Tea tree oil, is an essential oil that is extracted from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), predominantly found in Queensland. It has been in use in the Australian continent over a 100 years. It is a type of essential oil that has a fresh camphour-like aroma. It has been used since ancient days as a herbal medicine to treat many skin diseases by the native Australians. The tea tree leaves were crushed to extract the oil, and inhaled to fight coughs, colds or used on skin for healing. Presently, it is widely used as a cosmetic product for hair, skin and nails
Tea tree oil is available in the purest form today, 100% pure and undiluted along with some other lower concentration strengths to be used for the skin. Tea tree oil has shown to contain number of substances that exhibit anti-bacterial and anti-fungal functions. These properties of tea tree oil help in combating any bacterial and fungal skin disease and preventing infection.
The following are the benefits of tea tree oil for the skin :
- Natural anti-perspirant : Underarm area on the arm has many glands that are responsible for emitting something called as the ‘body odour’. This wonder oil’s antibacterial property help in reducing underarm odour caused due to perspiration and make it handy to be used as a substitute to other commercially available deodorants and anti-perspirants
- Treating acne : Tea tree oil has gained a lot of popularity in recent times, for its acne fighting properties. A lot of research has been done that shows that 5% tea tree oil solution helps in reducing the amount and overall severity of acne. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil can reduce oiliness on the skin which can lead to reduction in acne breakouts. The antimicrobial function of the oil is due to its capacity to damage the cell wall structure of bacteria. Although many commercial preparations for acne treatment and reduction are available, tea tree oil is one of the most natural remedy that is very effective in acne control
- Hand cleanser : Some of the studies done on tea tree oil have shown that it is has the ability to kill some of the common bacteria and viruses that are known to cause illness such as E. coli and S. pneumoniae, which are potent causes of colds and flus. It makes a good, completely natural cleaner and also aids in sanitizing surfaces that are prone to bacterial invasion
- Disinfectant for wounds : Tea tree oil can be used as an antiseptic for small cuts and bruises by acting against some organisms, known to cause infection on the injury site. It can be mixed with other oils like coconut oil for better healing
- Anti-inflammatory : Evidence has shown that tea tree oil can reduce and prevent the signs and symptoms of skin diseases like dermatitis and relieves any inflammation on the skin. The compound called tepinen-4-ol, a component of tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory capacity. It was found to be more effective than most of the commercially prepared standard medications and topical creams prescribed for the treatment of dermatitis. One of its other ancient use has been in the treatment of inflamed skin, itching and swelling caused by insect bites by causing the release of histamine, a compound involved in local immune activity, to defend against the insect’s secretion
- Enhance wound healing : Along with acting as an antiseptic on wounds and cuts, tea tree oil can also enhance wound healing. Some research has shown that it helps in minimizing inflammation and initiate the action of white blood cells, that are body’s first line of defense in wound healing
- Remedy for athlete’s foot : Tinea pedis, or more commonly known as athlete’s foot, it is a contagious fungal infection seen on the feet which is presented as peeling, cracking and redness. Although antifungal measures are used to combat this condition, research has shown that tea tree oil is an excellent alternative for alleviating symptoms of athlete’s foot
- Antifungal : Candida albicans, is a common yeast, affecting the skin, throat and mouth. There is some evidence to show that terpinen-4-ol in tea tree oil has the capacity to increase the action of an oral antifungal drug for treating resistant strains of Candida albicans
- Alternative for treatment of Psoriasis : Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease that has symptoms of redness and scaly appearance. Since tea tree oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds, it can be combined with other effective carrier oil like coconut oil to relieve symptoms of psoriasis as an alternative measure and home remedy
- Natural mouthwash : There is some research to show that tea tree oil helps in fighting bacteria that are the reason for tooth damage, dental plaque and bad breath. It has to be noted that tea tree oil is toxic if ingested orally and should not be swallowed
A few drops of tea tree oil combined with a toner or moisturizer can be used as a part of routine skincare for reducing oiliness. Tea tree oil has some other benefits apart from its benefits on skin. It is also used as a treatment for tackling dandruff and dry scalp as a part of shampoo formulations.
There are no known adverse side effects of tea tree oil. But it should be noted that tea tree oil is only suggested for topical application and not oral consumption. Oral consumption can cause severe rashes, gastrointestinal abnormalities like stomach ache, nausea and vomiting.
In some people however, tea tree oil can cause skin irritation, itching and dryness. It is also wise to do a patch test on the skin before using it. To be used for people with sensitive skin, it can be diluted with other carrier oils like olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil.
It is recommended to pick a completely natural variety, that is free from additives, with about 10 to 40% terpinen concentration in it, which is the key antiseptic component in tea tree oil. This humble oil is an affordable, natural alternative to many chemical loaded and commercially prepared skin care products with many versatile functions. The initial results are apparent after a few days of frequent use.