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What is Tea Tree Essential Oil (Buy on Amazon)

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that can be used for several purposes, including keeping skin, hair, and nails healthy.

In addition to its scientifically backed benefits, tea tree oil is inexpensive and safe when used as directed.

Tea tree oil can be used to treat conditions and symptoms that affect skin, nails, and hair. It can also be used as a deodorant, insect repellent, or mouthwash. When used topically, tea tree oil can treat certain skin conditions or improve the overall appearance of your skin.

Common Uses of Tea Tree Oil in the Current Environment

  • Hand sanitizers – formulations with around 70% alcohol and 5-10% TTO are most common. The ethanol evaporates quickly while the TTO remains much longer on the skin potentially providing additional protection through its antimicrobial efficacy. Studies have shown that it kills several common bacteria and viruses responsible for causing illness, including E. coli, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae (Source). Moreover, a study testing several types of hand wash shows that adding tea tree oil to the cleansers boosted their effectiveness against E. coli (Source).
  • Vaporizers or HVAC inserts – many homes and offices are choosing to use tea tree oil in a vaporizer unit or in an air conditioning unit to provide potential protection from airborne viruses and other microorganisms.
  • Surface cleaning products – formulations with tea tree oil are proving popular for spraying on and wiping down surfaces. We have received many anecdotal reports of tea tree oil being added to daily cleaners to provide the additional potential protection against microorganisms.

Health Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

  • Antibacterial: The oil has been used for almost 100 years as a healing treatment in Australia, particularly for skin conditions. Today it is used for a number of conditions. Tea tree oil is probably best known for its antibacterial activity. Some research suggests that the broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity associated with the oil comes from its ability to damage the cell walls of bacteria. More research is needed to understand how it might work.

  • Anti-inflammatory: Tea tree oil may help quell inflammation, possibly due to its high concentration of terpinen-4-ol, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties. In animal tests, terpinen-4-ol was found to suppress inflammatory activity in cases of mouth infection. In humans, topically applied tea tree oil reduced swelling in histamine-induced skin inflammation more effectively than paraffin oil.

  • Antifungal: A review of the effectiveness of tea tree oil highlights its ability to kill a range of yeasts and fungi. The majority of the studies reviewed focus on Candida albicans, a type of yeast which commonly affects the skin, genitals, throat, and mouth. Other research suggests that terpinen-4-ol enhances the activity of fluconazole, a common antifungal drug, in cases of resistant strains of Candida albicans.

  • Heal Acne: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advises that research into the effects of topically applied tea tree oil in people is limited. However, the oil may be useful for a number of skin complaints. Acne is the most common skin condition. It affects up to 50 million Americans at any one time. One study found a significant difference between tea tree oil gel and a placebo in treating acne. Participants treated with tea tree oil experienced improvement in both total acne count and the severity of the acne. This builds on earlier research which compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel with 5 percent benzoyl peroxide lotion in treating cases of mild to moderate acne. Both treatments significantly reduced the number of acne lesions, although the tea tree oil worked more slowly. Those using the tea tree oil experienced fewer side effects.

Conclusion

Tea tree oil has been used as a "natural" remedy for a long time, especially for skin afflictions. There is some scientific evidence that tea tree oil can be effective for certain skin conditions. It is poisonous if swallowed and so should not be used in or around the mouth at all.

References

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

Mowry JB, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR, Bailey JE, Ford M. 2012 Annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Data Collection System (NPDS): 30th annual report. Clinical Toxicology. 2013;51:949-1229.

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.

Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med 2007;356:479-85.

Morris, M. C., Donoghue, A., Markowitz, J. A., and Osterhoudt, K. C. Ingestion of tea tree oil (Melaleuca oil) by a 4-year-old boy. Pediatric Emergency Care. 2003;19[3]:169-171.

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

Villar D, Knight MJ, Hansen SR, Buck WB. Toxicity of melaleuca oil and related essential oils applied topically on dogs and cats. Vet Human Toxicol 1994;36(2):139-142.

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