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23 Nov 2021 - Scientists Confirm: Essential Oils Unrelated to Hormone Disruption

Epidemiological Research Debunks the Long-Held Myth That Lavender and Tea Tree Oils Cause Endocrine Disruption in Children. More »»

11 Jun 2021 - Plant Health Australia

Plant Health Australia (PHA) are seeking Non-Executive Directors applications. More »»

19 Mar 2021 - AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program Advisory Panel

AgriFutures Australia is seeking to broaden the skillset of its Tea Tree Oil Program Advisory Panel by appointing two new members. More »»

23 Nov 2020 - Industry Liaison Officer

AgriFutures Australia (AgriFutures) is seeking the services of an individual or organisation to deliver effective and efficient industry extension and engagement services that will develop a stronger and more resilient tea tree oil industry. This is an exciting opportunity to create genuine change and be involved in an innovative and forward thinking industry. More »»


With thanks to UWA Tea Tree Oil Research Group


Is cineole a skin irritant?

Fact: 1, 8-cineole is also known as eucalyptol since it is the major component of some Eucalyptus essential oils. Several scientific publications have shown that it is not a skin irritant.

Does TTO work better in the presence of blood and pus?
Fact: Many antimicrobial agents work less effectively in the presence of blood and pus or other organic matter so the suggestion that the activity of tea tree oil will actually increase is appealing. However laboratory work has shown that the activity of tea tree oil is either unaffected or may be reduced by the presence of some organic matter. It is not improved.

Is TTO completely safe because it is natural?
Fact: Nothing is completely safe and this includes TTO. TTO is poisonous if ingested and should only be used topically. A small number of people are allergic to the oil and will experience a skin reaction even at low concentrations. Others may experience an irritant reaction if they use the oil at high concentrations. Irritant reactions usually subside if more dilute oil is used.  Irritant reactions will also occur if the oil is oxidised.  ATTIA recommends that bottles of pure oil which have been open for more than 3 months be disposed of.

Can TTO be taken orally?
Fact: TTO is toxic if ingested in large enough quantities and is classified in Australia as a Schedule 6 Poison. Apart from data gleaned from the few cases of poisoning that have been reported in the medical and scientific literature, there are no oral toxicity data for TTO and humans so we do not know if, or how much TTO can be ingested safely. Where the literature reports cases of ingestion, effects such as in-coordination, ataxia and even coma have been recorded though in every instance the patient has recovered with no apparent long term harm.  In the absence of data clearly showing that something is safe to ingest, the convention in medicine is to recommend that it not be ingested. Since there are no such data for TTO it cannot be recommended. The TTO contained in oral products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes is not considered problematic since it is expelled from the mouth and not swallowed.
Special consideration needs to be given to the use of TTO during pregnancy and breast-feeding. There are no data showing that topical application of TTO is safe during these times and as above, in the absence of data showing that something is safe to use, it is generally not recommended.

Does TTO cross-sensitise to or cross-react with colophony (colophonium)?
Fact: Colophony is one of the compounds in a standard dermatology patch test. In some reports of allergy to TTO, patients have also reacted to colophony. This does not prove that TTO sensitised them to colophony or that colophony cross reacts with TTO.

If TTO inhibits or kills an organism in the lab, will it be effective in the body?
Fact: Activity in the lab does not always translate to effectiveness in the body. The best way to determine if a treatment is effective in the body is to test it in a randomised, double-blind, controlled clinical trial.

Can TTO cure MRSA and VRSA infections?
Fact: MRSA are Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that have become resistant to several antibiotics including methicillin, while VRSA are S aureus bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin which is often the treatment of choice for MRSA infections. MRSA can infect people and cause disease, or can simply colonise the skin of healthy people without doing them any harm. MRSA infections are often serious and life-threatening while MRSA colonisation is not usually a problem for the carrier. However, if the MRSA carrier happens to pass their MRSA to a person who is already unwell or who has a wound, they may become very ill. In hospitals and other healthcare settings, much effort goes into reducing MRSA carriage by decolonising carriers in order to reduce subsequent MRSA infections. Decolonisation plays an important role in infection control.

We know that TTO can inhibit and kill MRSA in the lab. There is also mounting evidence that it may be useful for eliminating the topical carriage of MRSA. On the current evidence, it is unlikely that TTO will be used to treat systemic MRSA infections although it may find a use in treating wounds infected or colonised with MRSA.

Could TTO completely replace antibiotics?
Fact: TTO has antimicrobial properties which may make it suitable for the treatment of some topical infections. However, it is toxic if ingested and can only be used topically. It is never likely to replace antibiotics that are used systemically. In fact, making direct comparisons between TTO and such antibiotics is not appropriate.

Is TTO one of the most powerful antiseptics?
Fact: There are many antiseptics and disinfectants that have greater antimicrobial activity than TTO; however, none of them are natural. Also, it is unlikely that any of them have the same unique range of properties that TTO has such as antimicrobial activity, anti-inflammatory activity and putative skin penetrating capacity.

When will TTO be registered as a medicine?
Fact: When medicines are registered with regulatory authorities such as the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration or the US Food and Drug Administration, they are registered as treatments for specific conditions. Each registration requires relevant clinical data and covers only that use. There is no general registration to cover all applications and since there is no such category, TTO can't be registered in it. However, when there are sufficient data, TTO will be registered as a treatment for specific conditions. For example TTO may be registered as a treatment for cold sores, a treatment for impetigo or as an agent to decolonise MRSA carriers.

Is Chinese tea oil the same as Pure Australian TTO?
Fact: Chinese tea oil is derived from the seeds of Camellia oleifera or Camellia sinensis. It is used extensively in China as edible cooking oil and contains 80-90% oleic acid.

Why are there lots of "tea tree" oils and do they all have medicinal properties?
Fact: There are lots of plants known as “tea trees” including plants in the Melaleuca and Leptospermum genera. However, tea tree oil (TTO) can only be produced from a very small number of plants, mainly Melaleuca alternifolia. These other oils may have medicinal properties such as antimicrobial activity but few have been scientifically investigated as much as TTO.

Can the oil from any Melaleuca or Leptospermum plant be called TTO?
Fact: Many plants are commonly called “tea trees” including plants in the Melaleuca and Leptospermum genera. Oils from only a few of them can be called TTO and must meet the requirements of the international standard for TTO. Most TTO is produced from Melaleuca alternifolia.

Is "Ti-tree" another name for tea tree?
Fact: Ti-tree is the common name for plants in the Cordyline genus. These are found in New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Can TTO only be sourced from Melaleuca alternifolia?
Fact: The international standard for TTO does not specify which species of Melaleuca must be used to produce the oil. It does however provide compositional limits for 15 of the more than 100 components that make up TTO. Most TTO is produced from Melaleuca alternifolia grown on plantations but other plants that may produce suitable oils include M. dissitiflora and M. linariifolia.

Do Tea trees (Melaleuca alternifolia) grow only in Australia?
Fact: The native habitat of M alternifolia is a small area of north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. However, M alternifolia has been cultivated successfully in other parts of New South Wales, in other states of Australia such as Queensland and Western Australia and in other countries.

Is "New Zealand tea tree oil" the same as Pure Australian TTO?
Fact: The essential oils distilled from Kunzea ericoides and Leptospermum scoparium, also known as kanuka and manuka oils respectively, are often referred to as New Zealand tea tree oils. They are very different in composition from TTO and it cannot be assumed that they have the same medicinal properties as those shown for TTO.

How many components are in Pure Australian TTO?
Fact: TTO is made up of over 100 components. Most have been identified.

Is TTO like turpentine?
Fact: TTO is composed of compounds known as terpenes. Terpenes are molecules made up of carbon and hydrogen in the ratio C10H16. Other examples of terpenes include: turpentine, β-carotene (from carrots) and lycopene (from apples and tomatoes).

Are there differing or superior grades of TTO?
Fact: Although claims are made for superior grades of TTO such as “medicinal”, "pharmaceutical" or “premium” grade, there is no scientific evidence that these oils are better. To date, all TTO that meets the international standard appears to have similar antimicrobial activity. All Pure Australian TTO is manufactured to stringent ATTIA approved quality controls ensuring sound production and environmental practices are adhered to at all stages of production.

Should Terpinen-4-ol levels be maximised and 1, 8-cineole levels be minimised?
Fact: Terpinen-4-ol is the main antimicrobial component of TTO. Levels of terpinen-4-ol in TTO are inversely proportional to levels of 1, 8-cineole. In other words if terpinen-4-ol levels are high then 1, 8-cineole levels are low. Terpinen-4-ol is the main antimicrobial component of TTO and to a limited extent; higher levels will correspond to higher activity. However, increasing the levels of terpinen-4-ol above 40% is unlikely to offer any additional benefit compared to oil that just meets the international standard.














Page last updated: 23 Jun 2009