TEA TREE OIL BENEFITS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Tea tree oil is currently enjoying popularity as a 'cure-all' for a variety of skin conditions, from
infections to psoriasia. [7] In addition, tea tree oil or Melaleuca oil is a popular ingredient in
many over-the-counter healthcare and cosmetic products. With the explosion of the natural
and alternative medicine industry, more and more people are using products containing tea
tree oil. [1] It has also been investigated as an alternative antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
and anti-cancer agent. [2]

Tea tree oil is extracted by steam distillation of Melaleuca alternifolia leaves. Tea tree oil has
been suggested to use in infection prevention as it may have antiseptic properties. A few
studies demonstrated its antimicrobial and antifungal activities. Some studies suggested its
benefits in conditions including onychomycosis, tinea pedis, acne, and vaginal infections. Its
active ingredient is Terpinen-4-ol and oral ingestion of tea tree oil may be toxic. Topical
application may cause allergic reaction and dermatitis to some people. Otherwise, side
effects are limited for normal usage on skin. Related products include Bogaskin®
(veterinary formulation), breathaway, Burnaid®, Melaleuca Alternifolia Hydrogel® (burn
dressing), Tebodont® etc.

Health Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has anti-bacterial activities.
Martin KW and Ernst E from Universities of Exeter and Plymouth reviewed various herbal
medicines for treatment of bacterial infections. They concluded the benefits of tea tree oil
preparations in two studies on acne and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus equivalent to
conventional methods. [10]

Tea tree oil has anti-fungi effects.
Martin KW and Ernst E. from Universities of Exeter and Plymouth reviewed four clinical trials
of tea tree oil preparations. They found some positive outcomes attributed to the intervention
of these preparation on  fungi infections. Solanum species (two trials) and oil of bitter orange
preparations (one trial) were compared with conventional treatments. In all cases
encouraging results were reported. There are few controlled clinical trials of herbal antifungal
medicines. The most thoroughly clinically tested is tea tree oil, which holds some promise. All
herbal remedies require further investigation in rigorous clinical trials.

Tea tree oil may benefit infected wound healing?
Tea tree oil has been effective as an adjunctive therapy in treating osteomyelitis and infected
chronic wounds in case studies and small clinical trials. [11] There is a need for larger clinical
trials to further examine efficacy of tea tree oil as an adjunctive wound therapy, as well as
improved guidelines for developing plant-based medicines. [11]

Tea tree oil and its active ingredient may have anti-cancer activities.
Tea tree oil and terpinen-4-ol are found to be able to impair the growth of human M14
melanoma cells and appear to be more effective on their resistant variants, which express
high levels of P-glycoprotein in the plasma membrane. But more studies are needed to
confirm this potential benefit of tea tree oil. [13]

Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil
Anecdotal evidence from almost 80 years of use suggests that the topical use of the oil is
relatively safe, and that adverse events are minor, self-limiting and occasional.  [2,8]
However, it may cause contact dermatitis to severe blisters to some people.  Application of
tea tree oil on skin may lead to skin drying, rash, redness, blistering, and itching. Large
quantities for skin application may cause difficulty walking, weakness, muscle tremor,
slowing of brain function, and poor coordination. [1-9] Oral intake of tea tree oil may cause
severe rash, reduced immune system function, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lethargy,
drowsiness, mouth inflammation, slow or uneven walking, confusion, or coma. Side effects of
oral intake tea tree may also include nausea, unpleasant taste, burning sensation, and bad
breath.

THIS ARTICLE IS FOR YOUR REFERENCE ONLY. CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FOR ANY QUESTIONS. ALL
RIGHTS RESERVED 2008 ZHION
Reference: [1] Hartford O, Zug KA. Tea tree oil. Cutis. 2005 Sep;76(3):178-80. [2] Hammer KA, A review of the
toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil. Food Chem Toxicol. 2006 May;44(5):616-25. Epub 2005 Oct 21.
[3] Willcox M. An evaluation of tea tree oil as an alternative microbicide. Nurs Times. 2005 Mar
15-21;101(11):32-3. [4] Crawford GH, Tea tree oil: cutaneous effects of the extracted oil of Melaleuca
alternifolia. Dermatitis. 2004 Jun;15(2):59-66. [5] Kutting B, Allergic contact dermatitis in children: strategies of
prevention and risk management. Eur J Dermatol. 2004 Mar-Apr;14(2):80-5. [6] Haller CA,  An evaluation of
selected herbal reference texts and comparison to published reports of adverse herbal events. Adverse Drug
React Toxicol Rev. 2002;21(3):143-50. [7] Rubel DM, 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):244-7. [8] Ernst E, Huntley A. Tea tree oil: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Forsch
Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2000 Feb;7(1):17-20. [9] Schempp CM, Plant-induced toxic and allergic
dermatitis (phytodermatitis)] Hautarzt. 2002 Feb;53(2):93-7. [10] Martin KW et al, Herbal medicines for
treatment of bacterial infections: a review of controlled clinical trials.  J Antimicrob Chemother. 2003
Feb;51(2):241-6 [11] Halcon L, Milkus K. Staphylococcus aureus and wounds: a review of tea tree oil as a
promising antimicrobial. Am J Infect Control. 2004 Nov;32(7):402-8. [12] Martin KW and Ernst E. Herbal
medicines for treatment of fungal infections: a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Mycoses. 2004
Apr;47(3-4):87-92. [13] Calcabrini A, Terpinen-4-ol, the main component of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil
inhibits the in vitro growth of human melanoma cells. J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Feb;122(2):349-60
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