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Tea Tree: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, and More!

By Dr Siddharth Gupta +2 more

Introduction

Tea tree is the name of a plant native to Australia, scientifically known as Melaleuca alternifolia.1 The oil extracted from the leaves of the tea tree is tea tree oil, a widely used ingredient in a variety of household and cosmetic products, like shampoos, massage oils, laundry detergents, and skin and nail creams for its potential antiseptic benefits. Tea tree oil is pale yellow in colour. It has a strong odour and may provide a cooling sensation on the skin.2 It has been widely used in Australia as a topical medicine for almost 80 years.3 Common names of tea tree include tea tree oil, Australian tea tree oil, melaleuca oil and tea tree essential oil.4

tea tree oil uses, benefits and side effects

Chemical Constituents of Tea Tree

The main component present in tea tree oil is terpinen-4-ol. Tea tree oil contains more than 100 compounds. However, the International Organization for Standardization has specified the main 15 components that are needed for a product to be labelled as ‘tea tree oil’. These are alpha pinene, sabinene, alpha terpinene, D-limonene, p-Cymene, 1,8-cineol, gamma terpinene, terpinolene, terpinen-4-ol, alpha terpineol, aromadendrene, ledene, delta cadinene, globulol and viridiflorol.2

Also Read: Olive Oil: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Properties of Tea tree

Tea tree oil may have  many potential uses owing to its many activities, which include

  • It may have  antibacterial activities
  • It may have  antifungal activities
  • It may have  antiviral activities
  • It may have  antiprotozoal activities
  • It may have an  anti-inflammatory effect5
  • It may have  antioxidant activities
  • It may have anti-skin cancer activities.6

Also Read: Reetha: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, and More!

Did you know tea tree oil-based gel may aid in inflammatory gum disease called persistent gingivitis? Studies have shown that people using tea tree oil gel may have less bleeding and irritation. In my experience, a combination of tea tree oil and alpha-bisabolol, the main ingredient in chamomile, may bring down a particular strain of bacteria linked to foul breath.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Potential Uses of Tea Tree

Tea tree may have potential uses for various health conditions; however, more human studies are needed to support its true scope in humans.

Potential uses of tea tree for vaginal candidiasis  

The overgrowth of Candida albicans in the vagina is called vaginal candidiasis or thrush; it is a fungal infection. Tea tree oil may have the potential to be developed as an effective agent for managing vaginal candidiasis. The benefits of tea tree oil in vaginal candidiasis have been observed in lab studies. However, these studies are done in laboratories and not humans; therefore, extensive clinical trials are required to check its efficacy in human beings.3

Potential uses of tea tree for acne

Tea tree oil may have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that might be useful in managing acne. Many topical preparations containing tea tree oil have been used to stop the bacteria involved in acne. The use of tea tree oil might significantly reduce acne lesions by decreasing open and closed comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). The antiacne benefit of tea tree oil has been observed in many clinical trials, which demonstrates that topical application of tea tree oil (5%) might be effective in managing mild to moderate acne.6 However, every person has a different response to different herbs. Therefore, it is better to consult a doctor before you use tea tree oil for your acne problems.

Potential uses of tea tree for fungal infections

Potential uses of tea tree for seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a superficial fungal infection occurring in areas rich in sebaceous glands. Tea tree oil may have antifungal activity against Malassezia furfur, which indicates that it might be beneficial in the management of seborrheic dermatitis.6 However, you should never use tea tree oil to self-medicate yourself. It is better to consult a dermatologist for your dermatitis-related problems. They will be the best person to guide you with your condition.

Potential uses of tea tree for dandruff

Shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil was found to be effective in dandruff in a clinical study (human trial). Therefore, tea tree oil might be helpful in the management of dandruff.6 However, this study is insufficient; therefore, further studies are required to suggest the benefits of tea tree in fighting dandruff problems.

Potential uses of tea tree for wound healing

Tea tree oil was found to be beneficial in providing a cooling sensation to burn wounds and increasing the rate of wound healing.6 However, this information is insufficient and requires large-scale human studies to suggest the potential uses of tea tree oil for wound healing in humans.

Potential uses of tea tree for viral infections

Tea tree oil may have potential antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. Tree tea oil may have shown effectiveness in recurrent herpes labialis infection (skin rash on lips caused due to herpes virus) in a clinical trial. Tea tree oil may have also shown benefits in dealing with hand warts caused due to human papillomavirus.6 However, if you have viral infections like the herpes simplex virus, it is best to seek medical help and get a proper diagnosis and treatment for your condition.

Potential uses of tea tree for head lice

Tea tree oil is found in many preparations that are used as an alternative solution for head lice infestation. Tea tree oil, along with lavender oil, has shown effectiveness in dealing with live head lice in subjects in a clinical study. The results indicate that tea tree oil may be beneficial as an alternative method for head lice.6 However, use these alternatives only under the guidance of your doctors.

Potential uses of tea tree for demodicisosis

Demodicisosis is an eyelid infection caused due to Demodex (a type of mite). Eyelid scrub using tea tree oil effectively eradicated eyelid demodex and helped with demodicisosis in a clinical study. Therefore,  it may indicate that tea tree oil and shampoo might be beneficial in eradicating eyelid Demodex.6 However, take medical help before using the tea tree for your infections and only use it if prescribed.

Though studies show the benefits of tea tree in different health conditions, these studies are insufficient and require further studies to establish the true scope of benefits of tea tree on human health. In addition, every person may respond differently to this herb. Therefore, it is essential to consult a doctor before using tea tree oil for any medical condition.

Also Read: Shilajit: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

In my experience, massaging tea tree oil on the chest may relieve cough and cold symptoms, congestion, bronchitis, and other cold-related problems. Researchers believe tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that may cope with bacterial invasion and relieve congestion and other symptoms.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Tea Tree?

  • Tea tree oil may be used as a topical ointment.4
  • Many products and cosmetics containing tea tree oil are available in the market, such as shampoos, skin creams, nail creams, and massage oils.2

Your Ayurvedic physician will prescribe you the form and dose as per your requirement. However, we advise you not to replace or change your current medications with any ayurvedic or herbal preparations made from the tea tree.

Side Effects of Tea Tree

The use of tea tree oil externally is generally safe. However, some people may develop skin irritation or contact dermatitis (skin inflammation) on the parts of the body where the product was used.4

However, if you see any side effects, seek immediate medical help from your physician who has prescribed it to you and get proper treatment to overcome your side effects.

Did you know the elimination of toxins like uric acid may be encouraged by tea tree essential oil? Researchers have found that tea tree essential oil may aid in pore cleaning and the removal of toxins, extra salt and water from the body through increased sweating. It may also shield your skin against the development of acne.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

Precautions to Take With Tea Tree

  • Tea tree oil should not be swallowed. Taking tea tree oil orally can cause serious health effects like breathing problems, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination), confusion and coma.
  • There is a lack of research regarding the safety of tea tree oil in pregnant and breastfeeding women, so its use should be avoided during these times.4
  • It is better to keep tea tree away from small children and older people to avoid harmful reactions in the body.
  • Without consulting a doctor, you should not use tea tree oil to self-medicate yourself.

Also Read: The Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Hair: A Comprehensive Guide

Interaction of Tea Tree With Other Drugs

There is no scientific report on the interaction between tea tree and other drugs. However, you should not assume that there are no interactions. We recommend you consult an Ayurvedic doctor; they will direct you to a better way to use it as a herb.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is tea tree?

Tea tree is the common name used for tea tree oil. It is the oil derived from the leaves of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia).2,4

Is tea tree good for acne?

Many clinical studies have shown the benefit of tea tree oil in managing acne.6 However, do not use tea tree oil to self-medicate yourself; take consultations with an Ayurvedic physician.

Can tea tree oil kill lice?

Tea tree oil may be used as an alternative solution for head lice infestation.6 However, the extent to which tea tree oil may benefit in human conditions are not known, take advice from your doctors.

Is tea tree edible?

Oral intake of tea tree oil should be strictly avoided, as it causes serious health issues like breathing problems, confusion, loss of muscle coordination (ataxia) and coma.4

 Can I use tea tree oil for vaginal infections?

Studies have shown that tea tree oil benefits in managing vaginal candidiasis, a vaginal infection caused by Candida albicans. But this activity has been proven in laboratory studies; further trials on humans are needed to check the efficacy of tea tree oil in human beings.3 In case of any infection, it is better to consult a doctor. Self-medicating might worsen the condition.

How is tea tree oil produced?

Tea tree oil is produced by steam distillation of the leaves and terminal branches of Melaleuca alternifolia. Once the distillate is condensed, the pale-yellow oil is separated from the aqueous distillate.5 

References

1. Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley T v., Nielsen JB. A review of the toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2006 May 1;44(5):616–25. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16243420/

2. Larson D, Jacob SE. Tea tree oil. Dermatitis [Internet]. 2012 Jan [cited 2022 Mar 24];23(1):48–9. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/dermatitis/Fulltext/2012/01000/Tea_Tree_Oil.10.aspx

3. Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley T v. In-vitro activity of essential oils, in particular Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and tea tree oil products, against Candida spp. The Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy [Internet]. 1998 Nov [cited 2022 Mar 24];42(5):591–5. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9848442/

4. Tea Tree Oil | NCCIH [Internet]. [cited 2022 Mar 24]. Available from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tea-tree-oil

5. Carson CF, Hammer KA, Riley T v. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews [Internet]. 2006 Jan [cited 2022 Mar 24];19(1):50–62. Available from: https://journals.asm.org/doi/full/10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006

6. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Bagherani N, Kazerouni A. A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. International Journal of Dermatology. 2013 Jul;52(7):784–90. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22998411/

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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