6 Facts About Tea Tree Oil

by Allison Tsai Editor

Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, is an essential oil made from certain leaves native to Australia. It’s believed by some to have medicinal properties when applied topically. Here are six important facts about this alternative treatment.

Tea tree oil may help treat infected skin wounds

In 2009, researchers found that mixing tea tree oil with silver significantly increased their antimicrobial activity against bacteria that causes skin infections. Separately, both agents are also effective in treating bacterial infections, but the scientists found they were much more effective when used together. Combining the two agents also minimized side effects that occur when each was used by itself.

Tea tree oil can be used to treat acne

In the 1990s, researchers studied the efficacy of 5 percent tea tree oil in treating acne, compared to 5 percent benzoyl peroxide lotion, and found that both significantly improved acne in study participants. Though the tea tree oil takes longer to work, it has fewer side effects than the benzoyl peroxide.

Tea tree oil effectively treats nail fungus

Tea tree oil, combined with butenafine hydrochloride, has also been found to effectively treat a fungal nail infection. Researchers created a cream with 2 percent butenafine hydrochloride and 5 percent tea tree oil, and then treated 40 of 60 participants with the cream. They found that 80 percent of patients using the medicated cream were cured.

Athlete’s foot may clear up with tea tree oil

Researchers have found that tea tree oil is an effective treatment for athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis. One study looked at 104 patients divided into three groups – a treatment of 10 percent tea tree oil group, a 1 percent tolnaftate group and a placebo group. The tea tree oil group and the tolnaftate group showed equal improvements in athlete’s foot symptoms.

There are more possibilities for using tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has also been used to treat lice, genital herpes, thrush, dandruff, gingivitis, cough, ear infections and ringworm, but there is not enough research to prove effectiveness.

Some people may have an allergic reaction to it

Reports of allergic contact dermatitis after using tea tree oil are somewhat common. If you break out into a rash, you should stop using the oil immediately. In many cases, people who are allergic to tea tree oil are also allergic to eucalyptol, which is usually used in tea tree oil creams.

Allison Tsai
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Allison Tsai

Allison wrote for HealthCentral as an editor and producer for Allergy, Asthma, Cold & Flu, COPD, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Skin Care, Skin Cancer, and Sleep Disorders.