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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
Tea tree oil can kill
bacteria and fungi. It comes from the evergreen leaves of the Australian
Melaleuca alternifolia tree. Tea tree oil has been used
as complementary therapy in surgery, burn care, and dental care.
Numerous tea tree oil body care products are available, including soap,
shampoo, toothpaste, lip balm, topical (used on the skin) cream, and essential
People usually use
tea tree oil to treat minor cuts, burns,
athlete's foot, mild fungal nail infections,
vaginal yeast infections, and lung problems (when they
add the oil to a bath or vaporizer). Although there is little research on tea
tree oil, some studies suggest that it is safe and often effective for the
prevention and treatment of infections.1
Experts consider tea tree
oil to be safe as a topical treatment, and you can apply it directly to the
skin on a daily basis. When applied to the skin in its pure (100% oil) form,
tea tree oil seldom causes irritation. But some people develop an allergic rash
(contact dermatitis). If you are concerned that you
might develop a rash, try the oil first on a small area of skin. You can also
dilute tea tree oil with vegetable, olive, or almond oil.
tree oil is not safe to take by mouth. It is not recommended for use in the
ears, because it may cause damage to the inner ear. One study has found regular
use of products containing tea tree oil may cause gynecomastia, or breast
swelling in boys.2
The U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate tea tree oil in the same way it
regulates medicines. It can be sold with limited or no research on how well it
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative
product or if you are thinking about combining one with your conventional
medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical
treatment and rely only on an alternative product.
Murray MT, Pizzorno JE (2006). Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree). In JE Pizzorno Jr, MT
Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 3rd ed.,
vol.1, pp. 1053–1056. St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone
Henley DV, et al. (2007). Prepubertal gynecomastia
linked to lavender and tea tree oils. New England Journal of Medicine, 356(5): 479–485.
Other Works Consulted
Tea tree oil (2010). In A DerMarderosian et al., eds., Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Wolters Kluwer Health.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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