What is Tea Tree Oil Used For & What are its Safety Limits?
Tea tree oil comes from the leaf of Melaleuca Alternifolia, an evergreen tree. Well known as a powerful antiseptic it can kill bacteria and fungi and has been used as a complementary therapy in surgery, dental surgery and burns. Tea tree’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it an essential oil to be a part of everyone’s medicine cabinet.
Nowadays it is available in numerous skin products such as creams, face wash, lip balms, and essential oils. The compounds present in the tea tree oil may kill bacteria, fungus, and also reduce many allergic reactions(1, 2). The compound Terpinen-4-ol present in it is known to increase the activity of white blood cells, which fight germs and other foreign invaders.(3)
What Is Tea Tree Oil Used For?
Tea tree oil is known to be widely used for skin ailments. The skin ailments include minor cuts, burns, acne, fungal infections, dandruff, lice, herpes and athlete foot. Tea tree is also known to be effective in treating vaginal yeast infections and lung problems (when added to the bath or vaporizer).
Tea tree oil can be used as a hand sanitizer as it kills illness-causing bacteria and virus. A study shows adding tea tree oil to the hand sanitizer boost their effectiveness against E.coli.(4)
Tea tree oil has a great ability to repel mosquito and is found more effective than the standard insecticides and repellents.(5)
It can be used as a safe and natural deodorant because of its ability to fight bacteria. It kills the bacteria responsible for causing body odor.
Tea tree oil can be used as an antiseptic to treat minor cuts and scrapes. It disinfects the wounds by killing the bacteria causing infection in the open wounds. It can also be mixed with coconut oil and applied over the wound.
By triggering the activity of white blood cells it boosts the wound healing.
Several studies support the use of tea tree oil in reducing the amount and severity of acne.(6, 7)
It is a natural source which helps in getting rid of the nail fungus.(8)
It helps bring in relief in psoriasis which is an autoimmune condition. The anti-inflammatory property help in bringing relief in the symptoms of this condition.(9)
Less researched but is known to be effective in the prevention and treatment of various infections.
Safety Limits Of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is considered safe as a topical treatment, as it can be directly applied to the skin. Some people might feel a bit of irritation on the application, but that’s very rare. People with sensitive skin might even develop a rash, and in such cases, a patch test must be done (application of oil on a small patch before using it on a large surface of the skin). It can also be used by diluting with almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil or vegetable oil.
Oral consumption of tea tree oil is not recommended as it is not considered safe. It can produce toxic effects and therefore, also, should be kept out of reach of children.
Taking tea tree by mouth has known to cause inability to walk, unsteadiness, rash, confusion, and coma. A study conducted on dogs and cats showed that when given orally tea tree oil developed tremor and other nervous system problems.(10)
Light, heat, and exposure to moist air can affect the stability of the oil. Therefore, it should always be stored in dark, cool and dry conditions and in a glass container.
Tea tree oil is hazardous if misused and should always be diluted before using, as can bring up allergic reactions in some individual. It should be kept away from children and pets due to the unwanted conditions such as drowsiness, vomiting, unsteadiness, stomach upset and severe rashes arising after its oral intake.
Teat tree oil is a natural treatment for various conditions, but knowing its side effects or limitation, the product should be used with caution.