the origin of the Tea Tree plant and its introduction in the western world.
Tea tree is actually native to Australia and New Zealand. It was actually named ‘Tea Tree’ when, back in 1772, Captain James Cook who was an explorer, discovered Australia. While living in Australia, he brewed tea using the leaves of this plant, also known as Melaleuca Alternifolia which gave it the name we are so familiar with today.
Tea Tree Oil is very well known for its antimicrobial properties and had been used by natives of Australia, the Aborigines as a part of their traditional cures for a horde of diseases and ailments. The discovery of Australia further helped to spread awareness about it and due to its natural healing powers and antiseptic quality, it has slowly gained popularity all over the world.
In 1922, a chemist named Arthur Penfold conducted a study that helped to determine the Rideal-Walker coefficient of Tea Tree. At that time, this method was being used to identify the disinfecting power of any disinfectant.
The Rideal-Walker coefficient of Tea Tree Oil was between 11 and 13 which meant that it was 11 to 13 times more powerful at killing bacteria , fungi and microbes (without harming the skin) than Carbolic Acid which was a commonly used antiseptic in that era. It was such an effective antiseptic that the Australian government considered it to be an essential requirement for their armed forces during World War II.
Ever since Tea Tree Oil was discovered and introduced to the rest of the world, the list of its uses and benefits has been steadily growing longer. Today, Tea Tree can be found in lip balms, soaps, mouthwash, shampoos, deodorants, hand wash liquids, creams, salves and home disinfectants. It is also used as an essential oil in home diffusers, for aromatherapy and body massages along with being used for its antimicrobial properties in modern day medicines for the treatment of certain yeast, fungal and bacterial infections.
Tea Tree is made up of terpene hydrocarbons such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and their accompanying alcohols. Its relative density of 0.885 to 0.906 also makes it almost insoluble in water.
It is produced by using the method of steam distillation on the Melaleuca Alternifolia leaves and branches. Once the extracted product condenses, the oil is separated from the aqueous distillate. Even though other method of oil extraction have been considered and developed, none have been used for the purpose of commercial manufacturing.
Tea Tree Oil Benefits
Let us look into some of the most popularly accepted benefits of Tea Tree in detail:
Tea Tree Oil For Hair
Among all Tea Tree Oil Benefits, this is placed on first spot because of its usage. Tea tree is considered to be a natural remedy for a lot of ailments including hair thinning and hair loss. It might prove beneficial if you are experiencing hair fall due to any kind of bacterial or fungal infection because of its antimicrobial properties.
It also behaves as a moisturizer for the scalp and helps control excessive oil which tends to clog and suffocate hair follicles thereby promoting hair growth. However, it will not be effective if your hair loss is due to hereditary reasons, age or as a result of any other illness. Also, if the infection is severe, tea tree might be useful as a supporting remedy but proper medical attention must be given to the condition and a dermatologist should be consulted immediately.
Also Read: Castor Oil Benefits
Tea Tree Oil For Acne
A clinical trial was conducted on 124 patients suffering from mild to moderate acne. Conclusively, the study showed that tea tree oil helped to reduce the inflamed and non-inflamed lesions with few side effects. In another study conducted on 60 patients suffering from mild to moderate acne, tea tree proved to be effectual in reducing the total number of acne lesions and the severity of acne itself.
Based on certain clinical studies, the use of tea tree based products has been proven to be effective for people suffering from acne. At the same time, it is important to look after your skin and properly clean and moisturize it on a daily basis to keep it acne free.
Tea Tree Oil for Skin
There are 3 skin types: Oily, Dry and Combination. While all 3 skin types come with their own set of challenges, people with oily skin have a higher tendency of developing acne and clogged pores. That makes them more susceptible to breakouts and it also makes it more difficult for them to use make up products including sunscreens.
In a study conducted to determine the effects of using sunscreen mixed with Tea Tree Oil and resveratrol, it was determined that people who used this combination experienced reduction in oiliness, pores and flaking when using for 30 days or more.
Tea Tree Oil for dandruff
Tea Tree Oil can also be very useful in treatments for Dandruff and maintaining general scalp health. Dandruff is just dead skin cells and might not necessarily dangerous. Dandruff can be caused due to a variety of reasons such as oily or dry skin, poor hygiene, contact dermatitis and fungal growth (Malasezzia).
We have already established that Tea Tree is anti-fungal in nature. Malasezzia is a type of fungus that is found on the scalp in a small quantity. Sometimes, due to poor scalp and hair hygiene or irregular shampooing, this fungus can start multiplying which can lead dandruff. Even though no concrete evidence regarding the effectiveness of Tea Tree Oil has been found so far, a small study conducted in 2006 shows that shampoo containing 5% Tea Tree was effective in reducing Dandruff by 41% along with reduction in overall itchiness and greasiness of the scalp.
However, it is important to note that Tea Tree Oil should never be applied in its pure form on any part of the body. It should always be diluted with oil or shampoo before applying.
Tea Tree Oil for lice
Lice are really small parasites that live on human scalp and suck blood and nutrition from it. No one wants to roam around with a head full of lice because they are also contagious and can spread between people and animals very quickly. It is also quite embarrassing and socially challenging to have a head full of lice and nits. Even though it has not been conclusively proven, some studies have shown that Tea Tree can help to kill and prevent lice infestations.
In a study published in BMC Dermatology, the efficiency of several products including Tea Tree Oil and a lice suffocating product was determined with the help of 123 subjects who had active head lice. On the day after the last treatment was completed, data showed that the group using Tea Tree mixed with Lavender Oil as well as the group using lice suffocating product had a high number of louse-free subjects as compared to the groups using other products.
Another study published in Parasitology Research, 2 natural ingredients (Tea Tree & Nerolidol) were compared in terms of their ability to remove head lice and nits. Tea Tree was found to be more effective as compared to Nerolidol with 100% mortality at 30 minutes with 1% Tea Tree Oil concentration and when the concentration of Tea Tree was doubled, it also resulted in 50% failure for the eggs to hatch.
This goes to show that Tea Tree can be a useful tool to combat lice infestations.
Tea Tree Oil as a toner
Tea Tree Oil is widely used commercially in cosmetic products and is a part of several skin care products as well. In fact, many skin care companies have entire lines dedicated to this multipurpose naturally occurring wonder ingredient.
The function of a toner is essentially to remove all the impurities, pollution and dirt that tends to stick to the skin even after you have washed your face with a facewash. Due to its anti-microbial and antiseptic qualities, Tea Tree is an ingredient of choice for a variety of toners. It helps to fight acne and prevents the skin from getting too oily which sets a great base before applying a moisturizer, especially for people with oily skin.
Tea Tree Oil for jock itch
Jock Itch is a fungal infection which is more frequently seen in men (adults and teenagers) as compared to women. It is caused by a genus of fungi known as Trichophyton. Even though it usually affects the groin and thigh area, it can occur on other parts of the pelvic area as well. Jock Itch can be triggered by friction from clothes, excessive sweating or continued wetness in one area.
Tea Tree Oil, due to its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties is a natural remedy for people suffering from jock Itch. According to the “Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicines”, Tea tree is very absorbent and mixes seamlessly with natural body oils to help remedy fungal skin disorders. However, if you are suffering from an extreme form of Jock Itch, you should consult a dermatologist immediately.
At the same time, it is very important to maintain basic personal hygiene, take daily showers, dry yourself properly, wear fresh clothes and undergarments daily and use antifungal powder in the groin area if you live in a humid environment.
Tea Tree Oil for ringworm
Ringworm is another type of fungal infection that is caused by the presence of a certain type of fungi in the body. It gets its name from the kind of rashes that typically develop in the shape of a ring. The rashes are usually red and very itchy. It usually spreads by coming in physical contact (skin to skin) with an infected person.
Tea Tree Oil, due to its antifungal properties is a natural remedy for treating ringworm. Even though studies do not hold Tea Tree as a concrete remedy for this infection, several clinical trials do think that it “holds some promise.”
Though no study has yet been conducted to display the effectiveness of Tea Tree for ringworm treatment yet, several studies have found Tea Tree to be effective for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, candida and nail fungus.
Tea Tree Oil for yeast infection
Yeast infections occur in both men and women but are more commonly associated with women. It is caused by the overgrowth of candida albicans which is a naturally occurring fungus. Most women experience some form of a yeast infection at least once in their life. Some of the symptoms associated with yeast infection are itchiness, inflammation and white discharge.
Due to its antifungal properties, Tea Tree Oil is sometimes used as a remedy by people who want to take the natural route of treatment. Many studies have been conducted with the aim of determining the efficacy of Tea Tree Oil on candida albicans and the results suggest that Tea Tree Oil can indeed be beneficial for people suffering from Yeast Infections.
However, it is always advisable to visit a gynecologist for a proper checkup when experiencing any of the symptoms to ensure proper treatment because Tea Tree Oil might not be effective for moderate to extreme cases.
Tea Tree Oil for eczema
According to a study conducted in 2011, Tea Tree Oil was a more effective treatment for people suffering from eczema than other topical treatments such as zinc oxide and ichthammol. Tea Tree Oil has a compound called terpinen-4-ol which has anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful to deal with irritation and swelling associated with eczema.
Eczema is sometimes triggered or made worse by coming in contact with allergens. Tea Tree Oil’s anti-allergic properties can also help combat that and reduce chances of an already exiting eczema condition from becoming aggressive. Due to its anti-viral properties, Tea Tree Oil can also help to minimize the chances of developing an infection if the eczema causes the skin to break.
Tea Tree Oil for the lips
Since Tea Tree Oil is antiseptic in nature, it can be applied topically (by mixing it with coconut oil or some other base oil) to help with the dry and bleeding lips. It also works as an effective moisturizer. Further adding to its many qualities, it can also assist to reduce lip pigmentation issues by helping to restore your lip’s natural colour.
However, it is important to remember than only applying Tea Tree might not be very beneficial. It is necessary to keep your body hydrated as well and to avoid activities such as smoking which can lead to darkening of the lips.
Tea Tree Oil for scabies
Scabies is a form of parasitic infection and as already established, Tea Tree Oil has antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties which can be beneficial, according to some studies. Scabies is caused by a microscopic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. These mites dig into the epidermis and hatch eggs there. It is highly contagious since it can spread by coming in contact with someone who is afflicted with scabies.
Even though a lot of research has not been conducted to determine the effectiveness of Tea Tree Oil on scabies, Tea Tree Oil has been found to be beneficial for treatment against head lice and research suggests that it might be beneficial for other parasitic infections including scabies.
Tea Tree Oil as a cleanser
These days, you will find a variety of cleansers, face washes, cleansing gels and foams, all advertising the presence of Tea Tree in their products. Due to its effectiveness in combating skin problems such as mild to moderate acne as well as its antiseptic and anti-microbial properties, it has quickly made a mark for itself the world over. It helps in cleaning the face while protecting it without removing any natural oils from the skin. Additionally, it also moisturizes the skin and helps protect it from infections and mild skin problems.
Tea Tree Oil for the eyes
Though it is not one of the more commonly known benefits of this multi-utility essential oil, Tea Tree oil can be effective for people suffering from Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (which leads to dry eyes).
In a study conducted on 40 patients where half the group was given an eyelid scrubbing using a Tea Tree Oil based product and the other half were treated by massaging and general cleansing, the group using the Tea Tree Oil product showed significant improvement in their symptoms, signs and tear film stability whereas only 5 patients form the other group showed any improvement at all.
Tea Tree Oil might be an effective tool for dealing with the abovementioned eye conditions. However, it is essential to consult a doctor before proceeding with any kind of treatment.
Tea Tree Oil for plants
The use of Tea Tree Oil is usually centered around humans and for human use since it can be toxic for some species of flies and insects.
A study conducted on cows by the Department of Animal Science, Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina (UDESC), Chapecó, SC, Brazil noted that post a 24 hour time frame of being treated with Tea Tree Oil, cows which had received the treatment saw a 61% reduction in the number of flies on them as opposed to cows which didn’t receive the treatment. This helped them to determine that Tea Tree was effective on that particular species of flies and can be used as an insect repellent against the said species of fly.
Another study conducted on mosquitoes in test tubes helped to determine that Tea Tree Oil has more capability to repel mosquitoes than DEET which is the most widely used active ingredient in insect repellants.
Due to its anti-fungal properties, Tea Tree Oil is not only capable of fighting fungal infections in humans but plants as well. According to a study published in “Letters in Applied Microbiology” in 2007, Tea Tree Oil was effective for fighting a range of plant diseases such as Fusarium head blight in wheat, barley and oats. It was also found to be effective against barley leaf stripe and powdery mildew.
Tea Tree Oil as a mouthwash
According to some more recent studies, Tea Tree Oil may be beneficial against germs that cause tooth decay, oral thrush and bad breath. It is also suggested as a natural remedy against toothaches, gum inflammation and sore gums.
A study conducted in 2013 showed that the antimicrobial properties of Tea Tree Oil might be effective against bacteria that cause halitosis (bad breath) and can be beneficial if used in oral healthcare products.
Another study which took place in 2002 suggests that Tea Tree Oil might also be beneficial to fight against oral microorganisms better than chlorhexidine solutions.
Some companies have even started manufacturing mouthwashes with Tea Tree Oil commercially for use.
Tea Tree Oil as an essential oil
Tea Tree Oil is widely sold in its essential oil form. Though it shouldn’t be ingested or applied directly on the skin without first mixing it with a base such as an oil, cream or gel, it can be used as an essential oil for a variety of purposes.
One of the most common uses of this essential oil can be found in home care products such as incense diffusers and room sprays. It helps to remove any foul odor in the room and make your surroundings smell fresher.
It is also quite popular in aromatherapy products as it helps to increase blood circulation, and has a stimulating effect on hormone secretions and the immunity system.
Tea Tree Oil as a lotion
Tea Tree Oil has been in use for centuries due to its antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which have been discussed in length throughout the article. It is also quite effective as a moisturizer with the ability to prevent certain infections and boost the healing of minor cuts and scrapes. Therefore, it is a very popular ingredient in lotions and body creams being marketed today. It smells great and at the same time, it can help to boost your immune system so it is a win-win product.
Tea Tree Oil as a face mask
Tea Tree Oil is essentially pale yellow in colour. Its potent antimicrobial quality makes it very effective against certain strains of bacteria, fungi and viruses. It helps prevent acne breakouts and reduce excessive oil secretion in people who have oily skin.
These properties make it a very popular ingredient for face masks. Tea Tree oil infused face masks can be made at home and. However, if you are not sure about how to make the face masks at home or are lacking on time, you can also purchase them from stores because most cosmetic brands market Tea Tree Oil face masks under their labels.
Tea Tree Oil as a deodorant
Tea Tree Oil’s antibacterial properties may be helpful towards reducing underarm odor which is usually caused due to excessive sweating. Even though sweat in itself is odorless, when it comes in contact with the bacteria present in the underarm area, it creates the odor we usually associate with sweating and perspiration.
Tea Tree Oil’s anti-bacterial properties make it a natural alternative to most commercially available deodorant sticks and sprays. Tea Tree Oil infused deodorants are also available commercially for use nowadays. However, if you want to make your own deodorant at home, you can use one of the many methods available online and create a DIY deodorant.
Tea Tree Oil during pregnancy
Essential oils such as Tea Tree Oil are commercially available in concentrated forms and their effect therefore, is much more potent. Some clinical evidence suggests that it is safe to use during pregnancy as long as it is properly diluted and applied correctly in line with the provided instructions.
A laboratory study conducted on samples of rat uterus however, showed a reduction in the force of spontaneous contractions when brought in contact with Tea Tree Oil. A termination of, even a reduction in contractions can put both, the baby and mother at risk.
It is always advisable to consult your gynecologist or dermatologist before using any Tea Tree Oil based product if you are expecting.
Tea Tree Oil to treat allergies
Contact dermatitis is a type of skin problem which occurs when the skin comes in contact with any allergen such as nickel. It causes skin irritation, redness and skin rash.
A study was conducted in which nickel based contact hypersensitivity was induced artificially induced in human dorsal skin and Tea Tree Oil was topically (in the form of cream, lotion, foam, gel or salve) applied to it. Astonishingly, application of Tea Tree Oil resulted in a significant reduction of the flare area and erythema index.
In another experiment conducted to test the efficiency of Tea Tree Oil on eczema, Tea Tree Oil yielded better results than combinations such as Zinc Oxide and Clobetasone Butyrate.
In the realm of alternative therapy, Tea Tree Oil can be considered as a good alternative as long as the condition isn’t extreme. In case of such emergencies, a visit to a dermatologist is a must.
Tea Tree Oil to treat rash
The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of Tea Tree Oil can be helpful to reduce itchiness caused from rashes and it may also help in treating the infections which cause the itchiness.
However, using this oil alone will not be beneficial unless basic personal hygiene is maintained. It is important to take regular baths, dry yourself properly and to always wear clean clothes and undergarments so as to discourage growth of bacteria and fungi which usually cause skin rash.
Tea Tree Oil for burns
Due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it is very effective on mild burns. It helps to boost the healing process while disinfecting the burnt area. Since it helps to reduce the inflammation and has a soothing effect on the burnt area, it is an antiseptic of choice for many people. It also helps to protect the burnt area from infections which can be caused by certain strains of bacteria and fungi.
It is important however to not that Tea Tree Oil in its undiluted form is very potent and might do more harm than good. When being used topically, it is always advisable to mix a few drops of Tea Tree Oil with olive oil or coconut oil before applying it to the burn.
In case the burn is of a moderate to extreme nature, a doctor should be consulted before taking any such action.
Tea Tree Oil for the ear
Tea tree oil has been used as an alternative natural remedy for ear aches for a very long time due to its antimicrobial properties.
According to The National Medicines Comprehensive Database which is used by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in order to rate the effectiveness of medicines against treatments, the data regarding the effectiveness of Tea Tree Oil as a remedy against earaches is insufficient. However, they too suggest that Tea Tree is effective in killing certain strains of bacteria and fungi.
Tea Tree Oil has been used in Australia for centuries. An article published in 2004 in the American Journal of Infection Control mentions that Tea Tree Oil by the Aborigines for infections including those in the middle year.
However, due to lack of sufficient research in this regard, it is advisable to check with your doctor before using Tea Tree Oil in its 100% pure form.
Tea Tree Oil as an antiseptic
Bacteria such as S. aureus can cause infections in open cuts and wounds. Tea Tree Oil has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties which help prevent infections and reduce swelling as well. It also assists decreasing the healing period. In a study conducted on 10 people with wounds, using Tea Tree Oil to clean the wound along with a conventional treatment of the affected area significantly reduced the healing time in all participants except one which further goes to show its effectiveness as an antiseptic.
Make sure to dilute the Tea Tree in coconut oil or olive oil before applying it on the cut since Tea Tree in its concentrated form is very potent and can cause allergic reactions such as skin irritation and redness.
Tea Tree Oil – Precautions
It is advisable to do a patch test before using any skin product to ensure you aren’t allergic to its components. When using Tea Tree Oil, it is essential to use it as per the instructions advised on the label and in the advised quantities because excessive and/or incorrect use of this oil has been known to cause issues form skin irritation to poisoning including:
- Skin irritation
- Severe skin rash
- Burning and Scaling of the skin
- Abnormalities in the blood cells
It is also important to never ingest Tea Tree Oil orally because it is very toxic. If swallowed, it can cause Ataxia, unsteadiness and lead to unconsciousness.
Due to its extensive uses and benefits, Tea Tree Oil has become one of the most popular ingredients of choice for an array of topical medicines, cosmetic and homecare products. Like all good things, this multifunctional oil extract can work wonders when used in the right quantity but too much of it can be harmful. All in all, it is a great natural product with a long list of benefits and should definitely be a part of everyone’s medical cabinet.
Please go through the dosage column before using the product.