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Tea tree oil: benefits, uses and side effects

Siski Green / 11 January 2021

Tea tree oil is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It is a remedy for cuts, bites, blisters and acne. This potent antibacterial extract has become ubiquitous in healthcare products and beauty products too.

Tea Tree plantation
Tea Tree oil is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It is a remedy for cuts, bites, blisters and acne

What is tea tree used for?

Because of its anti-bacterial properties tea tree oil is used for a huge array of problems, including acne, nail fungus, insect bites, dandruff, as well as a decongestant.

What’s the history of tea tree?

The tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, native to Australia, has been used for centuries by Aborigines, who crushed the leaves to extract the oil and used to treat wounds or inhaled to relieve the symptoms of coughs and colds.

The oil from the tree’s leaves has been available in the UK in various forms for just a few decades. Now, however, it is found in all kinds of beauty and health products, and is a common ingredient in anti-acne products as well as shampoo and insect bite treatments.

What’s the best way to take tea tree?

Tea tree oil is usually 100% undiluted oil and as such is potent. You can also find less concentrated forms which are ideal for your skin. Using undiluted 100% tea tree oil directly on sensitive skin can cause problems, so dilute it with a carrier oil, or with water or aloe vera. Depending on what you are treating you’ll need a different level of potency. If you are treating dandruff, for example, it’s best to use a shampoo containing tea tree oil, rather than applying tea tree directly. However, if treating fungus you may find a more potent dilution of tea tree oil is effective.

Like eucalyptus oil, drops of tea tree oil can be used on hot water and the vapours inhaled to relieve decongestion.

Tea tree oil is not intended to be taken internally.

Does tea tree really work?

Tea tree oil has proven anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. For these reasons it is very effective when used against acne, dandruff, athlete’s foot, lice and nail fungus.

Where can I get tea tree oil?

Tea tree oil is available from healthfood stores, chemists and via online retailers.

How long does tea tree take to work?

For ailments such as insect bites symptom relief should be fairly immediate. Research shows that for nail fungus infections effects should be visible within two weeks of treatment. For treating acne, you should see a difference within days as the tea tree oil helps kill acne-causing bacteria and preventing breakouts.

What are the side effects of taking tea tree?

Some people with sensitive skin may find tea tree oil irritating, which is why it’s important to use a diluted solution or use a carrier of some kind with it (water, oil or aloe vera, for example). When inhaling steam, be aware that you may experience headaches or nausea if you use more than just a few drops of the oil in the water.

Are there any contraindications when taking tea tree?

There is no current evidence of contraindications with other medications.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.