Tea tree oil originates in Australia and has been used for thousands of years by Australian Aborigines. Don't confuse it with the tea plant – tea tree oil comes from the paperbark tree. Since the 1900s, the use of tea tree oil as a powerful antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial has spread worldwide, and the oil is readily accessible at pharmacies and health stores.
Tea tree oil can be applied topically as a remedy for a number of skin and health conditions, particularly when nasty bacteria or fungal infections are involved. What follows are top 10 ways to use tea tree oil.
1. Clear up acne. According to WebMD, applying a 5 percent tea tree oil has been shown to be as effective as common acne treatments containing 5 percent benzoyl peroxide (such as Oxy-5 or Bezac AC). It works more slowly but it is also less irritating on the skin. WebMD recommends applying the gel twice a day for 45 days to reduce acne symptoms.
2. Heal scars. Organic Facts explains that it is the cicatrizant property of tea tree oil that makes it heal wounds quickly and protect them from infections. It even helps to reduce scars and marks on the skin left by acne.
3. Stop smelly feet. You can make foot powder to clear up stinky feet caused by rogue bacteria, according to Healthline. Mix equal parts cornstarch and baking soda to fill half a cup, then add ten drops of the tree oil (and an optional ten drops of lavender oil for the lovely scent!). You can apply the powder directly to your feet and to the soles of your shoes to keep foot odor at bay.
4. Cure fungal nail infections. WebMD recommends full strength (100 percent) tea tree oil for this. Drop the solution onto the affected nail twice daily for up to six months. Studies have shown this to improve the appearance of the nail after about half that time. These results are comparable to common pharmaceutical options such as Fungoid or Lotrimin. However, WebMD advises that a lesser strength oil won't have the same benefit.
5. Have smoother skin. Tea tree oil contains melaleuca oil, according to Organic Facts, which has powerful antioxidant properties and can improve the appearance of age spots and wrinkles.
6. Eliminate ringworm. Many people don't know that ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin and is highly contagious. Medical studies have confirmed that tea tree oil is an effective treatment for ringworm and helps to prevent the spread of the fungus. Natural Living Ideas recommends diluting two or three drops of pure tea tree oil into a carrier oil (almond or olive, for example) and applying it directly to the affected skin, and you can even use it to wipe down personal items that have come into contact with the fungus.
7. Relieve athlete's foot. WebMD recommends a topical application of a mid-strength (25 to 50 percent) tea tree oil solution to cure the fungal infection causing athlete's foot. Moreover, you can use a 10 percent cream for relief of the symptoms of athlete's foot, which include scaling, itching and burning. Tea tree oil diluted to 10 percent has been shown to work as well as common medications such as Genaspor, Tinactin and Ting.
8. Reduce cold and flu symptoms. Tea tree oil provides relief from symptoms associated with coughs, colds and chest infections. Organic Facts recommends rubbing a diluted oil on the chest before bed so you inhale the oil while you're sleeping, or you can even place a drop on your pillow.
9. Banish head lice. Tea tree oil is an effective great natural way to repel head lice, and this is backed up by scientific studies. Tea tree oil is proven to kill lice in both the nymph and adult stages of life and to reduce the number of eggs being hatched. Other studies have even shown tea tree oil to be significantly more effective on children than chemical antilice shampoos. Natural Living Ideas explains that it contains two key elements with natural insecticidal properties, and that it dissolves the gummy substance that glues the eggs to the hair shaft, which makes them easier to comb out. Just don't use it on your pets as the tea tree oil can cause reactions in smaller animals.
10. Strengthen hair. A little diluted tea tree oil applied to the scalp can do wonders for a number of hair conditions. Organic Facts explains that it stimulates blood flow, which is vital for preventing hair loss, encouraging growth and maintaining a healthy scalp.
Tea tree oil has a number of wonderful health benefits, and these are just the beginning. You can use it a drop at a time as needed or dilute it into other carrier oils. It is relatively inexpensive, easy to find and a little goes a long way. Try keeping a little vial of tea tree oil in your bathroom cabinet because you never know when you'll need it.