The oil has been used for almost 100 years as a healing treatment in Australia, particularly for skin conditions. Today it is used for a number of conditions.
Fast facts about tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, found in Australia.
The oil possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
A person can treat acne, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis or head lice using tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil should never be swallowed.
Tea tree oil is probably best known for its antibacterial activity.
Some research suggests that the broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity associated with the oil comes from its ability to damage the cell walls of bacteria. More research is needed to understand how it might work.
Tea tree oil may help quell inflammation, possibly due to its high concentration of terpinen-4-ol, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties.
In animal tests, terpinen-4-ol was found to suppress inflammatory activity in cases of mouth infection. In humans, topically applied tea tree oil reduced swelling in histamine-induced skin inflammation more effectively than paraffin oil.
A review of the effectiveness of tea tree oil highlights its ability to kill a range of yeasts and fungi. The majority of the studies reviewed focus on Candida albicans, a type of yeast which commonly affects the skin, genitals, throat, and mouth.
Other research suggests suggests that terpinen-4-ol enhances the activity of fluconazole, a common antifungal drug, in cases of resistant strains of Candida albicans.
Some studies show that tea tree oil can help treat certain viruses, but research is limited in this area.