Tea Tree Essential Oil

Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of tea tree oil.

Introduction

The trend of using essential oils, like tea tree oil, in beauty and wellness is on the rise across all online platforms. Social media influencers, bloggers, and celebrities alike have created an “essential oil craze” touting the amazing topical and aromatherapy benefits of these all-natural products. The self-proclaimed “beauty gurus” on social media and essential oil experts can all agree that pure tea tree oil is an excellent addition to all-natural skin, hair, and beauty routines.

Before using tea tree essential oil for your own natural beauty and grooming, it’s always best to have all the facts. In this article you will find a detailed explanation of tea tree oil, tea tree oil benefits and the most common uses for this incredible essential oil. Explore how to use tea tree oil, along with precautions, safety information and tips on usage.

In this article useful tea tree oil recipes for practical use are also listed. Including some incredible tea tree oil essential oil blends to use in your diffuser. Tea tree oil also has a long and fascinating history that may encourage you to learn more about other essential oils.

What is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree essential oil (commonly referred to as simply tea tree oil) is derived from the Australian tea tree plant, scientifically known as, Melaleuca alternifolia. There are more than 200 species of the tea tree plant, all of which are native to the land down under. M. alternifolia specifically grows in the swampy land along streams of Australia’s north and southeast coast. (1)

Tea tree also is also sometimes called the narrow-leaved paperbark tree based on the appearance of its bark and long slender leaves. (2) You might find that in parts of Australia tea tree can often be spelled as “ti-tree” and is sometimes called the “narrow-leaved-ti-tree.” A member of the myrtle tree family, tea tree plants are technically shrubs that can grow up to 20 feet tall. Although it is technically a shrub, the tea tree plant does look like a tall, slender tree that branches out with full leafy clusters and make for excellent shade. Tea tree leaves are soft and smooth with a slender shape. (3)

It is the glands of these leaves that the valuable tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is found. Tea tree essential oil is made from the tea tree leaves by steam-distilling them to extract the oils. Pure tea tree essential oil is pale yellow or clear in appearance with a camphor-like scent, similar to the scent of eucalyptus oil.

Tea Tree History

Tea tree oil straight from the leaves without distillation has been used by the Aboriginal peoples of Australia for thousands of years. (4) Aboriginal people used tea tree leaves primarily for medicinal purposes. Some of these included chewing the leaves for headaches and other pains as well as making antiseptic and antifungal mud packs for wound care. (5) Today it is preferred to use distillation methods to extract the precious tea tree oil previously hidden within the tea tree leaves.

Aboriginals also used tea tree leaves as a general household material to solve a variety of daily issues. Tea tree leaves were used to line cradles, make sleeping mats, and make disposable garments to protect them from the rain. Bandages, food wrap for cooking, and fixing canoe holes were other impressive uses of the versatile tea tree leaves. (6)

In the 1600s explorers from Europe began entering the the waters surrounding the continent now known as Australia. In 1770 British explorer Captain James Cook claimed the entire east coast of Australia for Great Britain, naming the whole area “New South Wales” (7) Seemingly on a name-giving roll, Captain Cook also gave M. alternifolia the name we know today: tea tree.

It’s believed that Captain Cook’s crew originally tried using the tea tree leaves for actual tea, and then later making beer, however, tea tree leaves are not actually great for making tea or beer. Some scholars contest that the name “tea tree” didn’t come from the attempts at making tea, but the brown colored water that resulted from tea trees shedding leaves into nearby water sources. (8)

Before the advances of modern medicine, tea tree oil was widely used medicinally as an antiseptic to help kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, in modern day practices, it’s more commonly used as a natural remedy to tackle common skin, and hair concerns such as acne and dandruff.(9)

Tea Tree Oil Benefits

When used topically, tea tree essential oil has various positive effects on your skin and scalp. Some of the benefits of tea tree oil include: reducing bacteria and fungi that can cause breakouts and other mild skin conditions, soothing post-shave skin irritation, restoring a flaky dry scalp, and a cool menthol-like aroma than can soothe congestion and freshen the air.

The prominent base compounds found in tea tree oil give it natural antibacterial qualities. Research shows that terpene hydrocarbons, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes, (all present in pure tea tree oil) are bacteria fighting superstars. Especially the unique structure of the hydrocarbons which allow tea tree oil molecules to travel through pores, mucous membranes, and the air, making it a common germ fighter on the skin and in the home.

One of the most popular benefits of tea tree oil is relief during cold season. For quick relief, tea tree oil diluted with any carrier oil can be inhaled from the palms of your hands to help soothe congestion. Using an essential oil diffuser to disperse tea tree oil can also help create a clean feeling atmosphere that may help relieve common cold symptoms. Diffusing tea tree essential oil may also help reduce the spread of germs to other household members. (10)

Tea tree oil has several popular aromatherapy benefits that make it a great year-round choice to disperse with an essential oil diffuser. Some of the aromatherapy benefits of tea tree oil include: clearing out stuffiness, calming a frantic mind, inspiring sharp concentration, dispelling grogginess and fatigue, uplifting moods and improving indoor air quality for short periods of time. (11)

The tea tree aromatherapy benefits above make diffusing tea tree oil a popular choice to help provide relief for those who suffer from allergies. (12) Tea tree essential oil is also a popular scent to diffuse in office or work spaces to promote a focused, uplifting atmosphere.

Tea Tree Oil Uses

assorted artnaturals products made with tea tree oil and other pure essential oils

The uses of tea tree oil are wide and varied as they range from promoting mental and emotional health through aromatherapy, to making homemade all-natural cleaning products. The uses of tea tree essential oil also include natural remedies to help reduce fungi and infection, to natural skincare and hair solutions. However, even though tea tree oil uses range far and wide, it’s important that you know how to properly use it regarding each scenario.

Tea Tree Oil For Skin

Perhaps one of the most common questions, especially of those who are particularly skeptical of the abilities of natural products is, “does tea tree oil help acne?” The answer is yes, tea tree essential oil can help promote clear skin. (13) However, because essential oils are highly concentrated, it is really important that you know exactly how to use it when you’re applying tea tree oil to your face.

The first thing you need to know about using tea tree oil on your face is that essential oils must always be diluted with a carrier oil. Tea tree essential oil applied in the morning especially must be diluted to avoid photosensitivity from exposure to the sun. For these reasons, tea tree oil is best used as a spot treatment rather than a homemade toner or mask that would be applied over the entire face.

Tea tree essential oil is a natural astringent that disinfects so when it comes to using tea tree oil to help reduce breakouts, it’s best to use tea tree essential oil as a spot treatment. Its astringent properties have the ability to unblock sebaceous glands, disinfect pores, dry out whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and other blemishes. Clearing out bacteria from pores can help lead to less inflammation and redness from breakouts. (14)

Tea tree oil spot treatments can also be applied to new or irritated piercings to help promote the wound healing process. (15) Using tea tree essential oil for nose piercing bumps is a common remedy. Instead of diluting it with a carrier oil, it's recommended to dilute it with a saline water solution on a cotton swab.

Despite tea tree oil being used to soothe bumps and blemishes, it is important to remember tea tree oil is a powerful natural ingredient. Over-using or under diluting tea tree essential oil can seriously irritate your skin, throw off its pH, and strip away the moisture barrier that protects your skin from photosensitivity and sun damage.

Aside from reducing breakouts, tea tree can also be used in making natural deodorants. Body odor is caused by the “interaction of your naturally-produced proteins with typically harmless bacteria on your skin.” (16) Reducing bacteria on the skin is one method widely used to deodorize the body. All-natural deodorants with tea tree oil may help soothe those who shave their underarms or get frequent ingrown hairs.

Tea tree essential oil has also been used to soothe symptoms associated with razor burn, eczema, skin tags, warts, cold sores, ringworm, and even scabies. (17) For these types of skin conditions, however mild, it is generally recommended to seek treatment from a qualified physician. Tea tree oil and products specially formulated with tea tree oil are known to provide some relief for the conditions above, but it is generally safer to use tea tree oil as relief not treatment or a cure.

Tea Tree Oil For Hair

Great hair starts at the scalp. Flakes from a dry itchy scalp results in unsightly flakes and build up on hair follicles causing a dull or dirty look. Using a shampoo with tea tree oil can help relieve a dry, itchy scalp and leave it feeling tingly and refreshed. Not to mention, a lustrous shine.

A 2002 study showed that after four weeks, 41% of participants saw an overall improvement in their dandruff with shampoos containing 5% tea tree oil. Most people who use tea tree shampoo or conditioner report a cool, invigorating feeling on the scalp and temporary relief as it works to clear up dandruff for the long-term. (18)

Because tea tree oil is known for its antibacterial and antifungal benefits, a common question is “can tea tree oil repel lice too?” Studies show using products with tea tree oil to kill head lice will oftentimes be more effective than shampoos and hair masks without it. (19) Since head lice is extremely contagious, homemade remedies are not recommended as the sole treatment for the problem.

The best way to use tea tree oil for lice is to leave it to the professionals. Hair care products specifically designed to get rid of head lice that are specially formulated with tea tree oil are currently the better option for lice prevention and removal.

Tea Tree Oil For Beards

Just like the hair on your head, beard health depends on the skin underneath the hair. Tea tree oil products, like a good all-natural beard conditioner, can be used to relieve an itchy, dry beard for the same reasons tea tree oil soothes a dry itchy scalp. Tea tree beard oils can help relieve dry itchy skin, remove flaky build up and provide some relief from razor burn symptoms.

Tea Tree Oil For Fungus, Infection, and Bacteria

Research has shown that because of those specific compounds that make up tea tree oil (terpene hydrocarbons, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes) it can be helpful in soothing symptoms from some mild conditions. (20)

Nail Fungus (onychomycosis) is a common condition causing discolored, thick, and crumbly nails. Tea tree essential oil may be effective in helping rid nails of fungus because of its antifungal benefits. (21) Using diluted tea tree oil on toenails is a common practice among athletes and other people who work out often.

Because of its antibacterial properties, diluted tea tree oil may also be useful for cleaning minor cuts and wounds to discourage infection from setting into the skin. (22) Using tea tree oil aromatically may also ease sinus infection symptoms as it can help reduce bacteria growth and temporarily clear a stuffy nose.

While tea tree essential oil is useful in alleviating symptoms associated with fungus, infection, and bacteria it is not a cure all panacea. It is important to always consult your doctor before trying homemade remedies. Essential oils should never be applied directly in or around any delicate areas such as your ears, eyes, nose and mouth.

Tea Tree Oil Precautions

Tea Tree Oil for Dogs

Many people wonder “Is tea tree oil safe for dogs and cats?” or “Can I use tea tree oil for fleas?” And unfortunately, the answer to both those questions is NO. Tea tree oil is not recommended for use on pets.

Essential oils, especially tea tree, eucalyptus, and citronella can be incredibly harmful for pets and possibly kill them. In general, store-bought dog shampoo and flea products that contain tea tree oil can be used on dogs. These products have been specially formulated for use on pets and only contain about .1% to 1% of tea tree oil. (23)

Even if you think you’re a master chemist and can get the dilution ratio just right, we strongly discourage using homemade tea tree oil products on your pet. The slightest mistake in mixing your homemade solution could seriously harm your animal or even lead to death.

Tea Tree Oil for Pregnancy and Feminine Hygiene

It is not recommended to use tea tree oil (or any essential oils for that matter), while pregnant especially without speaking to your doctor first. Using tea tree essential oil for any sort of feminine hygiene routines including treating STIs and yeast infections is very strongly discouraged. Essential oils should never be applied directly in or around any sensitive areas.

Tea Tree For Aromatherapy

artnaturals Tea Tree Oil in 4oz bottle.

The dictionary definition of aromatherapy is “the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage or baths.” However, aromatherapy can be more than this simple definition. More aptly, aromatherapy is the method in which the aromatic essences from plants are naturally extracted and used to balance, and uplift the health of the body, mind, and spirit.

Although humans have been using plant extracts like tea tree oil for thousands of years with the same purpose, the term “aromatherapy” was only coined fairly recently. In fact, essential oil aromatherapy has been used as healing remedy since ancient times. Although it is thought to have originated in China, aromatherapy was also explored by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. (24)

In 1937 French perfumer Rene- Maurice Gattefosse gave the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefit “aromatherapie.” (25) By the time Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapy in 1937, the aboriginals had already been using tea tree oil for health and wellness for thousands of years and European settlers had been intrigued by tea tree oil benefits for around 200 years.

When using tea tree oil for aromatherapy, there are two main ways to reap the benefits. You can use tea tree essential oil with an oil diffuser to alter the mood or feeling of the space. You can also mix a drop of tea tree oil with a carrier oil, place it in your hand, and let your body heat diffuse the aroma as you inhale.

Tea Tree Oil Aromatherapy Blends

Tea tree oil does not have to be diffused on its own for you to reap the benefits. Blending your favorite essential oils can be a lot of fun and help you discover new aromas to diffuse in your home. There are many delightfully scented tea tree blends you can make with other essential oils.

The menthol-like aroma of tea tree oil typically blends really well with floral or citrus essential oils. Some popular essential oils to blend with tea tree oil are lavender, bergamot, lemon, sweet orange, and rosemary. Blending several essential oils will not only allow you to experience the benefits of tea tree oil, but also the unique benefits of each additional essential oil as well.

Diffuser Recipes Featuring Tea Tree Oil

Having trouble coming up with the perfect blend? Well don’t worry because It doesn’t take an essential oil expert to come up with a delicious smelling combination to fill your home. Simply pick your favorites and try them out together! Experiment a little, see what works. Because essential oils are all fragrances derived from nature, you can feel confident that most of the blends you decide to try out will not only smell amazing but help you feel great too.

If you’ve already tried mixing your own but now you’re out of of ideas, we’ve got you covered! Here are a handful of easy tea tree oil diffuser blends to create the perfect atmosphere to match your mood.

Crisp And Clean

Walk In The Woods

Warm And Cozy Winter

  • 4 Drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 2 Drops Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
  • 4 Drops Sweet Orange Essential Oil
  • 4 Drops Frankincense Essential Oil

Breathe Easy

  • 4 Drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 4 Drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 3 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil

Fresh And Fruity

Spring Fling

  • 4 Drops Sweet Orange Essential Oil
  • 4 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 4 Drops Tea Tree Essential Oil

DIY Tea Tree Oil Recipes

DIY essential oil recipes can be used for a variety of beauty and grooming tasks. Tea tree oil recipes are especially versatile homemade all-natural solutions. Important: always test a patch of skin for sensitivity first before totally dousing yourself in any of your DIY treatments.

Tea Tree Foot Scrub

Good for refreshing stinky feet and athlete's foot. After soaking feet in warm water, give them a gentle scrub and rinse to reveal clean and soft skin.

What you'll need:

  • 8oz Jar or plastic container
  • Epsom Salt
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Carrier Oil

Directions:

  1. Pour salt into the container until it is about 3/4 full.
  2. Add enough carrier oil of your choice to completely cover the salt.
  3. Add 8-10 drops of tea tree essential oil.

Tea Tree Hair Mask

Try using a tea tree oil hair mask for the days your hair and scalp need a little extra love and attention.

What you'll need:

  • 4oz Small Jar or Plastic Container
  • Carrier Oil
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil

Directions:

  1. Add the carrier oil of your choice to completely fill your container. (I recommend coconut or jojoba oil for this one)
  2. Add 10 drops of tea tree oil and shake well.
  3. Add a dime to a quarter sized amount (depending on how long or short your hair is) of oil to dry or damp hair and work it in from the ends to your roots.
  4. Leave on for 30 minutes and rinse thoroughly with regular shampoo and conditioner.

Tea Tree Spot Treatment

A natural technique to tackling blemishes and problem spots on your skin without using harsh and harmful chemicals.

What you'll need:

  • Small Shallow Container
  • Carrier Oil
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Cotton Swab

Directions:

  1. Fill a small and shallow container with a carrier oil of your choice. (I recommend using Jojoba oil due to its properties that nearly mimic the oils our skin naturally produces).
  2. Add 4-6 drops of tea tree essential oil and mix well.
  3. Using a cotton swab gently dab the mixture on your blemishes and let it absorb into the skin.
  4. Use as a last step after washing and moisturizing your face.

Tea Tree Surface Refresher

Erase, dirt, grime and bacteria from countertops and bathroom or kitchen tiles while leaving behind the fresh scent of tea tree.

What you'll need:

  • 16 oz Spray Bottle
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • White Distilled Vinegar
  • Distilled Water
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil

Directions:

  1. In your 16 oz spray bottle, add ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and 40 drops of tea tree essential oil and shake well
  2. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar and 3/4 cup of water to the mixture and shake well again.
  3. Use to spray countertops, bathroom tiles, and other surfaces to disinfect and refresh.

Tea Tree Laundry Detergent

Use tea tree oil to give your clothes, bedding, and towels a refreshing natural wash and leave them smelling fresh.

What you'll need:

  • Fels-Naptha (you can find this on amazon)
  • Grated Soap or Soap Flakes
  • Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • Borax
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, add 2 cups of each of the dry ingredients and 20-40 drops of Tea Tree Essential oil until it’s all blended together. (You will still see flecks of the Fels-Naptha so don’t worry about that!)
  2. Take the combined ingredients and add them to an airtight container
  3. Use 1 tablespoon per regular load. Yields about 72 Loads.

Disclaimer:

Tea tree oil and other essential oils are great and can be a lot of fun to experiment with, but you must read all directions and warnings written on the label before attempting to use any essential oils topically or around children and pets. If you’re still not sure about a particular remedy, consult your physician.

References:

  1. http://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/forestsaustralia/profiles/melaleuca-forest
  2. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Melaleuca
  3. https://teatree.org.au/teatree_about_growing.php
  4. http://teatreemelaleuca.com.au/tea-tree/
  5. http://teatreemelaleuca.com.au/tea-tree/
  6. Levitt, Dulcie; Lyon, Ken (1981). Plants and people : aboriginal uses of plants on Groote Eylandt. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. pp. 54–55.
  7. http://www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au/homework-and-study/other-subjects-and-projects/history/discovery-of-australia
  8. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/22857040
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22653070
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
  11. https://www.isiaq.org/docs/PDFs/2309.pdf
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27000386
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314442
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998411
  16. https://www.popsci.com/what-causes-body-odor#page-3
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15148100
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12451368
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480584/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17908343
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15525915
  23. https://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/tea-tree-oil-fleas-it-safe
  24. http://www.aromatherapy.com/history.html
  25. https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/what-is-aromatherapy