Tea tree oil: what is it for and how you should use it

This content is part of the Alternative Medicine category and may contain information that lacks scientific studies and/or medical consensus.

Tea tree oil is a substance with a yellow color and a very characteristic smell, widely used by the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries due to its great therapeutic potential .

The oil extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia , or simply tea tree , is made up of more than 40 different organic compounds, which give it bactericidal, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory potential.

Thanks to this it can be used on the skin, hair and nails , serving as a natural deodorant and home treatment for mycoses, acne and dermatitis, and also as a mouthwash, being considered quite effective in combating bad breath .

After all, what is tea tree oil for?

To prevent acne

One of the most widespread uses of tea tree oil is to treat acne, a problem that is more common in adolescence, but which can persist into adulthood.

According to naturopath Danilo Ramon, one of the oil’s main assets, terpinen-4-ol, is responsible for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties”.

So much so that using 5% of the essential oil diluted in vegetable oils, cleansing gels or soaps reduces the appearance of the inflammatory process in the pimples .

The volatile compounds found in it are capable of preventing the proliferation of different types of bacteria that live on the skin and are responsible for causing acne. ( 1 )

Best of all, it doesn’t cause the common side effects of acne treatments (drying, flaking and irritation to the area), and it can be used safely. ( 2 )

To treat candidiasis

Terpinen-4-ol also has fungicidal properties, which makes the oil an excellent natural treatment option for candidiasis, an infection that can affect the skin, mouth (thrush) or genital area and is caused by fungi of the Candida species. , Danilo explained.

Tea tree oil is able to reduce the fungus strains, eliminating microorganisms resistant to traditional antifungal agents. ( 3 )

The oil compound can affect the permeability of this microorganism, preventing it from being able to attach itself to the skin or mucosa, preventing it from proliferating. ( 1 )

to fight mycoses

“Because it acts by causing a potent antifungal activity, it is indicated in the treatment of athlete’s foot , a fungal infection that usually affects the toes, and mycoses (common name for infections caused by fungi)”, explained Danilo about another therapeutic application for tea tree oil.

The essential oil kills fungi by inhibiting their breathing process. The result is the disappearance of symptoms within a few weeks of using the oil. ( 4 )

To protect and strengthen your nails

Did you know that applying pure tea tree oil helps protect and strengthen your nails from ringworm ? The herbalist explained that fungi settle under the nails, leaving them weak and brittle. Melaleuca fights the installation of the fungus in the region. ( 5 )

To eliminate dandruff

The antifungal action of the essential oil extracted from tea tree leaves can eliminate dandruff , especially if used mixed with shampoos and other types of hair treatments, said Danilo.

Dandruff is a desquamation of the scalp caused by seborrheic dermatitis. The continuous use of oil for four weeks can reduce the problem by up to 40%. ( 6 )

To avoid bad breath

Another very effective use of tea tree oil is in combating bad breath (halitosis), especially due to its bactericidal potential, according to Danilo.

The essential oil can eliminate more than 15 types of bacteria known to cause halitosis . And the effects can be seen five minutes after using it. ( 7 )

To prevent bad underarm odor

Tea tree oil is considered a natural deodorant . “It can be incorporated in creams, lotions and soaps for cosmetic use”, explained Danilo Ramon.

The excellent cleaning potential of the oil eliminates microorganisms from the underarm region, a hot and humid place perfect for the proliferation of bacteria that cause bad odor .

The effect, however, is better when 3% of the compound diluted in some type of fixative that prevents evaporation is used, making the natural deodorant remain active for longer. ( 8 )

to get rid of head lice

At the right concentrations, tea tree oil can eliminate 100% of lice in school-age children, with the first effects being seen after 30 minutes of use.

The oil compound even reduces the number of eggs, popularly called nits , without any side effects for children.

Incidentally, the product can also be used to prevent someone from getting a lice infestation by living in the place where an outbreak is occurring. ( 9 )

As insect repellent

“The tea tree oil can be used as a homemade repellent too,” said Danilo about the compound’s power to keep away insects, especially flies and mosquitoes , from the house.

The components of the essential oil have a very characteristic smell, which is produced by the plant itself and is a way to ward off insects that are harmful to its development.

The oil also kills mosquito larvae and can prevent an infestation if used in breeding grounds. ( 10 )

How to use essential oil?

Against dandruff

To treat dandruff, Danilo recommends using shampoos prepared with an amount of 0.5% to 3% of the oil. This means that for each 100 ml bottle, a maximum of 3 ml of the component will be used.

The good news is that this type of product can be made at home, just measure the correct amount and mix it with your favorite shampoo, or it can be purchased from compounding pharmacies.

The use is very simple, just wash your hair as usual and you’re done. In a few weeks it will be possible to see the results of the treatment.

Against ringworm, acne and as a deodorant

The oil can be used neat , with great care, for the treatment of fungal infections and acne, simply applying to the injured area, at most three times a day, while the symptoms last.

Danilo specified that the product can be used in the manufacture of herbal ointments or cleaning gels, in a concentration of no more than 10%.

As a deodorant it can be mixed with coconut oil and applied to the desired area.

against genital infections

Anyone who suffers from candidiasis should “ dilute [the oil] in water and use it for washing and irrigation of the affected areas”, as pointed out by the herbalist. The dosage indicated by it is 1 tablespoon (of coffee) of essential oil for each tablespoon of water.

against bad breath

To combat bad breath, you can make a homemade mouthwash using two drops of the oil to a glass of water. This mixture should be “cheeked” at most three times a day.

It is currently possible to find mouthwashes and toothpastes that have tea tree in their formulation and should be used in the same way.

against insects

For purposes of repelling insects, the ideal is to use the oil in room diffusers , which can be the traditional one for sticks using the oil diluted in alcohol from cereals or the electric one that uses water, or even in the manufacture of aromatic candles.

Just leave it in the environment that, in addition to getting rid of insects, will give the house a special smell.

Where to find tea tree oil?

The essential oil can be found in essence and herbal stores . You must, however, be very careful when buying and always look for 100% natural products that are not of doubtful origin.

Are there any contraindications?

“There are no harmful effects, but by activating the dermatological functions, healing reactions that are slightly uncomfortable can arise”, concluded Danilo. Some people may have some sensitivity to the product, which can cause skin irritation or dryness .

However, tea tree oil should not be consumed, as it is considered toxic and can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, care must be taken when using it for oral cleaning. ( 1 )

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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