Introduction

Tea tree is a tree with white flowers. Oil from its leaves has been used to get rid of harmful bacteria. It has also been used to promote healing in skin problems such as wounds and acne. Tea tree is most often applied as an oil, but it is also available as a gel, cream, or ointment.

Dosages

There are no advised doses for tea tree.

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Acne —likely to improve symptoms when used with standard treatment A1, A2

May Be Effective

  • Athlete’s foot —may improve symptoms B1
  • Dandruff —may improve severity and itching C1
  • Eye mites —may ease discomfort and reduce number of mites D1
  • Head lice —may reduce symptoms when used with lavender oil F1
  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) —may heal skin sores J1
  • Onychomycosis —may cure infection K1, K2

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Gingivitis E1
  • Hemorrhoids G1
  • Idiopathic hirsutism (excess unwanted hair growth) H1
  • Molluscum contagiosum I1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to use tea tree oil on the skin, but allergic reactions, skin irritation, and inflammation may happen in some people.L1, L2 Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period.

Interactions

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.

 

References

A. Acne

A1. Cao H, Yang G, et al. Complementary therapies for acne vulgaris. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;1:CD009436.

A2. Enshaieh S, Jooya A, et al. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2007 Jan-Feb;73(1):22-25.

B. Athlete’s Foot

B1. Satchell AC, Saurajen A, et al. Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study. Australas J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;43(3):175-178.

C. Dandruff

C1. Satchell AC, Saurajen A, et al. Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Dec;47(6):852-855.

D. Eye mites

D1. Koo H, Kim TH, et al. Ocular surface discomfort and Demodex: effect of tea tree oil eyelid scrub in Demodex blepharitis. J Korean Med Sci. 2012;27(12):1574-1579.

E. Gingivitis

E1. Soukoulis S, Hirsch R. The effects of a tea tree oil-containing gel on plaque and chronic gingivitis. Aust Dent J. 2004 Jun;49(2):78-83.

F. Head lice

F1. Barker SC, Altman PM. A randomised, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children—melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a “suffocation” product. BMC Dermatol. 2010;10:6.

G. Hemorrhoids

G1. Joksimovic N, Spasovski G, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil and methyl-sulfonyl-methane in a new gel medical device for treatment of haemorrhoids in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Updates Surg. 2012 Sep;64(3):195-201.

H. Idiopathic Hirsutism

H1. Tirabassi G, Giovannini L, et al. Possible efficacy of Lavender and Tea tree oils in the treatment of young women affected by mild idiopathic hirsutism. J Endocrinol Invest. 2013 Jan;36(1):50-54.

I. Molluscum Contagiosum

I1. Markum E, Baillie J. Combination of essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia and iodine in the treatment of molluscum contagiosum in children. J Drugs Dermatol. 2012 Mar;11(3):349-354.

J. MRSA

J1. Dryden MS, Dailly S, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of tea tree topical preparations versus a standard topical regimen for the clearance of MRSA colonization. J Hosp Infect. 2004 Apr;56(4):283-286.

K. Onychomycosis

K1. Buck DS, Nidorf DM, et al. Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole. J Fam Pract. 1994 Jun;38(6):601-605.

K2. Syed TA, Qureshi ZA, et al. Treatment of toenail onychomycosis with 2% butenafine and 5% Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil in cream. Trop Med Int Health. 1999 Apr;4(4):284-287.

L. Safety

L1. Rubel DM, Freeman S, et al. Tea tree oil allergy: what is the offending agent? Report of three cases of tea tree oil allergy and review of the literature. Australas J Dermatol. 1998 Nov;39(4):244-247.

L2. Posadzki P, Alotaibi A, et al. Adverse effects of aromatherapy: a systematic review of case reports and case series. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2012 Jan 1;24(3):147-161.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 3/27/2020