- What other names is Tea Tree Oil known by?
- What is Tea Tree Oil?
- How does Tea Tree Oil work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Dosing considerations for Tea Tree Oil.
Tea tree oil is applied to the skin for infections such as acne, fungal infections of the nail (onychomycosis), lice, scabies, athlete's foot, and ringworm. It is also applied to the skin as a local antiseptic for cuts and abrasions, for burns, insect bites and stings, boils, vaginal infections, hemorrhoids, recurrent cold sores, toothache, infections of the mouth and nose, sore throat, and for ear infections. Tea tree oil is used to prevent and treat infection by certain bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and for skin rash due to contact with nickel. It is also applied to the skin to eliminate excess body hair (hirsutism) in women. On the eyelids it is used for a mite infection at the base of the eyelids. In the hair it is used for dandruff. In the mouth it is used for plaque and gum disease, as well as bad breath.
Some people add it to bath water to treat cough, bronchial congestion, and pulmonary inflammation.
Possibly Effective for...
- Mild to moderate acne. Applying a 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-5, Benzac AC, and others) for treating acne. Tea tree oil might work more slowly than benzoyl peroxide, but seems to be less irritating to facial skin. When applied twice daily for 45 days, tea tree oil reduces several acne symptoms, including acne severity. But tea tree oil might be less effective than another product prepared by fermenting a type of cypress with the probiotic Lactobacillus.
- Infestation of the eyelashes with a type of mite (ocular demodicosis). A number of early studies show that tea tree oil might cure this common eyelid infection and reduce the associated symptoms, including eye inflammation and vision loss.
- Fungus infections of the nails (onychomycosis). Applying 100% tea tree oil solution to the skin twice daily for 6 months can cure fungal toenail infection in about 18% of people who try it. It can also improve nail appearance and symptoms in about 56% of patients after 3 months and 60% of patients after 6 months of treatment. It seems to be comparable to twice daily application of clotrimazole 1% solution (Fungoid, Lotrimin, Lotrimin AF). Lower concentrations of tea tree oil do not seem to be as effective. For example, there is some evidence that a 5% tea tree oil cream applied three times daily for 2 months has no benefit.
- Athlete's foot (tinea pedis). Topical application of a 10% tea tree oil cream works about as well as tolnaftate 1% cream (Genaspor, Tinactin, Ting, and others) for relieving symptoms of athlete's foot, including scaling, inflammation, itching, and burning. However, the 10% tea tree oil cream doesn't seem to cure the infection. However, applying a stronger tea tree oil solution (25% or 50%) appears to both relieve symptoms and clear up the infection in about half of people who try it for 4 weeks. However, 25% or 50% tea tree oil doesn't appear to be as effective for curing the infection as medications such as clotrimazole or terbinafine.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Bacterial infection of the vagina (bacterial vaginosis). Early research suggests that tea tree oil may benefit people with bacterial vaginosis.
- Dandruff. Early research suggests that applying a 5% tea tree oil shampoo three minutes daily for four weeks reduces scalp lesions, scalp itchiness, and greasiness in people with dandruff.
- Dental plaque. Results from research examining the effects of tea tree oil on dental plaque are inconsistent. Some early research shows that brushing the teeth with a 2.5% tea tree oil gel twice daily for 8 weeks reduces gum bleeding but not plaque in people who have gingivitis caused by plaque. Also, using a mouthwash containing tea tree oil after a professional teeth cleaning does not seem to reduce plaque formation. However, rinsing with a specific product (Tebodont) containing tea tree oil and a chemical called xylitol seems to reduce plaque. Also, rinsing with another product that contains tea tree oil, clove, and basil seems to reduce plaque.
- Gingivitis. Results from research examining the effects of tea tree oil on gingivitis are inconsistent. Some early research shows that brushing the teeth with a 2.5% tea tree oil gel twice daily for eight weeks reduces gum bleeding but does not improve overall gum health in people who have gingivitis caused by plaque. However, rinsing with a specific product (Tebodont) containing tea tree oil and a chemical called xylitol seems to reduce gum inflammation. Also, rinsing with another product that contains tea tree oil, clove, and basil seems to reduce gum inflammation.
- Bad breath. Early research shows that adding tea tree oil to an essential oil mixture containing peppermint and lemon oils can reduce bad breath when used as part of a 3-minute oral cleaning.
- Hemorrhoids. Some early research suggests that applying a gel containing tea tree oil, hyaluronic acid, and methyl-sulfonyl-methane reduces symptoms of hemorrhoids, including pain, inflammation and itching, in children.
- Cold sores (Herpes labialis). Research so far suggests that applying 6% tea tree oil gel five times daily does not improve cold sores.
- Excess body hair in women (hirsutism). Early research suggests that using a spray containing lavender oil and tea tree oil twice daily for 3 months slightly reduces hair growth in some areas in women with hirsutism.
- Lice. Early research suggests that tea tree oil might repel lice. Also, applying a combination of lavender and tea tree oil kills lice eggs and reduces the number of live lice. It is unclear if the effects are caused by the tea tree oil alone or the combination of lavender and tea tree oil.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. Evidence about the effects of tea tree oil on MRSA infection is unclear. When compared to standard MRSA treatment alone, adding tea tree oil does not seem to improve overall MRSA clearance or prevent infection. Also, using a tea tree oil solution when cleaning wounds does not seem to improve MRSA clearance. However, an early study suggests that using a 4% tea tree oil nasal ointment plus a 5% tea tree oil body wash along with other standard treatments might have a small benefit. Tea tree oil does not seem to prevent MRSA infection.
- Allergic skin reactions to nickel. Early research suggests that undiluted tea tree oil may reduce the area and redness skin reactions in people who are allergic to contact with nickel. Also some early evidence suggests that applying diluted tea tree oil to the skin before nickel exposure reduces skin reactions in people allergic to nickel.
- Yeast infections in the mouth and throat (thrush; also known as oropharyngeal candidiasis). Because people with AIDS have a weak immune system, they sometimes come down with "opportunistic" infections such as thrush. There is some evidence that tea tree oil might be beneficial in patients with HIV/AIDS whose thrush does not respond to usual antifungal medications such as fluconazole. 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. However, adding 1 mL of tea tree oil to a standard conditioner treatment does not reduce infections and inflammation in people with dentures.
- Skin infection caused by a certain virus. Early research shows that applying a combination of tea tree oil and iodine to the skin of children for 30 days helps clear up skin bumps caused by a poxvirus better than just tea tree oil or iodine alone.
- Vaginal infection called trichomoniasis. Early research suggests that tea tree oil may be beneficial for people with a type of vaginal infection called trichomoniasis.
- Vaginal infection called vaginal candidiasis. Early research suggests that tea tree oil may be beneficial for people with a type of vaginal infection called vaginal candidiasis.
- Ear infections.
- Preventing infections in cuts, abrasions, burns, insect bites and stings, and boils.
- Sore throat.
- Other conditions.
Quick GuideRingworm: Treatment, Pictures, Causes, and Symptoms
Applying products to the skin that contain tea tree oil along with lavender oil might not be safe for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. These products might have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy's body. In some cases, this has resulted in boys developing abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia. The safety of these products when used by young girls is not known.
Tea tree oil is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Don't take tea tree oil by mouth. As a general rule never take undiluted essential oils by mouth due to the possibility of serious side effects. Taking tree tea oil by mouth has caused serious side effects, including confusion, inability to walk, unsteadiness, rash, and coma.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Tea tree oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin. However, it is LIKELY UNSAFE if taken by mouth. Ingestion of tea tree oil can be toxic.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For acne: 5% tea tree oil gel applied daily.
- For infestation of the eyelashes with a type of mite (ocular demodicosis): Weekly scrubs of the eyelid using 50% tea tree oil along with daily scrubs of the eyelid with tea tree shampoo or 10% tea tree oil, applied once or twice per day for 3-5 minutes for up to 6 weeks.
- For nail fungus (onychomycosis): 100% tea tree oil solution applied twice daily for 6 months.
- For athlete's foot (tinea pedis): 25% or 50% tea tree oil solution applied twice daily for one month has been used. Also, 10% tea tree oil cream applied twice daily for one month has also been used.
- For acne: 5% tea tree oil gel applied daily.
- For infestation of the eyelashes with a type of mite (ocular demodicosis): Weekly scrubs of the eyelid using 50% tea tree oil and daily eyelid massages with 5% tea tree ointment has been used.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
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Last Editorial Review: 3/29/2011