- Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the tea tree. The tea tree was named by eighteenth century sailors, who made tea that smelled like nutmeg from the leaves of the tree growing on the swampy southeast Australian coast. Do not confuse the tea tree with the unrelated common tea plant that is used to make black and green teas.
- Tea tree oil is applied to the skin (used topically) for infections such as acne, fungal infections of the nail (onychomycosis), lice, scabies, athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), andringworm. It is also used topically as a local antiseptic for cuts and abrasions, for burns, insect bites and stings, boils, vaginal infections, recurrent herpes labialis,toothache, infections of the mouth and nose, sore throat, and for ear infections such as otitis media and otitis externa.
- Some people add it to bath water to treat cough, bronchial congestion, and pulmonary inflammation.
- The chemicals in tea tree oil may kill bacteria and fungus, and reduce allergic skin reactions.
- Tea tree oil is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when put on the skin, but it can cause skin irritation and swelling. In people with acne, it can sometimes cause skin dryness, itching, stinging, burning, and redness.
- Applying products to the skin that contain tea tree oil along with lavender oil might not be safe for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. These products might have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy’s body. In some cases, this has resulted in boys developing abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia. The safety of these products when used by young girls is not known.
- Tea tree oil is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Don’t take tea tree oil by mouth. As a general rule never take undiluted essential oils by mouth due to the possibility of serious side effects. Taking tree tea oil by mouth has caused confusion, inability to walk, unsteadiness, rash, and coma.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Tea tree oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin. However, it is LIKELY UNSAFE if taken by mouth. Ingestion of tea tree oil can be toxic.
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Source: WebMD, “Tea Tree Oil”, http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/