Last Updated June 24th, 2019
Tea tree oil: The origins of this essential oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil distilled from the terminal branches and leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, which is a hardwood tree indigenous to the northeastern area of New South Wales, Australia. The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia ) was named by 18th-century sailors, who made a tea that smelled like nutmeg from the leaves of the tree growing on the swampy southeast Australian coast.
Tea tree oil (TTO) can be applied to the skin (topically) for infections such as acne, fungal infections of the nail (onychomycosis). Used for treatment of lice, scabies, athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), and ringworm. It is also used topically as a local antiseptic for cuts and abrasions, burns, insect bites and stings, boils, vaginal infections, recurrent herpes labialis, toothache, infections of the mouth and nose, sore throat, and for ear infections such as otitis media and otitis externa.
It is also added to the bath water to treat a cough, bronchial congestion, and pulmonary inflammation. The chemicals in tea tree oil kill bacteria and fungus and reduce allergic skin reactions. Tea tree oil is also used as non-medicinal namely the cleaning products, which is considered natural and better for the environment. Tea tree oil may be found as additives in beauty and health products, including shampoo, soap, and nasal spray.
Tea tree oil: The widespread uses and benefits
The most common skin problem includes acne and tea tree oil is one of the best remedies for acne. Applying 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide for treating acne. Tea tree oil works slowly than benzoyl peroxide but seems to be less irritating to the facial skin. A combination of dilute tea tree oil with witch hazel twice a day can reduce several acne symptoms, including acne severity.
Onychomycosis is also known as tinea unguium, which is a fungal infection of the nail. Symptoms may include white or yellow nail discoloration, thickening of the nail, and separation of the nail from the nail bed. Topical application of 100% tea tree oil solution, twice daily for six months, can cure fungal toenail infection. It can also improve nail appearance and symptoms with continuous use up to three months. A 100% tea tree oil is comparable to the twice-daily application of clotrimazole 1% solution.
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)
Athlete’s foot is also called as tinea pedis and is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet, which can also spread to the toenails and the hands. The name athlete’s foot is derived because it is commonly seen in athletes. Topical application of 10% tea tree oil cream helps in relieving symptoms of athlete’s foot, including scaling, inflammation, itching, and burning, and a stronger tea tree oil solution of 25% to 50% can even heal the infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of bacteria, which is naturally found in the vagina. Tea tree oil has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties, which makes it a suitable remedy for treating bacterial vaginosis.\
Dandruff is a common skin condition that causes white or grey flakes of skin to appear on the scalp and in the hair. Applying a 5% tea tree oil shampoo three minutes daily for four weeks reduces scalp lesions, scalp itchiness, and greasiness in people suffering from dandruff.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, which occurs when plaque, which is a naturally-occurring sticky film containing bacterial builds up on the teeth and causes inflammation of the surrounding gum. Brushing the teeth with a 2.5% tea tree oil gel twice daily for eight weeks reduces gum bleeding in people who have gingivitis caused by plaque. Rinsing the mouth with a specific product containing tea tree oil and a chemical called xylitol seems to reduce gum inflammation. Also, rinsing with another product, which contains tea tree oil, clove, and holy basil reduces gum inflammation.
Adding tea tree oil to an essential oil mixture containing peppermint and lemon oils helps to reduce bad breath when used for oral cleaning.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lowest part of rectum and anus. Application of a gel containing tea tree oil, hyaluronic acid, and methyl-sulfonyl-methane helps in reducing symptoms of hemorrhoids, including pain, inflammation, and itching.
Herpes labialis, also known as cold sores, is a type of infection by the herpes simplex virus that affects primarily the lip. Tea tree oil exhibited high levels of virucidal activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2. Tea tree oil is helpful when used in the early stages of herpes labilais before the virus causes an obvious outbreak in the body. The virus is most susceptible when it has not yet penetrated the host cell, a process called adsorption. Tea tree oil when used as early treatment targets the herpes virus before penetration.
Hirsutism is a medical condition of unwanted, male-pattern hair growth in women. Application of a spray containing lavender oil and tea tree oil twice daily for 3 months reduces hair growth in such areas and can help to reduce the symptoms of hirsutism.
Head lice are tiny insects that feed on blood from the human scalp. An infestation of head lice, which is called pediculosis capitis mostly affects children and usually results from the direct transfer of lice from the hair of one person to the hair of another person. Tea tree oil contains two major constituents with insecticidal activity namely 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol. Research has found that a 1% tea tree oil solution is capable of killing 100% head lice within 30 minutes. Also, applying a combination of lavender and tea tree oil kills lice eggs and reduces the number of live lice.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It is tougher to treat than most strains of Staphylococcus aureus because it is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, oxacillin, and methicillin. Tea tree oil has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties when used topically.
Tea tree oil’s anti-microbial properties are attributed to belonging to a class of chemicals known as terpenes, specifically terpinen-4-ol. Tea tree oil’s bactericidal effects make this a suitable addition or supplement to an MRSA treatment plan. Studies suggest that using a 4% tea tree oil nasal ointment plus a 5% tea tree oil body wash along with other standard treatments can help with MRSA infection.
Allergic skin reactions to nickel
There are few instances that people get an allergic reaction with the contact of nickel when using earrings or other jewellery. Research has shown that using undiluted tea tree oil can help reduce the area and redness of skin reactions in people, who are allergic to contact with nickel.
Thrush or oropharyngeal candidiasis
Oral candidiasis, which is also known as oral thrush among other names, is a candidiasis that occurs in the mouth. Since tea tree oil is known to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, they can be helpful in treating oral candidiasis. Swishing and expelling tea tree oil solution for 2-4 weeks seems to improve symptoms. There is also early evidence that using tea tree oil as part of an essential oil mixture might improve oral comfort in cancer patients.
Chickenpox is also known as varicella, which is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. Chickenpox is best known for its itchy, spotted rash. Tea tree oil is known for its antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic qualities and can provide effective relief to the inflammation and itching caused by the virus. A blend of few drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil can be used to give a soothing effect to the sores.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system. Symptoms include flaking, inflammation, and thick, white, silver, or red patches of skin. Anecdotal evidence suggests that tea tree oil may be useful in treating symptoms of psoriasis, such as infection and inflammation while boosting immunity.
Side effects of tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is considered safe when used topically, but tea tree has been found to be poisonous if taken internally since it is a refined composition of numerous naturally occurring chemicals. Some of the side effects include:
- Skin irritation can arise especially if the oil is applied to the dry or broken skin. The symptoms can include stinging, itching that burns, and mild to serious inflammation. Which is why doing a patch test before applying it is recommended.
- Bad Taste. Some mouthwashes containing tea tree oil, which is used for mouth cleansing, could end up leaving a bad taste in the mouth after the mouthwash.
- Scalp Problems. People allergic to tea tree oil can end up having an allergic reaction when used on the scalp.
- Depressed Behaviour. There are some cases of depressed behavior with an external user of high doses of tea tree oil.
- Hormonal Side Effects. Tea tree oil was found to cause breast growth in adolescent boys. Tea tree oil might act as a potential endocrine disruptor and cause this type of hormonal imbalance.
- Ingestion of tea tree oil can cause diarrhea in certain cases. This can happen to people having a severe allergic reaction to tea tree oil.
- Nasal Polyps. Tea tree oil is recommended for nasal polyps, but it can also cause side effects. The oil can cause a runny nose, and it might even burn or sting. In some cases, the polyp might swell before it shrinks.
- Ear Damage. Tea tree oil, which is used to treat ear infections, can cause serious damage to the ears if used undiluted to mucous membranes. It can cause discomfort and swelling. It is always advised to be used along with a carrier oil like almond oil or olive oil.
- Muscle Tremors. According to veterinarians, large amounts of tea tree oil applied externally to dogs and cats had caused muscle tremors and it is speculated that it may have the same effect even on the humans.
- Skin irritation and other skin related issues. Anyone susceptible to eczema must use tea tree oil with utmost care since it may cause serious skin damage and can cause skin irritations, burning, and redness.
Daily uses of tea tree oil
- Hand Sanitizer
- Insect Repellent
- Natural Deodorant
- Antiseptic for Minor Cuts and Scrapes
- Used topically to boost wound healing, fight Acne, get rid of nail fungus, and treat athlete’s foot
- Chemical-Free Mouthwash
- All-Purpose Cleaner
- Shampoo to control dandruff
- Used as a spray to banish mold on fruits and vegetables
In essence, this essential oil is …
Tea tree oil has been used as a natural remedy for a very long time. There is scientific evidence that tea tree oil can be effective for several skin conditions and can be used on a daily basis in the form of hand sanitizer, insect repellent, natural deodorant, antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes, can be used topically to boost wound healing, fight acne, get rid of nail fungus, and treat athlete’s foot, used as chemical-free mouthwash, all-purpose cleaner, shampoo to control dandruff, and used as spray to banish mold on fruits and vegetables.
It has to be noted that tea tree oil has to be used externally and not to be ingested, which can cause serious medical conditions within 30 minutes of ingestion. It is advisable that possible ingestion of tea tree oil needs to be reported to Poison Control to check for poisoning and immediately consult a medical professional for help even in the cases of an allergic reaction related to the external use of tea tree oil.
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