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Tea Tree Uses

In Australia, tea tree products have been used for many years by local Aboriginal communities to treat a variety of ailments (see history). Since European settlement 200 years ago interest in, and uses for tea tree products have steadily increased until the 1920’s when Arthur Penfold published the first reports of the pure extracted tea tree oil’s antimicrobial activity. Since then there has been a remarkable increase in interest in the use of tea tree oil for a wide range of uses. When purchasing tea tree oil, ensure that it is 100% pure Australian tea tree oil and that it has been packaged correctly and once opened kept in its original, tightly sealed container in a cool, dark space as exposure to heat, oxygen  and light degrades the oil. Observe all safety precautions on the label and check for the expiry date on the bottle.

ATTIA recommends that the use-by (best before) date for pure Australian tea tree oil sold in commercially available small (up to100 ml) dark glass bottles stored at an ambient temperature not exceeding 25 C be set at 6 months from when first opened or 24 months (2 years) in unopened bottles.

There are thousands of anecdotal stories about the healing, soothing, pain relieving, antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties from all over the world with people using this remarkable product on themselves, their children as well as on their pets and livestock, or as a cleaning agent.

While we believe that in most cases and with sensible use an a topical (external) treatment, tea tree oil is a safe, effective and natural product, some people and animals have had adverse reactions to tea tree oil for a number of different reasons. We do not recommend that tea tree oil be taken internally under any circumstances as TTO is toxic if ingested in large enough quantities and is classified in Australia as a Schedule 6 Poison.

As with any medical condition, if symptoms persist please see your medical practitioner for advice and if necessary treatment. Pure tree oil is contraindicated (not recommended) for babies, young children, women who are pregnant and some pets.

There has been much said and written about the safety of both pure and blended tea tree oil however the following extract from a lecture given by Robert Tisserand in October 2007 sums up the science behind much of this very well:

It has been said that tea tree oil causes allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) in “about 5%” of those who use it (Stonehouse & Studdiford 2007). However, the evidence does not support this statement. Patch test data using tea tree oil at 5% or 10% in a total of 6,637 dermatitis patients show positive reactions in 0.15-1.8% (Lisi et al 2000, Pirker et al 2003, Rutherford et al 2007, Veien et al 2004). It should be noted that patch testing exaggerates real-world use of a substance (Gerberick et al 2001, Robinson et al 2000) and that a patch test with 5% tea tree oil, for example, is not equivalent to a lotion or oil containing 5% tea tree oil.

In six clinical trials using tea tree oil at either 5% or 10%, there were no allergic reactions among 295 patients, 67 of them with an inflammatory skin condition. Mild reactions were not significantly greater than in placebo groups, and in some cases were less (Caelli et al 2000, Dryden et al 2004, Enshaieh et al 2007, Satchell et al 2002a, Syed et al 1999, Tong et al 1992). However, in clinical trials using the oil at 25%, 50% or 100%, the number of patients with allergic reactions to the oil were 2%, 6% and 8% respectively (Buck et al 1994, Satchell et al 2002b). This highlights the importance of safe concentrations, and suggests a maximum of 10% tea tree oil. However, in some clinical situations, tangible benefits may make a low risk acceptable.

It is also worth noting that Tea tree oil can reduce the oedema and inflammation associated with contact hypersensitivity. This has been attributed to terpinen-4-ol (Brand et al 2002a, 2002b, Koh et al 2002, Khalil et al 2004).

Undiluted tea tree oil, but not 5% tea tree oil lotion or placebo, significantly reduced the inflammatory reaction in nickel allergy. This was thought to be due to an effect on the antigen process (Pearce et al 2005). Nickel is the most common cause of skin allergy, followed by fragrance.

The full address can be accessed by clicking the link below.

Challenges Facing Essential Oil Therapy: Proof of Safety
Paper presented to the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) Conference in Denver, Colorado,
October 18-21 2007, reproduced by kind permission of the AIA Board
© Robert Tisserand

There are many products and brands that have tea tree oil as an ingredient:

Soaps:    Soap containing tea tree oil has been shown to be very effective for skin blemishes, irritations and as a general antiseptic. Using the soap on a daily basis would be beneficial for acne, cuts, abraisions, foot contitions, fungal irritation and rashes.

Shampoo:     A shampoo containing tea tree oil helps in the control of dandruff, itchy scalp, ringworm, lice and seborrhea.

Antiseptic cream:    a theraputic cream containing about 5% tea tree oil helps heal sunburn, cust, insect bites, rashes, athletes foot and a number of other skin irritations.

Acne control:     Following the directions on the container, acne medication containing tea tree oil has been shown to be very effective at reducing the appearance and severtiy of acne.

Dental hygine:     Many dentists use tea tree oil as a mouthwash and to sterilise cavities prior to filling. Studies have shown that use of a mouth wash containing tea tree oil twicee a day inhibits bacterial growth, reduces gum bleeding and helps control plaque.

Toothpaste:     With regular use a toothpaste containing tea tree oil can help reduce the symptoms and severity of gingivitis, halitosis, plaque build up and pyorrhea.

Deoderant:     Many deoderants contain aluminum and other ingredients that damage clothing and can irritate sensitive skin. A deoderant containing tea tree oil may help minimise the risk of bacterial buildup while its soothing qualities can help heal razor burn too.

Pet products:  Pet care products containing tea tree oil help to reduce itching and chafing skin, heal minor wounds and abraisions and promote a healthy coat. Applying a few drops of pure tea tree oil to ticks makes them back out of the animals skin while fleas can be controlled by applying a few drops of pure oil to your pets bedding.


Page last updated: 22 Jun 2018