The Truth About Tea Tree Oil and Its Benefits

The Truth About Tea Tree Oil and Its Benefits

Found in a myriad of skincare and haircare products, tea tree oil is best known for its purifying properties and can be used to purify and keep your skin, hair and nails healthy. This little concoction holds a host of scientifically-backed benefits and is inexpensive. Read on for how you can benefit from tea tree oil and use it safely and effectively.

What is tea tree oil and how does it work?

Used by the aboriginal people of Australia for centuries, tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a small tree native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Found naturally along streams and wetland areas, Melaleuca alternifolia is not similar to the plant which leaves are used to make black, green and oolong tea. The native Australians utilised tea tree leaves by crushing it to extract the oil and proceeded to inhale it as a remedy for coughs and colds and applied it on the skin for healing. 

Tea tree oil is widespread today, available in 100% undiluted form that ranges from 5–50% strength, found in products designed for the skin. This particular oil is used for its purifying properties, thanks to a compound named terpinen-4-ol, which eliminates certain bacteria, viruses and fungi. Terpinen-4-ol also creates a surge of white blood cell activity, which defends the body against foreign invaders and helps fight germs. These germ-fighting properties make tea tree oil a natural arsenal against bacterial and fungal skin conditions, subsequently preventing infection and promoting healing. Following are how you employ and benefit from tea tree oil.

Hand sanitiser

On your next hand sanitiser haul, consider a tea tree infused one instead, which makes a perfect natural sanitiser. This is backed by studies that revealed results of tea tree oil killing common bacteria and illness-causing viruses, including E. coli, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae. Research suggests that incorporating tea tree oil to hand wash and cleansers promotes its effectiveness against E. coli. In addition, various studies continue to validate the efficacy of hand sanitisers with tea tree oil for hand disinfection and killing bacteria without antibiotics.

Insect repellent

Boasting antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil has been touted to keep pesky insects away, evident in a study on cows that were treated with tea tree oil. The results, after 24 hours, showed that the cows exhibited 61% fewer flies than cows not treated with tea tree oil. Its effectiveness against insects is also why this elixir is used in agriculture, to ward off ants of produce. Should you go hiking and find mosquitoes drawn to you, simply swab on some tea tree oil. Interestingly, a test-tube study showed tea tree oil worked better against mosquitoes compared to DEET, the most common active ingredient in conventional insect repellents.

Natural deodorant

If you have jumped on the natural deodorant bandwagon, you would have probably noticed that tea tree oil is one of the common ingredients. It actually comes as no surprise given the essential oil’s antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, making it an ideal natural alternative to commercial deodorants in the market. It’s important to note that sweat doesn’t produce any odour on its own, however, when the sweat gland is shrouded with bacteria on your skin, it produces a moderate to strong odour.

Disinfect minor cuts and scrapes

Getting cuts and scrapes are part of life and in fact, more common than you think. When you’re injured and your skin broken, the open wound invites germs to enter the bloodstream which can cause infection. In instances like these, you can count on tea tree oil as an antiseptic to disinfect minor cuts by killing S. aureus and other bacteria that promote infection in open wounds.

Promote wound healing

In addition to preventing infection in cuts and abrasions, tea tree oil may also encourage wound healing. Research has shown that tea tree oil helps reduce inflammation and triggers the activity of white blood cells that are instrumental in the healing process. Tea tree oil is a known antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant, and these actions will help reduce inflammation and enhance healing. In a small study of 10 people with wounds, adding tea tree oil to conventional wound treatment led to decreased healing time in all but one participant. A few drops of tea tree oil can be added to wound dressing each time a new dressing is applied.

Fight acne

While benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are tried-and-true acne fighters, tea tree oil is a natural alternative that comes in at a close second. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties serve as a weapon to fight acne. For scientific-proof, studies have shown that tea tree oil can reduce the severity of acne. How? Some acne is caused by bacteria and its natural bacteria-fighting properties can not only hinder the formation of acne but treat flare-ups too. More scientific examination on the topic tea tree oil saw reduced bacteria activity and killed them in the lab after four to six hours.

Banish toenail fungus

Toenail fungal is a widespread infection that is unsightly, but not dangerous by any means. While there are medications to treat this condition, should you prefer the natural route, tea tree oil can single-handedly or together with other natural remedies, banish nail fungus. In a controlled study, subjects with nail fungus were given tea tree oil or an antifungal medication for six months. As the study concluded, approximately 60% of the subjects from each group experienced partial or full healing. To employ tea tree oil, add a few drops or mix it with an equal amount of coconut oil to the affected area. Remember to wash your hands immediately after application to avoid spreading.

Natural mouthwash

Whether you need a deep-cleaning oil rinse, relief from sore gums or simply feeling refreshed through mouthwash, tea tree oil is the way to go. Research suggests that this essential oil can fight tooth decay and mouth-odour-causing germs. Various studies have shown tea tree oil’s effectiveness against plaque-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation of gingivitis. To concoct your own handy chemical-free mouthwash, add droplets of tea tree oil into a cup of warm water, mix it and swish in your mouth for a good 30 seconds or so. Similar to other mouthwashes, tea tree oil can be toxic if swallowed.

All-purpose cleaner

Remember in the aforementioned point on how tea tree oil can banish odours and purify? Well, it can also act as a wonderful all-purpose cleaner that also cleanse and sanitise surfaces. Its plant-derived nature doesn’t leave any traces of unwanted chemicals that you wouldn’t want your children, family or pet to be exposed to.

Soothes irritated skin

There are a myriad of causes that can trigger inflamed and irritated skin, the most common known as dermatitis. When exposed to an allergen such as nickel, almost immediately, red and itchy bumps occur on the skin, which can sometimes be painful. In animal and human research, it has been touted that applying tea tree oil could alleviate the severity of these symptoms. This was also ascertained in another study that compared various treatments and its effects on contact dermatitis, where tea tree oil reduced symptoms by 40%, significantly more than standard medications.

Reduces dandruff

Dandruff, or flaking of dead cells from the scalp can be quite embarrassing especially when it lands on the shoulders. However, it can be annoying and embarrassing for some people. The root cause of dandruff may vary from person to person but one thing is certain — adding tea tree oil to shampoo is a natural way of cleansing your hair while reducing dandruff. Yet again, tea tree oil’s antifungal properties come into play. Use it to fight off the bacteria, viruses and fungi that settle on the hair and scalp from the environment. Research shows that tea tree oil shampoos were successful in hindering the growth of Candida albicans (yeast) which leads to dandruff formation. To reduce dandruff, meld a few drops of tea tree oil to a dollop of shampoo on your hair washing days.