Teat tree oil is an essential oil derived from the tea tree, a tree that is indigenous to Australia. It has often been marketed as an effective form of alternative medicine and is very popular with people who prefer natural remedies to medical cures.
Tea Tree Oil May Help Treat Acne
A 2015 Cochrane systematic review by Cao et al looked into several complimentary therapies for acne vulgaris . The review highlighted tea tree oil alongside purified bee venom as being slightly more effective at treating acne than the placebo. Finding that it helped to reduce total skin lesions.
There are many more effective medical interventions for acne, so we’d recommend using them unless you really fancy using tea tree oil!
Tea Tree Oil May Reduce Inflammation
If you have dermatitis or have been bitten by an insect your body’s natural response is to become inflamed. There appears to be limited evidence that tea tree oil may help to reduce inflammation for these issues. However, there does not appear to be any evidence that tea tree oil can reduce inflammation related to sunburn.
A 2002 study in the British Journal of Dermatology found that applying tea tree oil to histamine-induced skin inflammation led to a slight reduction .
The Many Tea Tree Oil False Claims
The problem is that tea tree oil has very little evidence to back any of the claims made about it. It is often used to treat dandruff for example, but most studies have found that it is more likely to cause damage (through skin irritation) than it is to actually have any effect on dandruff! The same conclusion was made by researchers looking into tea tree oil as a head lice removal solution .
Another common claim made is that tea tree oil is effective at fighting infection. Working well to sanitize hands or fight infectious diseases instead of antibiotics. But sadly, the evidence for this simply does not exist. As Carson, Hammer & Riley put it in their review of tea tree oil (2006):
“Despite some progress, there is still a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating efficacy against bacterial, fungal, or viral infections.” .
This means that the effectiveness of tea tree oil as a treatment for athlete’s foot or nail fungus should also be called into question. A 2016 review of natural treatments for nail fungus (onychomycosis) concluded that the researchers could not recommend tea tree oil as an effective treatment until large clinical trials had been undertaken and any effectiveness observed .
One benefit that is mentioned quite a lot is that tea tree oil can improve bad breath when used as part of a “natural” mouthwash rinse (combined with peppermint or cloves etc). However, if swallowed tea tree oil can be toxic. So, this is another example of a health benefit that may in fact be counter intuitive!
There are a few possible benefits (mentioned below), but please bear in mind that there is more evidence that tea tree oil may cause harm – through allergies or toxicity, than there is evidence that it is effective.
The brevity of this article may be a little surprising. Particularly compared to other articles available on the web that list several benefits. However, these benefits have not been proven. In fact, they have been actively denounced by several studies.
Science has not said that tea tree oil has no health benefits, it’s just that there isn’t really much evidence that it does anything special. It may improve acne, but there is also a chance that it could exacerbate the problem.
There is a chance that it works as an effective mouthwash, but the risk of poisoning through accidental swallowing is quite high. There are other, more sensible ways to improve your breath and fight gingivitis.
Studies have found that tea tree oil has no real effect when treating bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, so it is unlikely that tea tree oil is going to be an effective remedy for athlete’s foot!