Proven Benefits and Uses of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil) – Science Based
By Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer
Tea tree oil has been used for centuries due to its amazing medicinal and therapeutic properties. The antimicrobial compounds in tea tree oil have many uses and benefits. You can use tea tree oil to cure fungal infections, help cuts to heal quickly, get rid of dandruff, and treat nail infections.
To use tea tree oil on your skin, scalp, or feet, you can add it to a carrier oil and apply to your body. On small areas of skin, tea tree oil can be used as a spot treatment on acne pimples or to disinfect small cuts. You can even add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo if you want to use tea tree oil to soothe an itchy scalp.
In this article, you will learn about the many uses of tea tree oil and why it is one of the best antimicrobial essential oils you can use. At the end of the article, you can find out about precautions to take when using tea tree oil for medicinal purposes.
What is Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil) and Where It Comes From
Tea tree oil (also called “melaleuca oil”) comes from extracting oil from the leaves of the tree Melaleuca alternifolia that grows in Australia. The tea tree plant looks like a tall shrub but can grow into a moderate sized tree.
The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews reports that tea tree oil contains a number of medicinal compounds. The most prominent antimicrobial compound in tea tree oil is terpinen-4-ol. To use tea tree oil for its therapeutic benefits, tea tree oil should contain at least 30% terpinen-4-ol. (1)
According to research published in 2018, recent scientific studies have confirmed many of the medicinal uses and benefits of tea tree oil. Research has shown that tea tree oil can be used for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. (2)
Some scientists have found that tea tree oil is even powerful enough to be effective against many drug-resistant strains of fungi and bacteria. (1, 3)
What is Tea Tree Oil Good For?
The powerful healing compounds of tea tree oil mean that it is useful in addressing a number of health concerns.
As well as containing terpinen-4-ol, researchers have identified a number of other beneficial chemicals in tea tree oil. These include 1,8 cineole, limonene, linalool, and terpineol.
How can you use tea tree oil to treat many ailments? Because tea tree oil is antifungal and antibacterial (4), tea tree oil is good for treating acne pimples, nail fungus, itchy skin, and dandruff.
Tea tree oil is also an effective antiseptic solution that has uses and benefits for treating cuts, healing wounds, and reducing skin inflammation. You can also add tea tree oil to natural anti-deodorants to prevent underarm odor.
The Benefits of Using Tea Tree Oil
Let’s look in more detail about the many benefits and uses of tea tree oil if you want to help keep your skin free from germs, bacteria, and microbes.
Tea Tree Oil Is Good for Fighting Acne
You can use tea tree oil to eliminate blackheads, inflamed pimples, and bacteria from skin that can cause acne.
A scientific study on the uses of tea tree oil found that 5% tea tree oil cream was just as effective as benzoyl peroxide in reducing the number of acne pimples. The benefit of using tea tree oil was that there were fewer side effects. (5) Benzoyl peroxide is a pharmaceutical cream used in the treatment of acne but can cause itching, burning, or swelling. (6)
Research from Australia in 2017 found that tea tree oil gel and tea tree oil face wash can be used to treat mild to moderate acne. Over a 12-week period, the anti-acne tea tree oil remedies helped to reduce the number of lesions. (7)
How to use tea tree oil for acne:
To make a natural facial cleanser with tea tree oil, mix 1 part tea tree oil to 9 parts water. Shake well and with a cotton ball, apply the tea tree oil solution to your acne-prone skin. Leave for 15 minutes before rinsing off. Another option is to dilute 3-4 drops of tea tree oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil of your choice and apply to the affected skin.
If you have just one or two pimples on your face, you can apply undiluted tea tree oil to the spot using a cotton swab.
Find out more information and suggestions on how to use tea tree oil for treating acne outbreaks and how to use it in homemade acne face masks.
Tea Tree Oil Helps to Disinfect Cuts and Grazes
The antiseptic compounds in melaleuca oil mean that tea tree oil can be used to remove germs from minor skin wounds.
A 2017 review of essential oils that promote skin health found that terpinen-4-ol in tea tree oil can be used as an antiseptic. Applying a 5% solution of tea tree oil and water helped to kill off bacteria and other microbes that could potentially infect the cut. (8)
Other studies have found that tea tree oil is an antibacterial agent that can kill off methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains of bacteria. These bacteria are often responsible for skin infections. (9)
How to use tea tree oil to disinfect minor cuts:
First, thoroughly clean the affected area with warm water and soap. Mix one or two drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of coconut oil or other carrier oil. Apply to your cut and cover with a bandage. Change the bandage daily, applying more tea tree oil disinfectant ointment each time.
Tea Tree Oil Promotes Healthy Wound Healing
Another use for tea tree oil is to apply some drops of tea tree oil to a wound dressing to help wounds heal quicker.
Tea tree oil helps to overcome one of the obstacles of treating wounds successfully – microbial resistance to standard antibiotic treatments.
Studies into the benefits of tea tree oil have found that tea tree oil is an effective remedy for treating wounds. Clinical trials have shown that tea tree oil can kill off strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Tea tree oil has proven efficacy against methicillin-resistant and methicillin-sensitive strains of bacteria. (10)
One small study showed that adding tea tree oil to a wound dressing helps wounds heal quicker than traditional methods. (11)
Using tea tree oil for wound healing:
Put 2 or 3 drops on the dressing allow to soak into the dressing. Apply the dressing to the wound with the tea tree oil side against the damaged skin tissue. Add some drops of tea tree oil every time you change the dressing to help prevent infection.
Learn about other natural remedies you can use to help wounds heal faster.
Tea Tree Oil Is Useful for Psoriasis and Other Inflammatory Skin Conditions
The anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil mean that it is useful for treating a number of skin conditions, including psoriasis.
Research into the uses and benefits of tea tree oil has found that its terpinen-4-ol helps to reduce skin inflammation. Scientists found that this has a potential use in treating psoriasis symptoms such as inflamed red skin patches, scaling, and cracked dry skin. (12)
The fact that tea tree oil is antibacterial also helps prevent secondary skin infections from developing. (12)
Some evidence also points to the fact that skin treatments containing tea tree oil can help to treat contact dermatitis. In fact, tea tree oil was more effective than zinc oxide when treating eczema. Zinc oxide is a popular anti-eczema cream. (13)
There are also other scientific studies showing that tea tree oil can help reduce skin inflammation that is due to allergic reactions. In the study, scientists used 100% tea tree oil on the inflamed skin to reduce swelling and redness. (14)
You can also use tea tree oil for treating sunburn, rashes, burns, insect bites, and blisters. (15)
Use tea tree oil for dermatitis and psoriasis:
To help reduce skin inflammation, add 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of extra virgin oil. Mix well and apply to your patches of inflamed skin 2 times a day to reduce redness, itchiness, dry skin, and swelling. You can use the same tea tree oil remedy to help treat other types of skin inflammation.
Before using tea tree oil for treating skin inflammation, do a small patch test first as tea tree oil can cause skin irritation in some people. (16)
Further reading: Find other natural treatments for eczema, or if you suffer from psoriasis try these natural remedies.
Tea Tree Oil Treat Fungal Skin Infections
Tea tree oil is also very useful to help treat infections such as ringworm, jock itch, and other types of fungal infections on the skin.
Fungal skin infections are characterized by patches of red itchy skin around the genitals, in the armpits, or in between your toes. (17)
The European Medicines Agency reports that melaleuca oil is an effective natural treatment for fungal infections. For example, tea tree oil is a good remedy to use for tinea cruris (jock itch). (18)
You can also benefit from using tea tree oil if you have ringworm. Dermatophytes are a type of mold that results in ringworm infections. The journal Phytomedicine reported that a solution of 25% tea tree oil and sweet almond oil helped to reduce symptoms of ringworm. (19)
Another study found that, in a 4-week period, tea tree oil helped to cure ringworm infections in over 60% of persons using the natural antifungal cream. (20)
Use tea tree oil as an anti-fungal cream:
Add 3-4 drops of tea tree oil to one tablespoon of virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil (or other carrier oil) and apply to the affected skin areas twice a day until the fungal infection clears.
Learn about other natural ingredients that you can use to rid yourself of itchy, fungal skin problems, including ringworm and jock itch.
Tea Tree Oil is Useful for Treating Scabies and Mites
Scabies is a contagious skin disease caused by tiny mites that bury under your skin. The anti-parasitic and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil make it a great natural remedy to use for scabies.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene reports that tea tree oil helps kill off mites as well as to reduce itching, inflammation, and infection. Tea tree oil can even be used when conventional scabies treatments don’t work. (21)
Some studies have shown that a 10% solution of tea tree oil can kill 100% of dust mites. Also, undiluted tea tree oil was effective at eliminating face mites. (21)
How to use tea tree oil for killing mites:
Mix 3 drops tea tree oil, 3 drops lavender oil, and 5 drops neem oil with one tablespoon of carrier oil such as virgin coconut oil. Apply the tea tree oil anti-parasitic remedy to your affected skin 2 times a day until the scabies infection has gone.
Find out more about the anti-parasite activity of neem oil and how you can use it to treat all types of mite bites naturally.
Tea Tree Oil is Antiviral and Can Help Cure Cold Sores (Fever Blisters)
You can even use a drop or two of tea tree oil on symptoms of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
The HSV-1 is responsible for painful cold sore outbreaks on your lips, under your nose, and inside your mouth.
Researchers have found that the antiviral properties of tea tree oil can be used to eliminate herpes viruses. A 50% solution of tea tree oil was enough to help cure cold sores and prevent further outbreaks. (22)
Practical way to use tea tree oil for fever blisters:
Mix 3 drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil. Apply at the first sign of a cold sore and use 3 or 4 times a day to prevent or get rid of your cold sore.
Tea Tree Oil is Antifungal and Treats the Causes of Athlete’s Foot
Another great use for tea tree oil is to eradicate the fungal infection that causes athlete’s foot.
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) causes itching, broken skin, and a burning sensation between your toes. The infection can spread to other parts of your feet and to other people.
Research has shown that a 10% solution of tea tree oil is as effective as antifungal pharmaceuticals in eliminating athlete’s foot. (23)
How to use tea tree oil for athlete’s foot:
Put a few drops of sweet almond oil or other carrier oil on a cotton ball and add 2 drops of tea tree oil. Apply the antifungal tea tree remedy to relieve itching, burning, and inflammation between your toes.
Use Tea Tree Oil to Combat Fungal Nail Infections
Fungal infections in your feet can also cause dry, thick, and flaky nails that are systematic of a nail fungal infection.
One of the many popular uses and benefits of pure tea tree oil is to cure fungal infections that attack the bed of your nail (onychomycosis).
Scientific research has shown that tea tree oil can be just as effective as antifungal creams in clearing nail infections.
One study found that undiluted tea tree oil was just as good at treating onychomycosis as clotrimazole (a popular antifungal treatment for nail fungus). After 6 months of treatment, 60% of patients in both groups showed significant signs of improvement. (24)
How to use pure tea tree oil for fungal nail infections:
Cut away as much of the damaged nail as possible. Using a cotton swab containing a few drops of undiluted tea tree oil, apply the oil to the infected nails. Continue applying twice a day until the nail infection is completely resolved.
Further reading: Try these other natural treatments for toenail fungus.
Tea Tree Oil Helps Get Rid of Dandruff and an Itchy Scalp
If you are bothered by flaky bits of skin in your hair due to dandruff or a dry scalp, you can use some tea tree oil to the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Dandruff and scalp itching are often the result of a fungal infection in your scalp. Dermatologists have found that applying a tea tree solution to your scalp regularly can help to treat dandruff. One study found that 40% of people using an antifungal shampoo with tea tree oil showed significant improvements. (25)
Tea tree oil helped to soothe scalp itching, reduce scalp flaking, and improve the appearance of oily hair. (25)
How to use tea tree oil for dandruff:
Add 8-10 drops of tea tree oil for every 1 oz. (30 ml) of shampoo. Use as normal shampoo but leave the shampoo for 5 minutes in your hair before rinsing out to make sure and kill off fungal strains on your scalp
Tea Tree Oil to Eliminate Head Lice
In my article about effective home remedies for lice I’ve mentioned tea tree oil as one of the effective natural ingredients to eliminate head lice.
A study published in the journal BioMed Central Dermatology found that a mixture of tea tree oil and lavender oil killed 97% of lice when applied 3 times a week and was more effective than pyrethrins-based products. (30) Coconut oil has also been shown to be effective in treating lice. (31)
To use tea tree oil to treat lice, you should mix 15 drops of tea tree oil and 5 drops of lavender oil with 2 oz. of carrier oil such as coconut oil. Apply to the scalp and hair, avoiding the face and eyes. Put the hair in a shower cap and then wrap with a towel and leave for an hour. Comb through all the hair with a nit comb and wash the hair to remove all the oil. Repeat this 3 times a week.
Remember that it is always important to use a lice comb to remove all the lice. You can also eliminate head lice using this simple home remedy.
Tea Tree Oil for Healthy Hair
There have been some claims that tea tree oil can aid hair growth. Although there haven’t been any studies which conclusively prove that tea tree oil can help hair regrow, there is an evidence from research to show that it promotes the growth of healthy hair.
For example, some hair loss can be the result of hair follicles becoming clogged or inflamed or because other scalp inflammation.
An interesting study from 2013 into tea tree oil and hair loss showed that it can help traditional hair re-growth remedies work more effectively. In the study, tea tree oil was mixed with minoxidil, which is a drug used to promote hair regrowth, and an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac. It was found that the combination of tea tree oil, diclofenac, and minoxidil was far more effective than just minoxidil alone. (31)
Find out more interesting ways you can use tea tree oil as a natural hair conditioner and in hair masks in my article “Tea Tree Oil for Hair and Scalp – The Complete Guide“.
Tea Tree Oil is Antibacterial and You Can Use it as a Natural Deodorant
Due to its powerful antibacterial properties, tea tree oil can also be used as a natural and safe deodorant to kill off armpit odor.
Find out how to incorporate tea tree oil with other natural ingredients to create your own underarm deodorant.
Tea Tree Oil Can Kill Off Vaginal Yeast Infections
The powerful antifungal properties of Melaleuca alternifolia mean that tea tree oil is excellent to use for genital yeast infections.
Research published in 2015 found that tea tree oil can help to eliminate many strains of Candida albicans. The study found that tea tree oil’s antifungal compound terpinen-4-ol boosted the effectiveness of conventional candidiasis treatments such as fluconazole. (26)
Another study found that tea tree oil vaginal suppositories helped to kill off 20 strains of Candida species that are common in vaginal yeast infections. (27)
How to use tea tree oil for candidiasis:
Add 2 or 3 drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of warmed coconut oil (so that it is in liquid form) and mix well. Soak a tampon in the tea tree oil remedy and insert into your vagina for 2 hours to help kill off the Candida infection naturally.
Learn how to spot signs if you have a candida infection and find out other effective home remedies for candidiasis.
Tea Tree Oil Inhalation for Sinusitis, Colds and Coughs
The anti-inflammatory effect of tea tree oil can help to reduce swelling, irritation, and mucus in your sinuses. Tea tree oil also has natural antiseptic properties that can also kill off germs that cause your sinuses to become inflamed and swollen.
The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews reported that tea tree oil is a natural remedy for many inflammatory conditions caused by infections. Compounds in tea tree oil have been used to treat coughs and colds. The review stated that vaporized tea tree oil can kill off various Strep. strains of bacteria when inhaled. (32).
Tea tree oil can be added to most home remedies for sinusitis to boost the antimicrobial effect of other essential oils.
To use steam inhalation for sinus relief and get rid of congestion, this is what you can do:
Fill a bowl with hot water and add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, 5 drops of tea tree oil, and 5 drops of any other essential oil from the list of the top 10 essential oils for sinus infections such as peppermint oil, rosemary oil or oregano oil. Put your head over the bowl, cover it with a towel and breathe deeply. Continue breathing deeply for 10 – 15 minutes to help relieve sinus congestion.
Where to Buy Tea Tree Oil
To get the many benefits of using tea tree oil, it is important to choose the best quality product.
You should always ensure that any tea tree oil you use is 100% pure tea tree essential oil. This means that it hasn’t been diluted with less-inferior oils.
Make sure that the only ingredient listed is Melaleuca alternifolia. It also always best to purchase organic tea tree oil to guarantee that you get a high-quality product without any risk of pesticides or other toxins.
You can buy tea tree oil in many supermarkets, pharmacies, health stores or online.
Side Effects and Precautions of Using Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is used by many people and is well tolerated. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic reports that using tea tree oil topically is generally safe and good for treating skin infections. (28)
However, you should never ingest tea tree oil as it is toxic when swallowed.
Before applying tea tree oil to your skin, you should dilute it with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation. If your skin shows any kind of allergic reaction to tea tree oil such as irritation, a rash, or burning, you should avoid using it or dilute it with more carrier oil.
If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.
Other Home Uses for Tea Tree Oil
Add a few drops to your diffuser and diffuse throughout the day, or soak cotton balls in tea tree oil and keep them stored in an open container to freshen the air. You can also create tea tree oil spray and spray around the house. Just fill an 8oz spray bottle with 15-20 drops of essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, lemon, rosemary or eucalyptus. Shake well and mist around your home.
Find more ways to make your home smell fantastic with essential oils in this article.
You can put a few drops of tea tree oil on the vacuum cleaner bag or filter for extra cleaning power and for additional great scent.
Flea collar for dogs
Make a flea collar by putting a few drops of diluted tea tree oil on the dog’s collar on a weekly basis.
There are several caution notes you must be aware of: Never use essential oils on cats.
If you decide to put tea tree oil on your dog’s collar, always use lower concentration oil (1% or less) and always dilute it with a carrier oil. Use very small amount on the collar, and don’t use it directly on the skin. Find here more ways to get rid of fleas from your home, garden and pets.
Tea tree oil can be added to your own homemade cleaners to get rid of germs and to sanitize surfaces. You can make a tea tree cleaner by mixing two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake vigorously to mix it up and use for household cleaning. This solution works especially well in bathrooms and toilets.
Tea tree oil is just one effective alternative to bleach to help disinfect surfaces in your home.
Add 15 drops of tea tree oil to 1/2 cup of water, shake well and spray over the body as an insect repellent.
Mildew and Mold Remover
Combine two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water to create an all-purpose cleaner to treat mold and mildew. Shake bottle well before use. Spray on the affected surface and let it dry. Don’t rinse.
Household bugs, such as ants and spiders don’t like tea tree oil, so putting several drops or spraying tea tree oil spray at the doorway can act as a deterrent. Combine water and oil to create a solution which can be used to clean cupboards and keep pests away.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne: The Ultimate Guide
Tea Tree Oil for Hair and Scalp – The Complete Guide
The Best 17 Essential Oils for Acne (Backed by Scientific Research)
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.