Tea tree oil (TTO), also known as melaleuca oil, is made from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. It is usually clear to very pale golden in color and has a fresh, camphor-like scent. The oil is extracted through steam distillation of the plant’s twigs and leaves.
It is referred to as a ‘medicine cabinet in a bottle’, and in fact, several studies have confirmed that TTO has tremendous medicinal benefits. It helps heal a variety of problems ranging from acne to lung congestion.
Its health benefits can be attributed to its natural antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, antimicrobial, expectorant and antiviral properties.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of tea tree oil.
1. Treats Acne
Tea tree oil is a popular treatment for acne. This natural antiseptic disinfects the pores as well as kills the bacteria that cause acne.
According to a 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, topical application of 5 percent TTO gel is effective in treating mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
- Put 1 drop of TTO on a moistened cotton swab and dab it gently on the affected area before going to bed. The next morning, rinse your face with lukewarm water. Repeat daily.
- Alternatively, prepare a face mask with 4 or 5 drops of TTO and 1 teaspoon of raw, organic honey. Apply this mixture on the affected area. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off with water. Use this face mask once a week to keep your skin acne-free.
2. Fights Toenail Fungus
Tea tree oil can treat toenail fungus, thanks to its antifungal as well as antiseptic properties. It can help kill the fungus and relieve symptoms, such as inflammation, swelling, yellowing, or thickening of the nail.
- Apply 1 or 2 drops of TTO directly on the infected toenail. Rub it gently around the nail. Repeat once daily until the infection is cleared.
- You can also put 3 or 4 drops of TTO in a small tub filled with lukewarm water, soak your feet in it for 15 minutes, then pat dry thoroughly.
Use this treatment once daily.
TTO is even effective at treating athlete’s foot and ringworm.
3. Treats Dandruff
Tea tree oil a good treatment for dandruff, thanks to its strong antifungal properties. It can even reduce symptoms like itchy and dry scalp.
According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, shampoo with 5 percent TTO is effective in the treatment of dandruff. It has antifungal properties with activity against the yeast Pityrosporum ovale, which causes dandruff.
- Use a shampoo with 5 percent TTO to wash your hair 1 or 2 times a week.
- Another option is to mix 1 or 2 drops of TTO per ounce of your regular shampoo, then use it to wash your hair 1 or 2 times a week.
4. Heals Boils
Because of its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is a wise choice for treating boils. This essential oil heals boils quickly and protects them from infections. In addition, it helps reduce scarring and skin spots left by boils.
- Put a few drops of TTO on a clean cotton swab.
- Gently dab it directly on the boil.
- Repeat 3 or 4 times a day for several days until the boil is gone.
5. Treats Warts
You can use tea tree oil to treat warts, the small bumps caused by a viral infection in the skin’s top layer. Its antiviral and antiseptic qualities help fight the virus and eliminate the warts.
A 2008 study published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal highlights the potential use of TTO in the treatment of common warts due to human papilloma virus.
- Mix 4 or 5 drops of TTO in 1 tablespoon of almond or olive oil.
- Apply this mixture on the affected areas.
- Leave it on for a couple of hours, then rinse it off with warm water.
- Repeat once or twice daily for a few weeks.
TTO is even effective at treating genital warts.
6. Fights Vaginal Infection
This essential oil has strong antifungal as well as antibacterial properties, and thus it helps treat vaginal infections, such as vaginitis, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections. It can even help get rid of unpleasant vaginal odor.
- Add 2 or 3 drops of TTO to a small bowl of warm water and stir it thoroughly. Use this solution to rinse the vagina once daily for a few weeks.
- Alternatively, mix 3 or 4 drops of TTO and 3 cups of white vinegar in your bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Soak your lower body in this water for 20 to 30 minutes. Do this every other day as needed.
Note: Pregnant women should not use TTO.
7. Eliminates Body Odor
This essential oil also works very well in eliminating body odor, a very common and embarrassing problem. It has antimicrobial properties that help destroy the bacteria that cause body odor.
In addition, being an astringent, it controls excessive sweating and keeps you smelling fresh throughout the day.
- Mix 2 drops of TTO in 2 tablespoons of water.
- Use a cotton ball to apply the solution to your underarms and other areas where you sweat more.
- Use it once daily or as needed to control body odor.
8. Supports Oral Health
Whether you suffer from bad breath, inflamed gums, gingivitis or plaque, tea tree oil is a good solution. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help kill bad bacteria and soothe inflamed gums.
According to a 2004 study published in the Australian Dental Journal, gel containing TTO is effective when applied topically to inflamed gingival tissues.
- Add 1 drop of TTO to your regular toothpaste and use it to brush your teeth twice daily.
- Also, add 2 drops of TTO to a glass of warm water and use it to rinse your mouth at least once daily.
Note: Never swallow TTO as its toxic compounds can cause side effects like nausea.
9. Loosens Chest Congestion
Tea tree oil is a natural expectorant that can help loosen chest congestion associated with a sore throat, cough, common cold, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. It can help expel the mucus and kill bacteria in the throat.
- Fill a bowl with very hot water. Add a few drops of TTO. Place your face over the bowl and put a towel over your head. Inhale the steam for as long as you can and breathe deeply. Repeat 2 or 3 times daily until the congestion clears.
- Also, put a drop of this essential oil on your handkerchief and inhale the smell every few hours to relieve congestion.
10. Kills Head Lice
In addition to treating dandruff, tea tree oil is a natural insecticide that can effectively kill head lice and help soothe the itching.
In a 2012 study published in the Parasitology Research journal, researchers found that the development of novel pediculicides containing tea tree essential oil could help control the parasitic infestation.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of TTO in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Optionally, add 1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil.
- Apply the solution thoroughly on your hair and scalp.
- Cover your head with a shower cap or towel.
- Leave it on for 20 minutes, then wash your hair with your regular shampoo.
- When slightly dry, comb your hair with a nit comb to remove the dead lice.
- Do this twice a week for a couple of months.
Note: Avoid applying this essential oil directly on the scalp.
- Perform a patch test before using TTO topically to rule out the possibility of skin irritation.
- Do not take TTO internally.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use TTO.
- Those who have sensitive skin must dilute TTO in olive oil or any carrier oil before using it. Undiluted TTO can cause itchiness, irritation and redness.
- If TTO causes skin dryness, itching, stinging, burning or redness, stop using it.
- This oil must not be used on babies younger than 6 months.