Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has a wide variety of health and beauty purposes. It’s been used to keep skin clean, treating both wounds and acne, as well as sanitizing surfaces and cleaning fruits. It’s scientifically proven to make a difference in your life. This article covers the basics in tea tree oil uses and all the benefits you need to know about.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia. This is a tree that grows in the subtropical coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. Disclaimer: this tree is NOT what makes the tea we drink. In fact, tea tree oil should not be consumed, only used topically or cautiously through air diffusers. The oil possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. It has grown in popularity over the decades due to its benefits and uses. Tea tree oil is commonly found in cosmetics, topical medicines, and household products.
Benefits and Uses
Hand sanitizer: There have been studies proving that tea tree oil can kill several common bacteria and viruses responsible for causing illness, including S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and E. coli. Tea tree oil essentially has the ability to damage the cell walls of bacteria, making it a great natural hand sanitizer. Adding tea tree oil to hand washes can boost their effectiveness.
Natural deodorant: Sweat, itself, may not smell – but the secretions from sweat glands combine with bacteria on the skin. This can cause body odor that ranges anywhere from moderate to strong. Tea tree oil’s bacteria-fighting properties help make it a natural alternative for deodorants and antiperspirants.
Antiseptic: When an injury results in broken skin, germs can enter the bloodstream and cause infections. Tea tree oil can be used to treat and disinfect minor injuries. Tea tree oil kills S. aureus and other bacteria that are known to cause infections in open wounds.
Follow these simple steps to disinfect minor wounds:
- Use soap and water to clean the area
- Mix one drop of tea tree oil with one teaspoon of coconut oil
- Apply a small amount of the mixture with a q-tip to the injury, cover with a bandage
- Repeat this process daily until a scab has formed
Fungus: Nail fungi and yeast are common factors that can also be treated by tea tree oil. Studies have shown that applying tea tree oil, either alone or in a mixture with coconut oil, helped clear up nail fungi infections. Tea tree oil is also able to kill a range of yeast that can be found in the body. A majority of studies focused on tea tree oil’s effects on Candida albicans. This is a type of yeast which commonly affects the skin, genitals, throat, and mouth.
Athlete’s foot is another fungus that tea tree oil is effective in treating. Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection on the feet that can also spread to the toenails and hands. Studies have found that tea tree oil helps relieve scaling, inflammation, itching and burning.
Fight acne: Skin imperfections such as acne are tough things to battle and to find remedies for, however, tea tree oil can be a powerful weapon against acne. Many studies have shown that it actually helps reduce the amount of acne as well as its severity. In fact, tea tree oil has been found to even be as effective against acne as benzoyl peroxide, which is the most common anti-acne medication. To apply tea tree oil to affected areas, mix it with water and apply the mixture with a cotton pad. Using only tea tree oil on the skin can dry it out.
Mouthwash: It has been previously mentioned that tea tree oil works against bacteria, but research also shows that it can fight germs that cause tooth decay and bad breath. Some studies have shown that when used as an oral rinse, tea tree oil has more effect on plaque-causing bacteria than chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is one of the most common ingredients in oral rinses.
Soothe skin: In addition to treating acne, tea tree oil also has soothing effects on other skin conditions. Tea tree oil can help relieve inflamed skin caused by things such as contact dermatitis and even bug bites. Contact dermatitis is a skin reaction that occurs when skin comes in contact with an allergen. Studies have shown that tea tree oil can reduce symptoms by 40%, which was significantly more than standard medications.
To help relieve inflamed skin, follow these steps:
- Combine tea tree oil with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and one tablespoon of melted coconut oil.
- Mix well, store in a sealed container.
- Apply to the affected area twice a day until symptoms resolve.
Dandruff: Dry, flaky skin on the scalp is common and although dandruff isn’t dangerous to a person’s health, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. In multiple studies, it has been shown that adding tea tree oil to shampoo helped improve individuals’ dandruff situations. It can also help soothe itchy scalp. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to shampoo can work wonders.
Banish mold on fruits and vegetables: Fresh produce is a necessity but it is also susceptible to the growth of gray mold known as Botrytis cinerea. However, adding a few drops of tea tree oil to water when washing fresh produce can help combat the growth of this gray mold and make fresh produce more enjoyable.
All purpose cleaner: Not only does tea tree oil sanitize hands and skin, it also can sanitize surfaces. It is also a natural cleaner so that it does not leave behind traces of chemicals that could be dangerous. To make your own tea tree oil surface cleaner, follow these steps.
- Combine 15-20 drops tea tree oil, 3/4 cup of water and a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle.
- Shake well to mix substance
- Spray directly onto surfaces and wipe clean with a dry cloth
Don’t forget to shake the bottle before each use in order to mix the tea tree oil with the other ingredients.
Tea Tree Oil Cautions
Overall, tea tree oil is generally safe to use for just about anything, however, there are still precautions. Tea tree oil can be toxic if it is ingested. It should be stored out of reach from children. If ingested, it can cause a range of reactions such as blood cell abnormalities, nausea, severe rashes, vomiting, and even comas. Before applying tea tree oil to skin for the first time, test a few drops on a designated area of the body and watch for any alarming reactions. Some individuals with skin sensitivities may be at risk for rashes when using tea tree oil.
Like other anti-bacterial products, a build up of immunity to antibacterials can occur when a product is overused. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can form if tea tree oil is over used.
Tea tree oil is also not guaranteed to be safe for pets. Tremors can occur. Check with a veterinarian before topical use. Also, using tea tree oil in a diffuser with a pet in the room may cause similar side effects.