Tea tree oil uses include the treatment of numerous skin disorders caused by bacteria and fungi. Other uses include treating cuts, burns and abrasions and curing common ailments such as acne, athlete's foot, boils and dandruff.
Tea Tree Oil for Health Uses
Extracted by steam distillation from the leaves of the Australia Melaleuca trees, tea tree oil has a long and distinguished history among natural remedies. Since the 1990's, many research studies point to the benefits of tea tree oil. The University of Western Australia even has its own tea tree oil research group.
Tea tree oil contains terpinen-4-ol, a powerful antifungal and antibacterial agent. The oil may be used full strength directly from the bottle, or mixed with other herbs into oils, lotions, creams and salves. There are also many commercial remedies containing tea tree oil.
Natural Acne Treatment
Whether you are a teen struggling with daily outbreaks or an adult with the occasional pimple, acne is a common skin ailment. Doctors believe that a combination of factors, including hormones, bacteria, and diet, trigger the pimples, blackheads and whiteheads associated with acne. Tea tree oil fights Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that lives in hair follicles and triggers acne outbreaks. Preparations sold at drug stores and health food stores that contain five percent or more tea tree oil are most effective against common acne. They're typically safe, but if you're new to using tea tree oil, conduct a patch test to be sure you're not allergic to it. Some products on the market contain tea tree oil, but it's wise to use them cautiously until you're sure it won't dry your skin too much.
One study, conducted by the Department of Dermatology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, compared the effectiveness of tea tree oil preparations with those containing benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient found in non-prescription acne medicines. Patients in the study reported about equal effects from both medicines, although more patients reported redness and itchy skin after using benzoyl peroxide. This study provides promising scientific evidence for using tea tree oil preparations to fight acne.
A fungus called Trichophyton causes athlete's foot. Characterized by redness and sometimes peeling skin on the feet, particularly between the toes, athlete's foot causes painful burning and itching sensations. Trichophyton outbreaks can also occur in any warm, moist part of the body, such as the armpits and groin area.
Tea tree oil creams, used two to three times a day on the affected area, provide fast relief due to its antifungal properties. Anyone suffering from athlete's foot needs to be especially careful to keep feet dry. Change socks frequently, dry feet thoroughly after bathing or showering and avoid gyms, pools and locker rooms where the bacteria thrive. Wearing sandals and exposing feet to the sun also help clear up any lingering problems.
Painful, infected hair follicles, also known as boils, respond well to tea tree oil. Use drops of tea tree oil directly on the boil, or make a hot compress using hot water and several drops of tea tree oil. Adding lavender oil to the water makes the compress smell better and introduces a second antibacterial herb. Soak a clean cloth in water infused with lavender and tea tree oil and apply the cloth to the boil for ten minutes at a time. The pus should come to a head and you can remove the core of the boil. Drop additional tea tree oil directly onto the boil to clear up any lingering bacterial infection.
Unsightly dandruff not only creates an embarrassing mess on clothing, it causes uncomfortable itching and unpleasant-looking hair. Shampoos containing tea tree oil act upon bacteria and fungi on the scalp and hair follicles that cause dandruff. Researchers believe that Pityrosporum ovale, a type of fungus, causes certain types of dandruff. Tea tree oil effectively kills this fungus. One study abstract, published by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2002, found that a shampoo containing five percent tea tree oil decreased the severity and significance of dandruff in 23 percent of the participants. Participants used the shampoo for several weeks. Evidence includes statistically significant reduction of many of the uncomfortable symptoms of dandruff, including scalp itching and skin flaking.
Tea tree oil shampoos are easy to find at drug stores, natural health stores, and even some major supermarket chains and discount stores. Look for preparations containing five percent or more tea tree oil. Use the shampoo daily for several weeks to give the oils enough time to knock out any problem-causing bacteria or fungus.
Insects such as mosquitos dislike the smell of the oil will and stay away from you or your home when it has been applied. To make your own repellent:
- Mix 15 to 20 teaspoons of oil to one quart of water.
- Shake well
- Sprinkle around your home or spray directly onto your skin.
Household Uses for Tea Tree Oil
In addition to personal uses, tea tree oil makes a great household cleaner and disinfectant. Below are some homemade cleansers made by using tea tree oil.
- Mix two to four teaspoons of 100 percent essential oil to 16 ounces of water. Place in a spray bottle for quick cleanups. You can also create cleansers by adding other natural cleansers such as Murphy's Soap or Castile soap. These are great mixtures for cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms and tackling grease in kitchens.
- Another way to use tea tree oil is to add a teaspoonful to your dishwasher as well as to your laundry loads.
- Add sea salt, tea tree oil and water for a great solution to fight bathroom mold.
Cautions to Keep in Mind
Always use tea tree oil topically. Although some tea tree oil mouthwashes and toothpastes are on the market, nearly all research indicates that tea tree oil can burn and inflame internal tissues. Recently, some companies have introduced pet products containing tea tree oil. Check with your veterinarian before using any of them on dogs, cats, horses and other domestic animals. Used properly, tea tree oil provides safe and effective relief for many skin ailments.