Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia [Maiden & Betche] Cheel)

background

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil is thought to have antiseptic properties and has been used to prevent and treat infections.
Other traditional uses of tea tree oil include treatment of fungal infections (including fungal infections of the nails and athlete's foot), dental health, parasites, skin allergic reactions, and vaginal infections. In addition, there is evidence supporting tea tree oil use for acne; however, further research is needed.
Tea tree oil should not be taken by mouth; there are reports of toxicity after consuming tea tree oil by mouth. When applied to the skin, tea tree oil is reported to be mildly irritating and has been associated with the development of an allergic skin reaction, which may limit its potential as an agent for the skin in some people.

Related Terms

1,8-cineole, alpha-terpineol, ascaridole, Australian tea tree oil, Bogaskin® (veterinary formulation), breathaway, Burnaid®, cymene, gamma-terpinen, malaleuca, Melaleuca alternifolia, Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel, Melaleuca alternifolia Hydrogel® (burn dressing), melaleuca oil, melaleucae, oil of mela-leuca, oleum, Oleum melaleucae, T36-C7, Tebodont®, teebaum, terpinen, terpinen-4-ol, terpinenol-4, ti tree, TTO.
Select combination products: Tebodont®, Polytoxinol™
Note: Tea tree oil should not be confused with cajeput oil, niauouli oil, kanuka oil, or manuka oil obtained from other Melaleuca species.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Acne (Grade: B)
Although available in many products, little information is available from human studies to evaluate the benefit of tea tree oil used on the skin for the treatment of acne. Tea tree oil may reduce the number of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions.
Allergic skin reactions (Grade: C)
Early small studies show that tea tree oil applied to this skin may reduce histamine-induced inflammation. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Athlete's foot (Grade: C)
Early studies report that tea tree oil may have activity against several fungal species. However, at this time there is not enough information to make conclusions for or against the use of tea tree oil on the skin for this condition.
Bad breath (Grade: C)
Tea tree oil is used in mouthwash for dental and oral health. However, there is currently insufficient evidence in humans to make a conclusion for or against this use of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil can be toxic when taken by mouth and therefore should not be swallowed.
Dandruff (Grade: C)
Early research reports that the use of 5% tea tree oil shampoo on mild-to-moderate dandruff may be effective and well tolerated. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Dental plaque/gingivitis (Grade: C)
Study results on the effects of tea tree oil mouthwash on gum inflammation and plaque are mixed. Further research is needed before a strong conclusion can be drawn.
Eye infections (Grade: C)
Early studies found that tea tree oil helped rid the eye area of an infection caused by ocular parasitic mites. Large, well-designed clinical trials are needed before a strong conclusion can be made.
Fungal nail infection (onychomycosis) (Grade: C)
Although tea tree oil is thought to have activity against several fungus species, there is not enough information to make conclusions for or against the use of tea tree oil on the skin for this condition.
Genital herpes (Grade: C)
Laboratory studies show that tea tree oil has activity against some viruses, and it has been suggested that a tea tree gel may be useful as a treatment on the skin for genital herpes. However, there is currently not enough information to make a conclusion for or against this use of tea tree oil.
Hemorrhoids (Grade: C)
In early research, a gel with tea tree oil decreased symptoms of hemorrhoids. More studies are needed.
Lice (Grade: C)
Early studies have found that tea tree alone or in combination with other agents may be effective against lice. However, large, well-designed trials are still needed before a strong conclusion can be made.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection (Grade: C)
Laboratory studies report that tea tree oil has activity against methicillin-resistant
Skin infections (viral) (Grade: C)
A study comparing tea tree oil and iodine in treating children with
Thrush (Candida albicans of the mouth) (Grade: C)
In laboratory studies, tea tree oil has been shown to kill fungus and yeast such as
Vaginal infections (yeast and bacteria) (Grade: C)
In laboratory studies, tea tree oil has been shown to kill yeast and certain bacteria
Wound healing (Grade: C)
Tea tree oil has been studied for its ability to absorb odors and to be used in the dressing of wounds. In lower-quality human studies of non-healing wounds, the addition of tea tree oil to the treatment resulted in the healing of the wound. Further research is needed for conclusions to be reached.