Tea tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia. Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties and is used as adjuvant therapy in treating wounds and preventing their infection.
Many laboratory studies have shown that tea tree oil is antiseptic, antimicrobial and antifungal (because of its active compounds), especially in terms of combating fungal infections, acne or vaginal infections. The oil was used as a complementary therapy in treating surgical wounds, burns and dental treatments.
Tea oil is active against some strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Currently many dermatological products, containing tea tree oil as an active product, are available, including soaps, shampoos, lip balms, creams and ointments for skin, or toothpaste, because the oil has also cosmetic benefits.
The oil is usually used diluted and is not recommend taking it orally because it can be toxic.
Tea tree oil compounds are responsible for its beneficial actions.
Their list is varied and includes mostly:
– Terpinen -4 -ol: is contained in a percentage of about 50% of the oil and is considered as the principal active ingredient.
– Gamma terpinene: making 30% of the oil.
Usually, tea tree oil is used to treat superficial wounds and cuts, burns (including sunburn), acne, foot fungus, minor fungal infections, vaginal candidiasis or respiratory ailments (if added to a vaporizer). Although most studies have been conducted in the laboratory, scientists are confident about the antimicrobial role of tea tree oil.
Used in many dermatocosmetics products:
- In skin creams against Staphylococcus aureus (in concentrations of 10%);
- In anti-dandruff shampoos (in concentration of 5%);
- In antifungal creams to treat dermatophytes;
- In topical preparations against candida;
- In creams recommended for the treatment of moderate acne (in concentration of 5%).
Incorporated in dentifrice products: toothpaste and mouthwash. If the oil is an active ingredient in these products, patients need to be very cautious not to swallow it.
Experts believe that this oil is very safe for the daily administration on the skin. However, if applied in pure form, in concentrations of 100%, the oil can cause local irritation.
There are a number of patients, especially those with allergies, that if applying a product containing tea tree oil, develop dermatitis. In the case there is a danger of developing such reactions, especially if the patient is known to have a history of allergy, the safest method is to apply a preparation to a very limited area on the skin, possibly at the wrist, and then wait to see if there is a local reaction.
Tea tree oil can be diluted with other natural organic compounds so that to lower the concentration, but still keeping its properties. Most used dilutions are made using olive, vegetable or coconut oil. So far, there has not been established the recommended dose of tea tree oil, but most studies were performed with oil concentrations of 5-10%.
Even if products are pure and with 100% concentration, they can be used in certain fungal infections. Most often, the currently available products contain oil diluted with inactive ingredients. Although a local tegumentary administration is believed to be safe, this observation is not true for oral administration.
Experts warn patients, do not swallow preparations containing tea tree oil because toxic effects may occur. Have been experienced: gastric irritation symptoms (heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea), hallucinations and dizziness, confusion or skin rashes.
Also, tea tree oil is not recommended for use in preparations that are administered in the ear, it can affect the inner ear.
Currently, are discussed the results of a study that showed the possibility of developing gynecomastia in boys, correlated with the administration of products containing lavender and tea tree oil.
Studies have not yet provided eloquent data of recommendations using tea tree oil during pregnancy and lactation. Experiments on laboratory animals suggest that the use of products based on tea tree oil should be done with caution near pregnancy term, because it seems like he can influence spontaneous uterine contractions, which theoretically could put the health of mother and fetus in jeopardy.
Breastfeeding women are not advised to apply creams or other products containing tea tree oil on the breast or nipple, because the active substances can be absorbed into the newborn circulation.
Patients are advised to announce their doctor if they decide to take a natural treatment. That’s because not every product can be administered without the risk of systemic side effects. Some products may adversely influence the clinical course of a disease, or may interact with basic treatment, lowering its efficacy.