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Tea Tree Oil

The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia, Myrtaceae) is a small shrub, native to Australia, with needle-like leaves and yellow or purple flowers.1 The origins of the name are rooted in its use of it’s leaves as a herbal tea (tisane). The tree bark has been referred to as "paperbark" due to the fact that the bark curls off the tree trunk.2 The aboriginal people of Australia have a long history of using tea tree and its essential oil, which is obtained by steam or water distillation from the leaves and twigs.1 Related to eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp., Myrtaceae), tea tree produces a pale, yellow-green essential oil has a scent similar to eucaplyptus2 that is spicy and camphorous.1

Research findings include that the oil is effective against all three infectious organism varieties – bacteria, fungi, and viruses.1 Tea tree oil is also an immuno-stimulant, increasing the body's ability to respond to the presence of these organisms. The oil has been used for athlete's foot, cold sores, acne, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, colds, fever, influenza, and chicken pox.1 Studies have shown that increases in tea tree oil's antiseptic abilities occur when it comes in contact with blood and pus.2

A 2013 article on tea tree oil's use in dermatology covers the chemical compounds of the oil and reviews the oil's use for wheal and flare (a skin eruption that may follow injury or injection of an antigen); as an antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiprotozoal agent; its use in the treatments of acne vulgaris, dermatitis, and wound healing; and its anti-tumor activity and use in treating gingivitis.3 (See HC 081324-487) A randomized pilot trial, also included in this HerbClip issue, has found that tea tree oil in combination with minoxidil was effective in treating androgenic alopecia or hair loss.4 (See HC 081365-487)


1Lawless J. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element Books Ltd.; 1992.

2Keville K, Green M. Aromatherapy – A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1995.

3Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Bagherani N, Kazerouni A. A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology.  Int J Dermatol. 2013;52(7):784-790.

4Sakr FM, Gado AM, Mohammed HR, Adam ANI. Preparation and evaluation of a multimodal minoxidil microemulsion versus minoxidil alone in the treatment of adrogenic alopecia of mixed etiology: A pilot study. Drug Des Devel Ther. May 30, 2013;7:413-423. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S43481.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor