Tea Tree (Melaleuca) Essential Oil
Tea tree (Melaleuca) oil is extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia tree. There are approximately 230 species of Melaleuca, almost all of which are found exclusively in Australia. The trees produce white flowers but are largely cultivated for their leaves, which undergo steam distillation to extract their oil.¹
Used for nearly 100 years in traditional aboriginal Australian medicine, the leaves of the tea tree have been applied as a topical antiseptic to treat lacerations and bruises.¹ It wasn’t until the early 20th century that scientists were able to confirm its disinfectant and antimicrobial properties.2
Today, tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca essential oil, is used to address yeast and other fungal infections, dandruff, acne, and to prevent infestations of head lice.3
Tea Tree Essential Oil Uses
Tea tree oil is often used in homeopathic remedies, beauty products, and as a natural cleaning agent. This oil has a crisp, medicinal scent and blends well with nutmeg, rose, spruce, bergamot, lavender, grapefruit, and eucalyptus essential oil. Below, discover some of the most common uses for tea tree essential oil.
For those sensitive to chemical detergents, try tea tree essential oil as a natural laundry freshener. Because of its antibacterial properties, adding 2-3 drops to your next load of laundry can help kill bacteria on your clothes and in the washer.
Not only has tea tree essential oil been proven as an effective treatment for dandruff, it can also be used to prevent and treat the occurrence of head lice. Add 4-5 drops to your shampoo or create a preventative rinse by mixing a few drops with coconut milk.
To help fight acne and prevent it from becoming worse, try applying tea tree essential oil to trouble areas. Add one part tea tree essential oil to ten parts carrier oil or unscented facial lotion.
Tea tree essential oil can also serve as a natural household disinfectant. To create a household cleanser, mix a few drops of tea tree essential oil with water, vinegar, and 2-3 drops of lemon essential oil. This mixture can be used to clean and disinfect counters, showers, sinks, toilets, and kitchen appliances.
While there are several antibacterial benefits of tea tree essential oil, it can be used to eliminate smells with bacterial origin. Spraying sports equipment and athletic shoes with the disinfectant solution mentioned above can help eliminate offensive odor.
Tea tree essential oil can also be used to create homemade, organic deodorant by mixing a few drops into a paste with coconut oil and baking soda.
Benefits of Tea Tree Essential Oil
As a well-researched essential oil, tea tree has demonstrated a number practical and therapeutic applications that take advantage of its antibacterial properties. Based on the latest scientific research, we share the top scientifically-studied benefits of tea tree essential oil.
Tea tree essential oil’s antibacterial properties have been used by herbalists for many years to help treat mild to moderate acne. Serval clinical studies have noted that when applied topically it had a significant effect on decreasing the amount of lesions and inflammation.
In a 45-day study, individuals with acne vulgaris were given a tea-tree oil gel or placebo. At the end of the study, patients who had received the tea tree preparation saw their total acne lesions improved 3.5 times more than the placebo, while acne severity improved 5.75 times respectively.4
A 12-week study also observed significant differences in the amount of acne lesions after the use of a tea tree oil gel and facewash. Results concluded that a mean reduction of 54% in total facial acne lesions. Results also indicated that the products were well tolerated, caused no adverse side effects and unlike antibiotics, posed no risk to increased resistance of P. acnes bacteria.5
Tea tree oil has been shown to reduce the severity and discomfort of dandruff.¹ Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo may help alleviate unpleasant dandruff symptoms.
In 2013, a study published in the Journal of Cranio-Maxillo Facial Surgery tested several essential oils including tea tree, eucalyptus and lemongrass for their antiseptic efficacy towards multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria, often called ‘superbugs’. The study that found tea tree oil is a potent antiseptic that could possibly be used to treat severe infections including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).6
For fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, tea tree oil can be used as a topical agent, and diluted with a carrier oil like coconut, jojoba, or almond.
Treat Athlete’s Foot
Tea tree oil has been proven effective in the treatment of tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot. A topical mixture of one part tea tree essential oil to three parts ethanol and polyethylene glycol was used in a clinical study. Results indicated that its use improved 72% of participants, compared to a 39% improvement in the placebo group.¹
Alleviate Nail Fungus
In a recent clinical trial, a cream base enhanced with 5% tea tree essential oil and 2% butenafide was applied three times a day for eight weeks to help treat the symptoms of nail fungus. Results indicated that 80% of subjects were cured in the clinical trial, though butenafide was not tested independently.¹ Applying diluted tea tree essential oil to affected toenails twice a day may treat nail fungus, without the need for butenafide.
Side Effects of Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil is safe and well-tolerated when applied as a topical treatment.
Tea tree essential oil should never be ingested and or applied to inside of the ears, as it could cause serious adverse effects.7 Always read and follow any directions given on your product’s label.
Consult a health care practitioner before using tea tree essential oil on pregnant and breast feeding women, or children.
Where to Buy Tea Tree Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Carson, C.F., Hammer, K.A., Riley, T.V. (2006). Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: A Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, 19(1), 50-62. doi:1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
- Riley, T. (2002). Topical antimicrobial therapy with tea tree oil: Fact or fantasy. Journal of Infection Prevention, 3(5), 12-15. doi:1177/175717740200300503
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016). Tea tree oil. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tea/treeoil.htm – View reference
- Jooya, A., Siadat, A., Iraji, F., & Enshaieh, S. (2007). The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, 73(1), 22. doi:4103/0378-6323.30646
- Malhi, H. K., Tu, J., Riley, T. V., Kumarasinghe, S. P., & Hammer, K. A. (2016). Tea tree oil gel for mild to moderate acne; a 12 week uncontrolled, open-label phase II pilot study. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, n/a-n/a. doi:1111/ajd.12465
- Warnke, P. H., Lott, A. J., Sherry, E., Wiltfang, J., & Podschun, R. (2013). The ongoing battle against multi-resistant strains: In-vitro inhibition of hospital-acquired MRSA, VRE, Pseudomonas, ESBL E. coli and Klebsiella species in the presence of plant-derived antiseptic oils. Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery, 41(4), 321-326. doi:1016/j.jcms.2012.10.012
- University of Michigan. (2016, May 26). Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia). Retrieved February 10, 2017 from http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tn2873spec