A Comprehensive Guide to the Beneficial Uses of Tea Tree Oil

A woman looks in a mirror and applies skin care products.
  • Tea tree oil is an essential oil with antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, among others.

  • Derived from the native Australian bush Melaleuca alternifolia and turned to for centuries because of its medicinal purposes, the essential oil is used today as a complementary treatment for a large assortment of conditions.

  • The oil is typically safe to use by inhaling it from a diffuser or using it topically. It’s crucial that you avoid ingesting tea tree oil, as it is toxic in larger quantities when swallowed.

What is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is an essential oil derived from the native Australian bush Melaleuca alternifolia, known for its antibacterial properties. Turned to for centuries in aboriginal communities for medicinal purposes, the essential oil is still used today.

Composition and properties

Tea tree oil is extracted through a steam distillation process of the leaves and branches of the M. alternifolia plant, where the light yellow oil is separated from the leaves’ aqueous byproduct.

The chemical composition of tea tree oil is what sets it apart. Its main active component is terpinen-4-ol. According to the National Library of Medicine, this compound has properties that make it antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antioxidative.

Because of the concentration of terpinen-4-ol in tea tree oil, tea tree oil is a useful and effective complementary method for treating a variety of health conditions.

Quality considerations

As with every essential oil, it is important to be picky when choosing the tea tree oil you are going to purchase. Whether you are investing in pure tea tree oil or a product made with the oil, choosing a reliable producer is key to safely incorporating the essential oil into your life.

The oil should be sold in dark, glass containers, as this preserves its quality. Another standard to keep an eye out for is if the botanical name, Melaleuca alternifolia, is mentioned on the label. Stay away from words like “fragrance” or “synthetic.”

Health and Personal Care Applications

Tea tree oil for skin

Tea tree oil can be a useful tool for managing different skin conditions, due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The oil has been shown to help with several different skin conditions, including:

  • Contact dermatitis: In a study published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, tea tree oil was shown to reduce allergic contact dermatitis by 40.5%.

  • Itchy skin: Because of its antibacterial properties, tea tree oil can help relieve itchy caused by different types of germs infecting parts of the skin.

  • Acne: A 12-week study revealed that applying tea tree oil to the face twice daily is effective in diminishing acne blemishes over time.

  • Infections and wound healing: Tea tree oil has historically been used to fight infections in minor open wounds. A 2019 study shows that including tea tree oil in dressing wounds helps decrease recovery time and prevent infection.

H3: Tea tree oil for hair

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, adding tea tree oil to shampoo significantly decreases the amount of dandruff on the scalp. This is because tea tree oil’s antifungal properties help to combat the yeast (Pityrosporum ovale) that creates dandruff on the scalp.

Incorporating tea tree oil into your hair care routine does more than just improve dandruff. It can also unplug hair follicles when applied topically, thus stimulating hair growth.

Additionally, the overall antibacterial properties of the oil keep the hair and scalp healthy and moisturized, preventing buildup of bacteria on the scalp.

A man rubs his fingers into lotion.

Tea tree oil for oral hygiene

A lot of research supports the claim that tea tree oil can improve oral hygiene when infused into oral care products. The oil can be mixed with warm water to create a chemical-free mouthwash, or incorporated into toothpaste and used when brushing teeth.

Either of these methods, if used correctly, can be effective in fighting gingivitis, keeping the mouth clean, and decontaminating toothbrushes.

Tea tree oil for nail fungus

Fungal nail infections — or onychomycosis — are a common and uncomfortable condition, affecting up to 14% of the general population. While there are many medicinal treatments available, you may want to consider natural remedies.

Tea tree oil has been proven to successfully resolve the infection in a majority of patients. The oil can be used on its own or in combination with other natural remedies.

Household and Cleaning Uses

Is tea tree oil antibacterial?

Tea tree oil is known to kill off a large majority of harmful bacteria and organisms that can be found around the house, and therefore can be used as a non-toxic alternative to chemical-based surface cleaners.

Tea tree oil has been proven to be effective in killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making it extremely useful for keeping a household clean and those inside of it healthy.

Key Point: Easy Recipe for an At-Home Tea Tree Oil Cleaner
  1. Heat up two cups of water.
  2. Mix 10 drops of tea tree oil with the hot water.
  3. Add in one and a half cups of vinegar.
  4. Shake it up and start cleaning your house with tea tree oil today!
A basket of natural cleaning products

Air purification

Air purification is one of the many benefits of using tea tree oil as a part of aromatherapy. You can either diffuse it into the air or incorporate it into homemade air fresheners.

Because of its antimicrobial capabilities, tea tree oil can combat air pollutants and decrease the bacterial and viral load in the air within the home.

Does tea tree oil kill lice?

One of the most popular uses of tea tree oil is in treating a head lice infestation. Several studies have shown the effectiveness of tea tree oil in killing both adult and nymph (early stage) lice, as well as in repelling lice before infestation.

Tea tree oil can also be used to fight off other types of insects, working as a functional mosquito repellent.

Aromatherapy and Wellness

Stress relief and relaxation

Practicing aromatherapy with tea tree oil can be extremely soothing, helping to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance sleep quality.

Studies have shown the beneficial effects of aromatherapy on stress reduction, with tea tree oil being an effective essential oil in relieving stress and increasing relaxation.

Respiratory health

With its ability to fight against bacteria and viruses, tea tree oil is incredibly useful in addressing congestion symptoms and respiratory infections.

Whether inhaled or applied topically on the chest or around the sinuses, the essential oil’s natural decongestant abilities make it a great treatment for many causes of chest congestion, including seasonal allergies.

A bottle of tea tree oil with a sprig of tea tree.

Safety and Precautions

Dilution and allergies

Most essential oils, including tea tree oil, can be dangerous if used in excess. It is important to dilute the oil when using it, whether that be by mixing it with a carrier oil, lotion, or liquid.

Before using tea tree oil for any purpose, it is recommended that you conduct a patch test to check for any allergic reactions or sensitivities.

Avoiding ingestion

It is also unsafe to ingest tea tree oil by mouth. The oil is potentially toxic if swallowed, so you need to be extra careful when using it for oral health purposes. Like with most mouthwashes and toothpastes, it is essential to spit out the oil after using.

Using Tea Tree Oil to Support Overall Health

From all-purpose cleaning to relieving nail fungus to promoting better sleep, there is no denying the widespread benefits of tea tree oil. Each use of tea tree oil serves as a natural and effective way to solve or improve a problem in your everyday life.

If you are interested in incorporating tea tree oil into your routine as a complementary treatment, be sure to maintain an open dialogue with your healthcare provider. Make an appointment with LifeMD to discuss how tea tree oil can address your needs.

Dr. Anthony Puopolo

Dr. Puopolo holds a B.A. in Biology from Tufts University, M.A. in Biology from Boston University, and Doctor of Medicine from the Boston University School of Medicine. He also completed a Family Medicine and Psychiatry residency program in the U.S. Army.

Talk To A Doctor

LifeMD makes it easy to stay on top of your health because talking to a doctor, filling your prescriptions, getting your labs done—and more—are all easy and cost-effective. Come discover a healthcare solution built around you and your life.

Connect with a doctor now!

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

Feel better with LifeMD.

Your doctor is online and ready to see you.

Join LifeMD today and experience amazing healthcare, discounted labs and prescription medications... plus around-the-clock access to medical guidance.