Medically review by Kim Langdon
Today, we're featuring one of our favorite natural remedies, household products, and DIY skincare ingredients - tea tree oil!
It's perhaps one of the most popular essential oils... and for good reason.
It smells ah-mazing, it's antiseptic, antibacterial, and can cure ailments from dandruff to acne to a pesky bug problem in your kitchen.
Yep, this stuff is the real deal, and we want to share with you today just why we love it so much.
In this article, you'll learn more about the roots of tea tree oil (quite literally), the intrinsic benefits of this incredible plant, how you can use it at home in your beauty routine and around the house, plus some of the dangers and what you should avoid.
If you're new to essential oils and building up your starter pack, this is a great resource for learning the ropes of one of the most versatile oils on the planet.
What is tea tree oil?
Tea tree oil is derived from the tea tree or Melaleuca alternifolia.
It's an essential oil that is an oil processed via distillation that contains the volatile aroma of a plant in its most concentrated form.
With that said, essential oils including tea tree oil are powerful! Many plants themselves are beneficial to our health for one reason or another, so it would only make sense that the most concentrated form will have similar benefits.
No doubt, there's some truth to that!
While essential oils aren't typically eaten like many of the plants we know are healthy, they can be used for practical purposes around the house and topically to promote good skin health.
That's because essential oils often have antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties. This makes tea tree oil, in particular, an amazing acne-fighter, hair treatment, and household cleaner.
Learn more today about how you can use tea tree oil in your life, and all of its many benefits/uses.
The benefits of tea tree oil
Antiseptic compounds are considered substances that can prevent or reduce the growth of infectious diseases. Tea tree oil may have some surprising medicinal properties because of this.
Antimicrobial compounds are ones that will prevent and reduce the growth of microorganisms. This makes tea tree oil a great addition to your laundry to prevent odor from lingering around in your gym clothes.
Many essential oils are used as natural household cleaners for this reason. They are able to kill germs without the strong scent of many commercial antibacterial cleaners.
Plus, it's super budget-friendly to make your own natural cleaning products.
How to use tea tree oil
1. Acne treatment
Tea tree is antimicrobial and antiseptic making it a great cleansing agent. Many commercial acne treatments have similar main ingredients - namely, benzoyl peroxide.
This research shows that tea tree oil can be just as effective at addressing inflammation in the skin.
It's important to note that its effectiveness is delayed compared to benzoyl peroxide, but it does less long-term damage to the skin and won't dry it out.
If you're looking for a natural acne remedy - this is it! You can use a few drops of tea tree oil with witch hazel as a toner or blend it with honey to create an acne-fighting face mask.
2. Wound antiseptic
Not only is tea tree oil cleansing for acne-prone skin. It can help to clean out wounds and avoid infection due to its antiseptic properties.
According to this research, it's been known to fight staph infection which is often resistant to even antibiotics.
You can mix some tea tree oil with lavender oil for potent effects.
For the best results, use it to ward off bacteria after thoroughly cleaning out the wound with hydrogen peroxide or soap and water.
Follow up with a bandage to further protect the wound, and expect quick and painless healing results.
3. Dandruff treatment
If you have an itchy, flaky scalp, ditch your Head and Shoulders for something all-natural. T
ea tree oil - especially when mixed with peppermint oil - provide a refreshing, moisturizing, and balancing treatment for the hair and scalp.
Boost moisture even further in a coconut milk and/or aloe vera-based shampoo.
You can often find these at natural grocery stores, or you can make your own at home.
Remember: always use a carrier with essential oils, and never apply these oils directly to the scalp as they can burn the skin.
4. Cleaning ingredient
It only makes sense that if tea tree oil can clean your face and your wounds that it could also effectively clean your house.
Common household cleaners can be incredibly noxious and irritate people with sensitive noses.
A mild tea tree cleaner could be the answer to keeping your counters, floors, and bathroom squeaky clean without the invasive scent.
It helps fully sanitize surfaces when mixed with water and vinegar.
Before using tea tree oil around your home, make sure to scroll down and read about the warnings for pets and children.
5. Homemade deodorant
When you sweat, bacteria forms beneath your underarms. Because tea tree oil can ward off bacteria and fight the build-up, it's no wonder it makes a great ingredient in deodorant.
Check your local store for a fresh-smelling tea tree oil deodorant, or use a few drops of the oil in your favorite homemade deodorant recipe.
You can also blend it with other essential oils to customize your scent.
6. Hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is a must-have in your purse or backpack - especially during flu season!
Research shows that tea tree oil can fight off viruses like E. coli, S. pneumoniae, and H. influenzae... basically, all the nasty illness you're trying to avoid.
Add a dash to your hand soap, or mix with aloe vera gel and witch hazel for a powerful clean on-the-go.
7. Insect repellent?
Tea tree oil is useful both for preventing bug bites and for treating them.
Use it blended with water for an effective and natural bug spray to use before going outside.
If you get a nasty bite, tea tree oil can help with its anti-inflammatory properties and reduce itching. Use a carrier like coconut oil or aloe vera paired with tea tree oil to relieve itching and redness.
8. Use it in your laundry
Mix some into your current detergent or put a few drops into your laundry to prevent odor from lingering in your clothes.
This is an especially good tactic for gym clothes!
You can also infuse a laundry ball that will help soften your fabric and prevent wrinkles.
9. Diffuse it
Any essential oil can be added to a diffuser to bring the beautiful scent to a room.
Create your own blends to customize the scent in the room. Diffusing is particularly great for relaxing before bed or during a bath.
10. Psoriasis & eczema treatment
Mixed with coconut oil, tea tree oil provides a soothing and moisturizing skin treatment.
Like with dandruff, it can address the flakiness in addition to addressing inflammation, helping to recover from a particularly bad or painful flare-up.
Tea tree oil warnings & dangers
All essential oils need to be used wisely. While these oils are natural plant extracts, they are very pure and very strong!
Using these oils topically - and especially when you consider ingesting them - can be dangerous to some extent.
Moreover, it's important to consider infants, younger children, and pets in your home before exposing them to tea tree oil.
Just because you don't react poorly to it doesn't mean your human kids and fur kids won't!
Moderation and responsible conduct are important, so here are some important dangers to remember.
- Tea tree oil is particularly dangerous to cats. Without properly diluting tea tree oil, it can be toxic to cats and increase their liver enzymes which can ultimately lead to death. Avoid diffusing pure essential oils in a home with cats. For all personal use, make sure the oil is diluted - especially for cleaning.
- Never use tea tree oil without a carrier. Essential oils are not considered particularly safe to use if they are not diluted with water or oil. If you're using tea tree oil topically, make sure to use a carrier.
- Never use tea tree oil on animals or children. Unless you are certain your children have a positive reaction to tea tree oil, it's better to use milder products when choosing any topical treatments for their skin or hair. Never apply tea tree oil or tea tree oil products to your pets. This makes them prone to a negative reaction or ingestion which can exacerbate symptoms.
- Don't eat essential oils. Essential oils can be used in recipes, but in small quantities and from a quality source. Tea tree oil isn't a commonly used ingredient replacement though, so we don't recommend it.
This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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Ånséhn, S. 1990. The effect of tea tree oil on human pathogenic bacteria and fungi in a laboratory study. Swed. J. Biol. Med. 2:5-8.
Banes-Marshall, L., P. Cawley, and C. A. Phillips.2001. ?In vitro activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil against bacterial and Candida spp. isolates from clinical specimens. Br. J. Biomed. Sci. 58:139-145.
Bischoff, K., and F. Guale. 1998. Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil poisoning in three purebred cats. J. Vet. Diagn. Investig. 10:208-210.
Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She delivered over 2000 babies to mothers in a suburban Midwestern community.