What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil or ti tree oil, is an essential oil with a fresh camphoraceous odor and a color that ranges from pale yellow to nearly colorless and clear.
It is derived from the leaves of the tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, native to Southeast Queensland and the Northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) lists a number of traditional or theoretical uses of tea tree oil. NLM notes that these uses have not all been tested for safety or effectiveness.
Tea tree oil has incredible antifungal and antibacterial properties, which is part of the reason it’s used to treat many fungal infections (including both ringworm and candidiasis).
One study suggested that tea tree oil can be just as effective at treating athlete’s foot as tolnaftate, another commonly used treatment.
Skin conditions feature prominently in traditional uses of tea tree oil: bruises, burns, canker sores, corns, eczema, insect bites, psoriasis, rosacea, scabies, skin infections, etc. A number of respiratory conditions are noted: colds, cough, bronchial congestion, and nose and throat irritation.
A wide variety of other conditions are also listed as traditional uses: melanoma, body odor, and infections of the bone and prostate.
This herbal oil is nowadays used in soaps, lotions, and shampoos. It’s most prominent terpene is terpineol, which has been proven as an antioxidant and is anti-inflammatory, and can prevent head lice, dandruff and can cure headaches, and colds.
What Are The Side Effects & Precautions?
Tea tree oil will sometimes irritate the surface, particularly at higher concentrations. It has also had allergic skin responses.
A study published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that repeated topical use of products containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may cause prepubertal gynecomastia, a rare condition resulting in enlarged breast tissue in boys prior to puberty, and for which a cause is seldom identified.
The three otherwise healthy Caucasian boys, ages four, seven and 10 years, had normal hormonal levels when they were diagnosed with gynecomastia by Clifford Bloch, M.D., in Colorado.
All had either used lavender-scented soap and skin lotions, or shampoos or styling products that contained tea tree oil and lavender oil as ingredients. In each case, several months after the suspected products were discontinued, the gynecomastia had subsided or resolved.
Tea tree oil, like many other “natural” substances, can indeed be poisonous if used in the wrong way, especially if swallowed.
In 2011, Poison Control received nearly twice as many calls about tea tree oil than any other named essential oil, including cinnamon oil, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil. More than 10 percent of people exposed to tea tree oil were treated in a hospital or doctor’s office.
Tea Tree Oil & Pets
Veterinary toxicologists have reported that large amounts of tea tree oil applied to the skin of cats and dogs caused poisoning.
Symptoms have included muscle tremors, weakness, difficulty in walking, low body temperature, and excessive salivation. With pets, as with people, following label instructions is essential.
3 High-Quality Tea Tree Oils
Amazon Recommended 100% Pure Tea Tree Oil
This is high-potency, therapeutic-grade oil that can relieve acne, psoriasis, and heal cuts, scrapes, bruises, piercings, and burns.
This essential oil is perfect for DIY shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. It can even work as a chemical-free all-purpose cleaner.
Art Naturals 100% Pure Tea Tree Oil
ArtNaturals tea tree oil is 100% pure, unadulterated, therapeutic grade, and GC/MS tested. It’s both vegan and cruelty-free.
It’s perfect for use with an essential oil diffuser and can also be applied to the skin when combined with a carrier oil.
Most Positive Reviews Tea Tree Essential Oil
This essential oil is another therapeutic-grade tea tree oil that has been purchased and used over 34,500 times. It can help supply all the benefits mentioned in the article and can still be used shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.
This tea tree oil also offers a money-back guarantee if it doesn’t dilute with a carrier oil or if you’re not satisfied with your purchase.
Since tea tree oil varies in quality, it’s important to buy an oil that is 100-percent natural, with no additives. Buy organic tea tree oil if possible, and always buy from a reputable brand.
The Latin name, Melaleuca alternifolia, and the country of origin should be printed on the bottle to confirm authenticity and quality. Look for an oil that has a 10- to 40-percent concentration of terpinen, which is the main antiseptic component of tea tree oil.
So far, research on the use of tea tree oil is limited. If you’re considering using tea tree oil, talk to your doctor first.
Keep in mind that tea tree oil should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of any health condition.