Tea tree essential oil is derived from the tea tree oil tree, and is an amazingly versatile essential oil. The chemicals in tea tree oil may kill bacteria and fungus and reduce allergic skin reactions.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health have rated tea tree oil as possibly effective for such conditions as:
-Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis)– Topical application of a 10% tea tree oil cream was found in medical testing to work about as well as tolnaftate 1% cream (Genaspor, Tinactin, Ting, etc.) in relieving symptoms of athlete’s foot, while a stronger (25 to 50%) tea tree oil cream was found to cure athlete‘s foot infections.
-Fungus infections of the nails (onychomycosis) – Topical application of a 100% tea tree oil solution twice daily for six months was found to completely cure nail fungus infections in about 18% of patients. It improved nail appearance and systems in about 56% of patients after three months of treatment and 60% of patients after six months of treatment. This efficacy level was roughly comparable to twice daily application of clotrimazole 1% solution (Fungoid, Lotrimin, Lotrimin AF).
-Head lice (pediculosis) – Tea tree oil was found to be effective in inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, thereby eliminating pediculosis, in studies reported in the March 2004 issue of the Journal of Pharmacology (as reported in Medline). This is particularly significant as many commercial lice-killing preparations rely on synthetic chemicals to which the lice have gained increasing resistance.
-Mild to moderate acne (acne vulgaris) – Applying a 5% tea tree oil gel was as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-5, Benzac AC, etc.) in eliminating acne symptoms. Tea tree oil generally worked more slowly than benzoyl peroxide, but was also found to be less irritating to facial skin. When it was applied twice daily for 45 days, tea tree oil reduced several acne symptoms, including acne severity.
Tea tree oil is considered to be safe when put on the skin, although it can cause skin dryness when excessively applied or in those with sensitive skin. It is considered to be unsafe when taken by mouth, and oral usage of tea tree oil can result in confusion, inability to walk, and even coma and death.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Tea tree oil is possibly safe (consult your physician) when applied topically to pregnant and lactating women. However, it is considered to be unsafe when taken by mouth under all circumstances.
Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/113.html and J Pharm Pharmacol, 2004 Mar; 56(3); 375-9.