Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Tea Tree Oil: Medical Uses

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is also used for acne.

Historical Uses

In folklore, tea tree oil has been used for its antiseptic effects and to treat fungal infections and coughs. During World War II, 1 percent tea tree oil was used to prevent skin injuries in munitions factory workers in Australia.


A tea tree is a small tree or shrub with heads of stalkless yellow or purplish flowers.

Part Used

• Leaves, extracted by steam or water distillation.

Major Chemical Compounds

• Linalool

• Terpinolene

• Alpha-terpineol, made up of primarily monoterpenes and alcohols.

Tea Tree Oil: Clinical Uses

Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties and antifungal properties. It also is used for acne and herpes simplex.

Mechanism of Action

Major chemical compounds in tea tree oil are active against Candida albicans (), trichophytons, Staphylococcus aureus, and Trichomonas vaginalis ().

Tea Tree Oil: Dosage

Acne: Use a swab to apply directly to acne cysts twice daily. Avoid the eye area.

Onychomycosis: Use a swab to apply to fingernails or toenails twice daily. Avoid getting oil on the skin.


• Tea tree oil should not be taken internally.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Tea tree oil is not for use during pregnancy.

Summary of Studies

Carson et al. (1995). This in vitro study showed that methicilrin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was susceptible to tea tree oil.

Buck et al. (1994). This double-blind, multicenter trial involving 117 patients with chronic toe-nail onychomycosis caused by Trichophyton compared pure tea tree oil with 1 percent clotri-mazole solution. Results: tea tree oil compared favorably with clotrimazole over a 6-month time period.

Bassett et al. (1990). This 3-month, randomized clinical trial included 124 patients with mild to moderate acne who used either tea tree oil 5 percent or 5 percent benzoyl peroxide in water-based gel and lotion. Results: Both treatments significantly reduced the number of lesions. Tea tree oil took longer to act, but it caused less irritating side effects.

Pena (1962). In this study, patients applied tea tree oil 40 percent in 13 percent isopropyl alcohol on a tampon along with daily vaginal douches and office visits. Results: Tea tree oil was as effective as antitrichomonal suppositories. Vaginal candidiasis also resolved.

Ernst & Huntley (2000). In a review of randomized trials using tea tree oil, “evidence is promising for treatment of acne and fungal infection.”


• Do not take tea tree oil internally.

• Do not use tea tree oil during pregnancy or when breast-feeding.

• Do not use tea tree oil near the eyes.

Tea Tree Oil: Recipes

Tea tree oil can be used as a disinfectant for house cleaning. Add 50 drops of essential oil to your usual laundry detergent in the washing machine, or add it to a bucket of warm water for washing the floor.