The uses for tea tree oil are generally antiseptic and anti-fungal. Tea tree oil is believed to have a long history of medicinal use among the aboriginal peoples of Australia. The oil is generally made from the leaves of the tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, and it has been used externally to treat viral, fungal, and bacterial infections including athlete’s foot, herpes, acne, dandruff, and warts. Tea tree oil is also believed capable of boosting the immune system and improving respiratory complaints. It can cause serious side effects if used internally, and is not considered suitable for pregnant women or children.
The leaves of the tea tree generally contain plant chemicals known as terpenoids. Researchers believe that the terpenoids in tea tree leaves give the oil its medicinal properties. The oil is typically extracted by first steaming and then crushing the fresh leaves.
One of the primary uses for tea tree oil may be as a first-aid remedy for burns, wounds, and minor skin irritations. Tea tree oil can be used to treat insect stings and bites, sunburn, boils, vaginitis, and blisters. Another of the proven uses for tea tree oil is its topical application for the treatment of fungal infection like athlete’s foot or candidiasis.
Tea tree oil mouthwash and toothpastes are believed effective at battling tooth decay and periodontal disease. Tea tree oil can potentially be toxic if swallowed, so these products are generally only considered safe if the user always takes care to spit them out. They are not generally deemed appropriate for young children.
As an ingredient in soaps, shampoos, and ointments, tea tree oil can treat dandruff, oily skin, psoriasis, and eczema. Tea tree oil is generally considered an effective remedy for most minor skin rashes. Shampoos containing at least a five percent concentration of tea tree oil may help to eliminate infestations of head lice.
The uses for tea tree oil also include inhaling its vapors to soothe respiratory complains. A few drops of the oil can be added to boiling water, and the steam inhaled, each day for several days to relieve minor complaints such as sore throat, cough, and runny nose. Tea tree oil may also help relieve the symptoms of more serious respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and tuberculosis. The regular use of tea tree oil can help boost immunity, and help fight or prevent common viral illnesses such as influenza, chicken pox, shingles, and measles.
Tea tree oil should generally not be used internally, as it can fatally suppress the central nervous system. Symptoms of tea tree oil overdose can include vomiting, diarrhea, lowered immunity, drowsiness, mental confusion, lack of coordination, and coma.