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Tea tree, properties, uses and warnings

June 18, 2023
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Tea tree, properties, uses and warnings

Tea tree has an antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and healing action, it soothes irritations and itching, helps to counteract the fungi that can affect nails and feet, seborrheic dermatitis, acne but also dandruff, useful for the health of teeth and gums

Australian aborigines have always used the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant to treat wounds, burns and insect bites. And luckily for us, the essence of this plant is nowadays available in every herbalist's shop, pharmacy and specialized shop, known under the name of tea tree essential oil. This essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and young twigs of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, it has a characteristic camphoraceous odor and contains more than 100 different compounds, which combine to give it the analgesic, antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties for which it is famous. Today we will analyze the results of the most interesting scientific studies to understand the benefits, applications and risks of this essential oil that you should always have with you.

Tea tree against nail and foot fungus

Tea tree oil has proven effective against onychomycosis, or nail mycosis caused by fungi. Nail mycosis is a very common condition, which affects up to 13% of the population, it is not dangerous even if it represents a non-negligible aesthetic problem, since it alters the nail, deforming it, changing its color, even causing it to lift and crumbling. Nail fungus is difficult to eradicate and currently the treatment offer varies from medicines to be taken by mouth, which however can cause side effects on the skin and liver, to local treatments. Tea tree oil falls into the latter category. Tea tree oil is a powerful antifungal, capable of counteracting the proliferation of different types of fungus, including the main causes of onychomycosis such as Trichophyton rubrum and Candida albicans (Hammer et al, J Antimicrob Chemother, 2004 - Flores et al al, Mycopathologia, 2013). A study carried out a few years ago showed that the application of pure tea tree essential oil twice a day for 6 months on the nails affected by mycosis led, in more than half of the research participants, to the resolution of the problem or in any case to an important improvement, comparable to that of a cream containing clotrimazole, which is an antifungal used to eliminate fungi that can affect the hands, feet and nails (Buck et al, J Fam Pract, 1994).

Therefore, against nail fungus you can try applying a drop of tea tree on the affected nail, twice a day for several months. As the studies say, the results will be visible, and even significant, but we need to be patient.

Then, tea tree oil, according to the indications of the European Medicines Agency, is indicated to bring relief in the case of athlete's foot, a fungal infection that affects the feet and toes, relieving irritation and itching (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023). This is also confirmed by scientific studies, which report that the application of a lotion containing 25% tea tree oil twice a day for a month led to a significant improvement in athlete's foot in 72% of volunteers (Satchell et al, Australas J Dermatol, 2002). You can melt a spoonful of coconut oil in a bain marie, remove from the heat and add 40 drops of tea tree oil, mix and use the lotion thus obtained for multiple applications to combat athlete's foot.

Tea tree for oral health

Studies have shown that tea tree essential oil can be a valid ally against the accumulation of tooth plaque and inflammation of the gums. Results were observed after rinsing the oral cavity with a solution prepared with water and a quantity of tea tree essential oil between 0.2 and 0.5%, 10 drops of tea tree essential oil in about a glass of water (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023 - Singh et al, Evid Based Dent, 2022).

Tea tree against acne

Tea tree essential oil is antimicrobial and can also be used to fight acne. In fact, studies have shown that applying a gel containing 5% tea tree essential oil reduced the number of skin lesions in people with mild to moderate acne. In particular, the gel containing tea tree showed a similar action to lotions containing benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial used in acne treatments, but without the same side effects such as itching and dry skin (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023). You can pour in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, such as jojoba oil, which helps regulate sebum production, 7-8 drops of tea tree essential oil and apply on the skin. Tea tree oil fights acne thanks to its antiseptic action. It is possible to enhance the anti-acne efficacy of the preparation by exploiting the synergy with essential oils, useful for avoiding the obstruction of the sebaceous glands of the skin, such as bergamot, lavender and thyme oil (Nurzyńska-Wierdak et al, Plants, 2023).

Tea tree and dandruff

Is dandruff a problem? Maybe not anymore with tea tree oil. In fact, studies have observed that washing your head daily with a shampoo to which 5% tea tree oil has been added reduces both the severity of this disorder and the extent of areas affected by dandruff (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023 - Satchell et al, J Am Acad Dermatol, 2002). SPAZO Tea tree in case of wounds, dermatitis and insect bites - The use of tea tree also proves to be of help in case of seborrheic dermatitis. In this case, the results were observed after the application, for four weeks, of a gel containing 5% tea tree oil (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023). Tea tree oil also helps in case of insect bites and wounds that are struggling to heal. In these cases, you can add 1-2 drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of a carrier oil, such as jojoba or sunflower oil, and apply to the area. Tea tree oil will help soothe itching, irritation and, in case of wounds, stimulate tissue renewal processes, reducing healing time (Oran et al, J Wound Care, 2023 - Chin et al, J Altern Complement Med, 2013).

Tea tree against cold sores

Tea tree oil has important anti-herpetic, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, useful for counteracting herpes labialis, or cold sore. In particular, tea tree oil reduced healing times and proved effective in counteracting cold sores that were particularly resistant to treatments with acyclovir, an antiviral drug used in the treatment of herpes labialis (Schnitzler et al, HNO , 2011). The recommendation, in this case, is to apply diluted tea tree oil three to four times a day on the lip area affected by herpes. In a tablespoon of a vegetable oil, such as coconut or jojoba, you can add 7-8 drops of tea tree oil.

Tea tree, warnings

In some cases it is possible to use pure tea tree oil, such as when we intend to fight nail fungus. In fact, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of this use. In general, however, it is better to use tea tree oil diluted, in water, as a rinse, or in a carrier oil, as when we apply it to the skin. Avoid contact of tea tree oil, even diluted, with the mucous membranes of the nose as it has proven to be irritating (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023). Due to the absence of studies that testify to its safety in pregnancy and breastfeeding, avoid tea tree essential oil in these phases (Kairey et al, Front Pharmacol, 2023). Finally, tea tree oil should not be ingested but used only for external applications.

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