Tea Tree Oil
- Tea tree oil comes from steam distillation of the leaves of the tea tree. The tea tree grows on the swampy southeast coast of Australia.
- The aboriginal people of Australia have traditionally used tea tree oil as an antiseptic (germ killer) and an herbal medicine.
- Today, external use of tea tree oil is promoted for various conditions such as acne, athlete’s foot, lice, nail fungus, cuts, mite infection at the base of the eyelids, and insect bites.
- A small amount of research has been done on the topical use (applying to the skin) of tea tree oil for health conditions in people. For instance, there have been only a few small studies in humans on each of the following conditions: acne, lice, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, and mite infection at the base of the eyelids. There have been no studies in humans on the use of tea tree oil for insect bites.
- A limited amount of research indicates that tea tree oil might be helpful for acne and athlete’s foot. One small study suggests that tea tree oil might help with nail fungus. But overall, the research is insufficient to allow clear conclusions to be reached about the use of tea tree oil for these conditions.
- Some early research shows that tea tree oil might be promising for treating mite infections at the base of the eyelids (also called ocular demodicosis). The current evidence is insufficient, however, for a clear conclusion.
- Tea tree oil should not be swallowed. Taking it orally can cause serious symptoms such as confusion, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination), breathing problems, and coma.
- Most people can use topical products containing tea tree oil without problems, but some people may develop contact dermatitis (an allergic skin rash) or skin irritation on the parts of the body where the product was used.
- Little is known about whether it’s safe to use tea tree oil during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- Talk to your health care providers about any complementary health approaches before you use. It may be contraindicated with any medications you are currently taking.