9 Uses for Tea Tree Oil

There are a number of ways to use tea tree oil, an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternatifolia) plant. While some find the distinctive, camphor-like scent to be quite strong, preliminary studies suggest that the highly concentrated oil may have antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. Here are some ways to use this popular oil.

1
To help fight dandruff.

Woman looking in the mirror.
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Tea tree oil may help to reduce the itchiness, greasiness, and severity of dandruff (but not scalp scaliness), according to a preliminary study. A 5% tea tree oil shampoo was used for three minutes a day, followed by rinsing, for four weeks. 

2
As a spot treatment to help clear acne.

woman looking in the mirror
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Tea tree oil contains terpinen-4-ol, a constituent that may help destroy the bacteria involved in the development of acne.

A 5% tea tree oil solution his sometimes used. Although evidence is limited, a 5% tea tree oil solution has been explored to help zap pimples. In one study, it was found to improve acne with less dryness, flakiness and peeling than 5% benzoyl peroxide. Another study found that a 5% tea tree oil gel applied to the affected area for 20 minutes and then washed off thoroughly with water for 45 days improved acne.

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3
As a face wash for oily skin.

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In addition to being used as a spot treatment, tea tree oil is a fairly common ingredient in face washes for oily or acne-prone skin.  Typically, a lower concentration is used for the face, as too much can dry out skin, triggering the overproduction of oil. 

4
To help get rid of toenail fungus.

toenails
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Applied topically once or twice a day for at least several months, tea tree oil may help fight toenail fungus, due to its purported antifungal properties. One drop is typically applied to the nail (carefully avoiding the surrounding skin) using a cotton swab or applicator. 

In one study, a tea tree oil solution improved nail appearance and symptoms in about 60% of people after six months, and eradicated the fungus in 18% of people after six months of treatment.

Also see: Natural Remedies for Athlete's Foot

5
To repel insects.

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Tea tree oil may help to keep insects and bugs away. Although essential oils should not be applied full-strength or in highly concentrated amounts on skin, sprays containing dilute amounts of essential oils such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus, lemon eucalyptus, lemon, citronella, and geranium can be used around doors, window screens, and on clothing.

More: Essential Oils as Insect Repellents and Natural Mosquito Repellents

6
For athlete's foot.

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A skin infection caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, damp areas, athlete's foot often results in cracked, flaking, peeling, and red skin between the toes or on the sides of the feet.

According to preliminary research, topical application of a 10% tea tree oil solution was comparable to a 1% tolnaftate cream in relieving symptoms of athlete's foot, such as scaliness, itching, burning, and inflammation. While more concentrated solutions (such as 25% and 50%) were needed to eradicate the fungus, they don't appear to be as effective in eliminating the fungus as treatments with clotrimazole or terbinafine. 

More: Home Remedies for Athlete's Foot

7
As an ingredient in soap.

Woman washing her hands.
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Tea tree oil is a popular ingredient in hand and bar soaps that are available at some drug stores, natural grocery stores, and online. DIY tea tree oil soap recipes can be found online, but be sure to avoid recipes that call for excessive amounts of tea tree oil. 

8
As a spot treatment for warts.

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Tea tree oil is sometimes used in alternative medicine as a spot treatment for warts. Typically, one drop of a tea tree oil solution is applied to the wart, then the wart is covered with a bandage overnight. It is generally done every day until the wart falls off or shrinks, which typically takes several weeks. 

More: 3 All-Natural Remedies for Warts

9
As a household cleaner.

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Tea tree oil can be used to make a simple, more environmentally friendly spray for bathroom tile and on shower curtains, to curtail the growth of mold and bacteria.

Although a few drops can be mixed into a spritzer bottle full of water, another popular recipe is to add a few drops to a spritzer bottle filled with distilled white vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio. To prevent mold on plastic shower curtains, typically one drop of tea tree oil is used for every cup of water. Be sure to check with the manufacturer instructions before using any new cleaning product on a household surface.

More: Natural Household Cleaning Product Recipes

10
Tips on using tea tree oil:

Tea tree oil should not be used full-strength (unless recommended by a qualified medical professional). It is absorbed through skin, so it should always be used in small quantities in very dilute amounts. Tea tree oil may irritate skin or result in allergic reactions in some individuals. Discontinue any product if it causes irritation. Always patch-test new products and consult your doctor before using any form of alternative medicine.

Tea tree oil should not be ingested and can cause significant toxicity. Poisonings have resulted in drowsiness, disorientation, rash, loss of muscle control in the limbs, and coma. All tea tree oil products should be kept out of reach of children and pets (and off surfaces that they might lick or put in their mouth).

Also, be sure to consult the manufacturer or do a small test before applying or spraying any tea tree product on  clothing and household surfaces and items.

Sources

Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust. (1990) 153 (8): 455-458.

Buck DS, Nidorf DM, Addino JG. Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole. J Fam Pract 1994;38:601-5. 

Enshaieh S, Jooya A, Siadat AH, et al. "The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study." Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2007; 73 (1): 22-5.

Martin KW, Ernst E. Herbal medicines for treatment of fungal infections: a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Mycoses 2004;47:87-92. 

Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C and Barnetson RS. Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. J Am Acad Dermatol 2002;47(6):852-855. 

Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study. Australas J Dermatol 2002;43:175-8.

Tong MM, Altman PM, Barnetson RS. Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis. Australas J Dermatol 1992;33:145-9. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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