Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a popular additive to many health and beauty products because of the properties it contains. I thought you might wish to know a little more about tea tree oil.
It is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of  Melaleuca alternifolia and is purported to have antiseptic properties and used traditionally to prevent and treat infections. There have been many small scale laboratory studies done that demonstrate that this oil truly does some antimicrobial properties; human studies have focused mostly on fungal infections, such as that of the nails, athelete's foot, acne and vaginal infections.

On the down side, tea tree oil should not be ingested, so extra care should be taken if used inside or near the mouth due to reports of toxicity. It can also cause some mild skin irritation if used in high concentration directly on the skin.

Here are what some scientific studies have shown that tea tree oil can do:

Acne: Tea tree oil may reduce the number of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions.

Allergic Skin Reactions: Tea tree oil applied to the skin may reduce histamine-induced inflammation. Although it may, as mentioned before, can CAUSE skin irritation if used in too high concentration or on people who have a sensitivity to tea tree oil.

Athelete's Foot: Tea tree oil may have activity against several fungal species.

Bad Breath: Tea tree oil is used in mouthwash for dental and oral health. However, tea tree oil can be toxic when taken by mouth and therefore should not be swallowed.

Dandruff: The use of 5% tea tree oil shampoo on mild-to-moderate dandruff may be effective and well tolerated. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

Fungal nail infections: Tea tree oil is thought to have activity against several fungus species.

Herpes: Tea tree oil has activity against some viruses, and it has been suggested that a tea tree gel may be useful as a treatment on the skin for genital herpes.
Lice: Early studies have found that tea tree alone or in combination with other agents may be effective against lice.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) chronic infection: Laboratory studies report that tea tree oil has activity against methicillin-resistant  Staphylococcus aureus  (MRSA). Using a tea tree oil ointment in the nose and a tea tree wash on the body may treat colonization by these bacteria. However, this treatment should never take the place of recommended treatments by your MD.

Thrush (candida albicans in the mouth): In laboratory studies, tea tree oil has been shown to kill fungus and yeast such as  Candida albicans.  Tea tree oil can be toxic when taken by mouth and therefore should not be swallowed.

Vaginal infections (bacteria and yeast): Tea tree oil has been shown to kill yeast and certain bacteria .  Although tea tree oil may reduce itching caused by yeast or bacteria, it may also cause itching from dry skin or allergy.

Here is a list of some treatments tea tree oil is used for, based on traditional and theoretical ideologies:

Abscesses, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, antioxidant, antiseptic, body odor, boils, bone diseases (osteomyelitis), bronchial congestion, bruises, burns, canker sores, colds, chronic venous insufficiency, contraction cessation, corns, cough, dermatitis, eczema, gangrene, immune system deficiencies, impetigo, insect bites/stings, leg ulcers, lung inflammation, melanoma, mouth sores, muscle and joint pain, nose and throat irritation, pressure ulcers, psoriasis, ringworm, root canal treatment, rosacea, scabies, sinus infections, skin ailments/infections, sore throat, swelling, tonsillitis, vulvovaginitis, warts, wound healing.

How should tea tree oil be used?
There is no proven effective dose, but a common dose is 5-10% tea tree oil can be applied on the skin daily for up to four weeks. Even though 100% tea tree oil is sometimes used for fungal nail infections, it is often diluted with inactive ingredients. It is strongly recommended that tea tree oil not be taken by mouth due to reports of severe side effects after tea tree oil ingestion, . Tea tree oil solution has been used as a mouthwash, but it should not be swallowed.

Allergies to tea tree oil:
Skin reactions can occur, from mild contact dermatitis to severe blistering rashes. People with a history of allergy to tea tree oil ( Melaleuca alternifolia ), or to plants that are members of the myrtle (Myrtaceae) family, balsam of Peru, or benzoin, should not use tea tree oil. It should also be used cautiously if someone has a known allergy to eucalyptol. Many tea tree preparations often contain this ingredient as well.

This information has been collected from a variety of different sources and not meant to take the place of your own research. Always consult with your MD before using tea tree oil as replacement therapy for conditions where othere treatment has already been recommended.

Now, given all of this information, you may ask if I use tea tree oil in any of my soap and bath and body products? The answer is Yes. Do I recommend the use of my products as a replacement therapy for certain conditions? No. If you happen to receive benefits by using products containing tea tree oil, wonderful! If you experience side effects, stop using the product containing tea tree oil, as you may have a sensitivity to it.