Tea tree is the name of a plant native to Australia, scientifically known as Melaleuca alternifolia. 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 provides a cooling sensation on the skin. It has been widely used in Australia as a topical medicine for almost 80 years. Common names of tea tree include tea tree oil, Australian tea tree oil, melaleuca oil and tea tree essential oil.

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.

Therapeutic Uses of Tea Tree

  • Tea tree oil has been used as a topical antiseptic for almost 80 years. 
  • Tea tree oil has many therapeutic uses owing to its many activities, which include
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antiviral
  • Antiprotozoal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-skin cancer

Benefits of Tea Tree

1. Benefits of Tea Tree for Vaginal Candidiasis 

The overgrowth of Candida albicans in the vagina is called vaginal candidiasis or thrush. Tea tree oil shows potential to be developed as a therapeutic agent for the management of vaginal candidiasis. The benefits of tea tree oil as a therapeutic intervention in vaginal candidiasis have been proven by lab studies. However, clinical trials are required to check its efficacy in human beings.

2. Benefits of Tea Tree for Acne

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in the management of acne. Many topical preparations containing tea tree oil have been used to control the bacteria involved in acne. The use of tea tree oil could 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%) is effective in managing mild to moderate acne.

3. Benefits of Tea Tree for Fungal Infections

Benefits of tea tree for seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a superficial fungal infection occurring in areas rich in sebaceous glands. Tea tree oil has shown antifungal activity against Malassezia furfur, which indicates that it might be beneficial in the management of seborrheic dermatitis.

Benefits of tea tree for dandruff

Shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil showed improvement in dandruff in a clinical study (human trial). Therefore, tea tree oil might be helpful in the management of dandruff.

4. Benefits 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.

5. Benefits of Tea Tree for Viral Infections

Tea tree oil has potent antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. Tree tea oil has also shown effectiveness in recurrent herpes labialis infection (skin rash on lips caused due to herpes virus) in a clinical trial. Tea tree oil has also shown benefits in dealing with hand warts caused due to human papillomavirus.

6. Benefits of Tea Tree for Head Lice

Tea tree oil is found in many preparations that are used as an alternative treatment 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 can be beneficial as an alternative treatment for head lice.

7. Benefits 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 improved demodicisosis in a clinical study. Tea tree oil and shampoo were beneficial in eradicating eyelid Demodex.

How to Use Tea Tree?

  • Tea tree oil can be applied topically on the skin to manage skin conditions.
  • There are many products and cosmetics containing tea tree oil available in the market, such as shampoos, skin creams and nail creams, and massage oils.

Your Ayurvedic physician will prescribe you the form and dose as per your requirement.

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.

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.

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).

Is tea tree good for acne?

Yes, many clinical studies have proven the benefit of tea tree oil in managing acne.

Can tea tree oil kill lice?

Yes, tea tree oil can be used as an alternative treatment for head lice infestation.

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.

Can I use tea tree oil for vaginal infections?

Tea tree oil has shown 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. 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.

Found this article interesting? Follow Cluay Techlabs on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to read more exclusive content we post.