Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the tea tree. The tea tree was named by eighteenth century sailors, who made tea that smelled like nutmeg from the leaves of the tree growing on the swampy southeast Australian coast. Do not confuse the tea tree with the unrelated common tea plant that is used to make black and green teas.
Tea tree oil is applied to the skin for infections such as acne, fungal infections of the nail (onychomycosis), lice, scabies, athlete's foot, and ringworm. It is also applied to the skin as a local antiseptic for cuts and abrasions, for burns, insect bites and stings, boils, vaginal infections, hemorrhoids, recurrent cold sores, toothache, infections of the mouth and nose, sore throat, and for ear infections. Tea tree oil is used to prevent and treat infection by certain bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and for skin rash due to contact with nickel. It is also applied to the skin to eliminate excess body hair (hirsutism) in women. On the eyelids it is used for a mite infection at the base of the eyelids. In the hair it is used for dandruff. In the mouth it is used for plaque and gum disease, as well as bad breath.
Some people add it to bath water to treat cough, bronchial congestion, and pulmonary inflammation.
How it works
The chemicals in tea tree oil may kill bacteria and fungus, and reduce allergic skin reactions by decreasing swelling or inflammation.
Possibly EffectiveMild to moderate acne
Applying a 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-5, Benzac AC, and others) for treating acne. Tea tree oil might work more slowly than benzoyl peroxide, but seems to be less irritating to facial skin. When applied twice daily for 45 days, tea tree oil reduces several acne symptoms, including acne severity. But tea tree oil might be less effective than another product prepared by fermenting a type of cypress with the probiotic Lactobacillus.
A number of early studies show that tea tree oil might cure this common eyelid infection and reduce the associated symptoms, including eye inflammation and vision loss.
Applying 100% tea tree oil solution to the skin twice daily for 6 months can cure fungal toenail infection in about 18% of people who try it. It can also improve nail appearance and symptoms in about 56% of patients after 3 months and 60% of patients after 6 months of treatment. It seems to be comparable to twice daily application of clotrimazole 1% solution (Fungoid, Lotrimin, Lotrimin AF). Lower concentrations of tea tree oil do not seem to be as effective. For example, there is some evidence that a 5% tea tree oil cream applied three times daily for 2 months has no benefit.
Topical application of a 10% tea tree oil cream works about as well as tolnaftate 1% cream (Genaspor, Tinactin, Ting, and others) for relieving symptoms of athlete's foot, including scaling, inflammation, itching, and burning. However, the 10% tea tree oil cream doesn't seem to cure the infection. However, applying a stronger tea tree oil solution (25% or 50%) appears to both relieve symptoms and clear up the infection in about half of people who try it for 4 weeks. However, 25% or 50% tea tree oil doesn't appear to be as effective for curing the infection as medications such as clotrimazole or terbinafine.
Tea tree oil is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when put on the skin. But it can cause skin irritation and swelling. In people with acne, it can sometimes cause skin dryness, itching, stinging, burning, and redness.Applying products to the skin that contain tea tree oil along with lavender oil might not be safe for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. These products might have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy's body. In some cases, this has resulted in boys developing abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia. The safety of these products when used by young girls is not known
Tea tree oil is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Don't take tea tree oil by mouth. As a general rule never take undiluted essential oils by mouth due to the possibility of serious side effects. Taking tree tea oil by mouth has caused serious side effects, including confusion, inability to walk, unsteadiness, rash, and coma.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Tea tree oil isPOSSIBLY SAFEwhen applied to the skin. However, it isLIKELY UNSAFEif taken by mouth. Ingestion of tea tree oil can be toxic.Dosing considerations for Tea Tree Oil.
No information available.