Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea Tree Essential Oil is an essential oil, steam-distilled from the Australian native plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, that has been used as a traditional remedy for centuries.
Over the counter acne treatments containing tea tree oil are common and people with acne often turn to complementary and alternative medicine. Hundreds of studies have been conducted to support the benefits of tea tree essential oil in treating various dermatological conditions, including acne.
The main cause of acne is related to bacteria, an excessive production of oil, clogged pores, changing hormones levels, diet, stress, sleep deprivation – causes are varied and multiple. An estimated 70-90% of young adults, males and females, suffer from acne.
1. Studies and research
Melaleuca alternifolia tea tree oil (TTO) was clinically reported to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. (1*)
It was shown to inhibit strongly the growth of different types of microorganisms, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Penicillium italicum Wehmer, and Penicillium digitatum Sacc even in minimum inhibitory concentration and minimum bactericidal concentration. (2*)
Another study that reviewed 35 studies from January 22nd 2014, with a total of 3,227 participants, searching five trials registers, looked into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) solutions for treating acne. Data from a single trial showed potential benefit of tea tree oil compared with placebo in improving total skin lesion counts and acne severity scores. (3*)
The effect of pH on the antimicrobial activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil formulations was studied at various pH values (5.0, 5.5, 6.0, 6.5, and 7.0) using a 5% dilution of tea tree oil. The microbiological evaluation showed that the formulations containing 5% tea tree oil had a maximum effect at pH 5.5. (4*)
In this study, tea tree essential oil was evaluated in treating diseases caused by infectious and inflammatory microorganisms. Several bacteria and fungi were tested (Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus mutans and Escherichia coli). Multiple analyses of microorganism growth confirmed that both essential oils significantly inhibited the four bacteria. The oils also showed excellent bactericidal qualities with 100% inhibition of the examined bacteria. These promising results indicate that the antimicrobial and antiinflamatory properties of tea tree oil make them candidates for further assessment in treating infections and immune-related diseases. (5*)
Additional safety and precautions should be considered with tea tree essential oil, as tea tree in high concentrations or applied directly to skin was considered too toxic and strong to use. Since very few studies have been done on the safety and toxicity of the Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil, current investigation evaluates the possible genotoxic effects of TTO in human lymphocyte cultures. Results demonstrate that TTO, in the tested concentrations, is not genotoxic in in vitro mammalian cells.(6*)
Other several studies have suggested the uses of TTO for the treatment of acne vulgaris, seborrheic dermatitis and chronic gingivitis. It also accelerates the wound healing process and exhibits anti-skin cancer activity. (7*)
In another review, 6 electronic data bases were searched for evidence that tea tree is popular for various topical applications. 4 trials suggested that TTO could be effective as a treatment of acne and fungal infections. There are promising findings that suggest that TTO is efficient in dermatological conditions and should be investigated more closely. (8*)
2. Potential benefits:
- Dermatologically, to treat acne and dandruff;
- To treat cutaneous infections like cuts and wounds;
- Accelerates the wound healing process;
- Use for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis and chronic gingivitis;
- Inhaled vapors treat respiratory illness and discomfort;
- Strong antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, good for cleaning and disinfecting your home;
- Natural deodorizer for personal use and laundry;
- Inhibits strongly the growth of different types of microorganisms.
3. How to use tea tree essential oil for acneTopical use
To use tea tree essential oil for acne treatment, apply 2-3 drops of oil topically to the area of concern. It can be applied directly to the affected area, but can also be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut, almond, jojoba etc, especially if you have sensitive skin or if you want a gentler approach. Tea tree oil can also be added to your face or body gel.
4. Safety and precautions
Besides considering the general safety precautions applicable for all essential oils (click here), you should take the following concerns with lavender essential oil in particular:
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight when treating acne with essential oils, as the UV rays can leave your skin prone to irritations. If tea tree essential oil is too harsh for your skin, try using a gentler oil like lavender instead.
- Also, use the essential oil only at night, to avoid sun exposure that is causing sensibility to your skin. Only apply tea tree oil on the affected spot, never on your entire face.
- If it burns or dries out your skin, stop using it.
Studies and Research:
- In Vitro Antimicrobial Activities of Commercially Available Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Essential Oils.
- In Vitro Evaluation of Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Melaleuca alternifolia Essential Oil.
- Complementary therapies for acne vulgaris.
- Formulation and evaluation of an effective pH balanced topical antimicrobial product containing tea tree oil.
- Investigations of kanuka and manuka essential oils for in vitro treatment of disease and cellular inflammation caused by infectious microorganisms.
- In vitro genotoxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil in human lymphocytes.
- A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology.
- Tea tree oil: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.