Essential Oil Profile: Tea Tree

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Essential Oil Profile: Tea Tree
Image Credit: By Tangopaso [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Latin Name: Melaleuca alternifolia
Plant Family: Myrtaceae
Plant Part Used: Leaves
Extraction Method: steam distillation
Scent: Medicinal, camphor-like aroma
Color: Clear to pale yellow
Viscosity: Thin
Shelf Life: 2 years
Max Dermal Use Level: 15%
Notes (Perfume): Top (to Middle)
Phototoxic: No
Safe for Kids: Yes
Safe for Pregnancy: Yes
Safe for Breastfeeding: Yes
Safe for Ingestion: No
Chemical Families: monoterpenols, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes
Primary Chemical Constituents: Terpinene-4-ol, y-Terpinene, a-Terpinene, Terpinolene, 1,8-Cineole, a-Terpineol, p-Cymene, a-Pinene

Blends well with:

(Worwood, 2016, p. 626)

bergamot, black pepper, chamomile german, chamomile roman, elemi, eucalyptus lemon, eucalyptus radiata, fragonia, geranium, ho wood, lavandin, lavender, lemon, manuka, orange (sweet), palmarosa, peppermint, ravensara, rosemary, tangerine

General Information

Tea tree essential oil is distilled from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) which is native to Australia. It is believed that the name “tea tree” was coined by Captain James Cook, a British explorer, who used the leaves of this tree to make a tea. For many generations, the Aboriginal people of Australia have used tea tree as a natural treatment for cuts and wounds due to its antiseptic properties. It is also for the same reason that military personnel during World War II included tea tree oil as part of their first aid kit to be used for disinfecting wounds.

Therapeutic Properties

(Worwood, 2016, p. 626)

Antibacterial – prevents and kills bacteria

Antifungal – prevents the growth of fungi

Antiseptic – prevents and kills microorganisms which include bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa

Antiviral – prevents the growth of viruses

Decongestant – reduces nasal congestion

Immunostimulant - stimulates the immune system

Vulnerary – heals wounds

Uses and Benefits

Heals Cuts and Wounds

Tea tree oil is best known for its antibacterial properties that’s why it is often use to treat cuts and wounds in order to prevent infection and to promote healing. Dilute 1 – 2 drops of tea tree oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil, soak a cotton ball in the solution and dab on the affected areas twice a day until the wound closes.

Treat Acne

Tea tree essential oil has an ability to prevent and fight pimple-causing bacteria, so you can combine it with lavender or sweet orange essential oil to create a facial serum for people with oily and/or acne-prone skin.

Disinfect Room and Surfaces

You can make your own antibacterial spray with tea tree oil that you can use to disinfect room, surfaces (e.g. kitchen countertop), yoga mat and toys. The formula is simple: 25% ethyl alcohol (190 proof / 95%) + 73% distilled water + 2% tea tree essential oil.

Triclosan-Free Hand Sanitizer

Most hand sanitizers available in the market contain an antibacterial agent called triclosan. Some studies say that frequent exposure to triclosan might contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. For a safer alternative to triclosan, you can make your own hand sanitizer using tea tree essential oil.

Relieve Cold Symptoms

Tea tree essential oil has antiviral properties so it can be used to fight or prevent the symptoms of common cold which is caused by many different viruses. The best method for treating colds with tea tree oil is through inhalation (e.g. via diffuser or steam inhalation) which can help decongest nasal passages.

Treat Dandruff

Because of its antifungal properties, tea tree essential oil is said to be effective in treating dandruff which is caused by a fungus called Malassezia. In fact, this clinical study shows that daily use of shampoo with 5% tea tree oil for 4 weeks can reduce dandruff by 41%.

Safety Information
  • No known contraindication with any medical drugs, procedures and conditions.
  • Tea tree essential oil should not be taken orally because it is toxic when swallowed.
  • Tea tree essential oil can cause skin sensitization to some people, most especially at high concentration. Even though its maximum dermal limit is 15%, cosmetic regulatory agencies recommend using maximum of 1% for cosmetic products that are used daily on the skin (e.g. moisturizer).
  • Oxidized tea tree essential oil should not be used as it can cause skin sensitization (Tisserand & Young, 2014).

Tea Tree Essential Oil. Retrieved from

Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety (2nd ed.). London: Elsevier.

Worwood, V.A. (2016). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Novato, CA: New World Library.

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