What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a multipurpose essential oil, the oil can be used to keep hair, skin, and nails healthy. This inexpensive and safe to use as directed oil is also backed by science highlighting its many benefits. In this article, we will go over the many everyday uses for tea tree oil as well as give you the proper guidance to use the oil effectively and safely.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Australia is home to the Melaleuca Alternifolia tree, the source of Tea tree oil. These trees native to New South Wales, and Queensland Australia have provided Aborigines with Tea tree oil for centuries. The Aborigines crush the leaves from the tree to extract the oil, using it for their traditional medicine. By inhaling the oil the Australian natives would treat colds and coughs or apply it directly to their skin for healing ailments.
100% undiluted or “neat” Tea tree oil is widely available. Products designed for the skin are available in diluted forms ranging from 5-50% in strength. Tea tree oil has many compounds such as terpinen 4-ol, that have been tested to kill certain viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Terpinen 4-ol has been found to increase the activity of white blood cells, helping to fight germs and foreign invaders in the body. These valuable properties make tea tree oil a natural remedy for treating fungal and bacterial skin conditions, promoting healing, and preventing infection.
Natural Hand Sanitizer
Tea tree oil has been tested to prove it makes an ideal hand sanitizer that is natural and effective. Killing bacteria and viruses that are responsible for E.coli, S. pneumoniae, and H. influenzae, make this a great choice for natural hand sanitizer.
Other studies have been done testing several types of cleansers with tea tree oil added, boosting their effectiveness to fight E. coli and other viruses. You can easily make your own tea tree oil hand sanitizer from home. Natural Insect Repellent
Studies have shown that tea tree oil may help keep pesky bugs away. In these studies, they found that 24 hours after being treated with tea tree oil, cows had 61% fewer flies than cows not treated with the oil. These studies have proven that tea tree oil has a greater ability to repel mosquitoes than DEET, the most common ingredient in commercial repellents.
With tea tree oils antibacterial properties it may be an effective use to help control underarm odor. Sweat itself does not have a smell, however, when the sweat combines with the bacteria on your skin, an odor is produced.
The underarm area is home to a large concentration of sweat glands, and mainly responsible for what we refer to as “body odor”. The antibacterial properties in tea tree oil are what make it an ideal natural deodorant.
Tea tree oil can be used to disinfect and treat minor cuts and scrapes, killing S. aureus and other bacteria that may cause infection in open wounds. Injuries that cause broken skin make it an easy entrance for germs to get in the bloodstream, which may lead to infection.
To disinfect a cut or scrape, follow these steps:
- Clean the cut thoroughly with plain soap and water
- Mix one drop of tea tree oil with one teaspoon of coconut oil
- Apply a small amount of the mixture to the injury and cover with a bandage
- Repeat this process once or twice daily until a scab has formed
Along with preventing infection, tea tree oil can also be used to speed up the healing of wounds. Studies have shown that tea tree oil may help reduce inflammation and encourages the activity of white blood cells that are essential to the healing process.
In another small study using 10 people with wounds, by adding tea tree oil to their normal wound treatments, the healing time in all but one of the participants was decreased. You can add a few drops of tea tree oil to the new wound dressing every time it is applied.
Studies have shown that tea tree oil is a powerful fighting agent against acne. It reduces the amount and overall intensity of acne, in one study using 5% tea tree gel was three times as effective at reducing the number of lesions than a placebo. Found in another study it reduced the severity of acne by six times that of the placebo, showing that tea tree oil is as effective as benzoyl peroxide, the most common anti-acne medication.
You can find tea tree oil-based acne cleansers in natural grocery stores as well as from online retailers. You can also make your own home acne remedy, by mixing one part tea tree oil with nine parts water and applying to the affected areas with a cotton swab as needed.
Nail Fungus Defense
Nail fungus is quite common, it can be unsightly but is not dangerous. Medications are available to help treat nail fungus but a more natural approach may be preferred. Using tea tree oil alone or mixed with other natural remedies has been shown to be an effective way to get rid of nail fungus.
In a study, people with nail fungus used tea tree oil undiluted or an antifungal medication for six months. By the end of the six months, 60% of people in each group had partial or full healing of the fungus. To use it as an antifungal you can use a few drops alone or mix it with an equal amount of coconut oil and apply it to the affected areas. Wash your hands afterward to prevent spreading the fungus.
Tea tree oil has research suggesting that it may fight germs that cause tooth decay and bad breath. One study showed that tea tree oil was more effective against plaque-causing bacteria than chlorhexidine, a common disinfectant, and oral rinse. The taste was also found to be more tolerable.
You can make your own tea tree oil mouthwash by simply adding a drop of the oil to a cup of warm water, mix thoroughly and swish in your mouth for 30 seconds to a minute. Like other mouthwashes, tea tree oil should not be swallowed. It can be toxic if ingested.
Using tea tree oil makes a great natural multi-purpose cleaner that also sanitizes. Using this natural cleaner leaves you without the traces of chemicals you wouldn't want in your home.
To make your own all-natural multi-purpose cleaner use the recipe below:
- Combine 20 drops of tea tree oil, 3/4 cup of water and a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle.
- Shake well until thoroughly mixed.
- Spray directly onto surfaces and wipe clean with a dry cloth.
- Make sure to shake the bottle before each use in order to mix the tea tree oil with the other ingredients.
Contact dermatitis is a common skin irritation, when the skin comes in contact with a form of allergen, such as nickel. Exposing the skin to allergens can lead to itchy, red, and sometimes painful skin. Tea tree oil has been tested to show it may help relieve the inflamed skin and reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Studies comparing different treatment options for contact dermatitis found that tea tree oil reduced the symptoms by 40%, a significantly better result than standard medications applied to the skin. Tea tree oil has also been found to provide relief from bug bite reactions, the oil can reduce redness, itching, and swelling that occurs from the bug bite.
This recipe can help reduce skin inflammation:
- Combine 10 drops of tea tree oil with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and one tablespoon of melted coconut oil.
- Mix well, and store in a sealed container.
- Apply to the affected area up to twice a day until symptoms resolve.
Dandruff can be annoying and embarrassing, although the white flakes of dead skin that come from the scalp are not dangerous. There is little research to show the effectiveness of tea tree oil treating dandruff, but one controlled study suggests that it may be helpful in reducing dandruff.
In the four week study, a group used shampoo containing tea tree oil and saw a 40% improvement in dandruff. The group also saw significant relief from the itchiness, greasiness, and the severity of dandruff.
You can help reduce dandruff by adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo when washing your hair.
Athlete’s Foot Remedy
Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection on the feet that can be hard to control, the infection can spread to the toenails and hands. The medical term for this fungal infection is tinea pedis, symptoms include peeling, cracking, redness, and blisters. There are antifungal medications that are considered the standard treatment for athlete's foot, however, studies show that tea tree oil is an effective natural alternative for athlete's foot.
A controlled study of 158 people compared the effects of athlete's foot medication with tea tree oil. 72% of the tea tree oil users had significant improvement, whereas the placebo group only had 39% improvement. However, the studies also show that even though tea tree oil helps to reduce the symptoms of athlete's foot, it was not as effective at getting rid of the fungus.
To treat athlete's foot naturally here is a treatment:
- Combine 1/4 cup arrowroot powder, 1/4 cup baking soda and 20–25 drops of tea tree oil
- Stir to combine, and place in a covered container
- Apply to clean, dry feet twice a day
Mold on Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh produce is delicious and healthy, however, it is also susceptible to gray mold, Botrytis cinerea grows in particularly warm moist climates. Studies have found that tea tree oils antifungal components help reduce the mold from growing on fruits and vegetables. The oils terpinen 4-ol and 1,8-cineole are the compounds that make it an effective solution to fight the mold on your fruits and vegetables.
To protect your product against the mold, you can add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil to the water before rinsing your produce and drying it thoroughly.
An autoimmune condition known as psoriasis is an outbreak of itchy, red, and scaly skin. There are medications that can help improve the symptoms, but the condition is chronic and there is no known cure.
The anti-inflammatory compounds that are in tea tree oil may be helpful in easing psoriasis symptoms. To help relieve the symptoms from psoriasis flares, combine 10-15 drops of tea tree oil with two tablespoons of melted coconut oil. Apply to the affected area 2-3 times per day, as needed.
Tea tree oil has been found to be safe overall, however, you should be aware of a few things before using it. Tea tree oil is not meant to be ingested, it may be toxic if swallowed. There is one case where an 18-month-old boy suffered from serious injuries after accidentally ingesting the oil. Therefore you should keep the oil out of reach of children.
Test a drop or two on a small area of your skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction, before using the oil for the first time. This is important because some people develop contact dermatitis from the oil, one of the conditions that tea tree oil can help treat.
People with sensitive skin may also experience skin irritation using undiluted tea tree oil. If you have sensitive skin, try diluting the oil with olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil it is best to mix it with equal or greater parts.
If using the oil for pets be cautious as it may not be safe, studies have shown that dogs and cats developed tremors and other nervous system problems after receiving 0.1-85 ml of tea tree oil on the skin or orally.
Tea tree oil has many uses, it is a natural alternative for skin and nail treatments, chemical-free disinfectants, and personal care products, as well as many other things. However, it is not a magic cure-all and should be tested on the skin before using it to check for an allergic reaction. Overall, tea tree oil is good to have on hand and serves many great purposes.