En Español (Spanish Version) Melaleuca alternifolia
Principal Proposed Uses
Other Proposed Uses
Captain Cook named this tree after finding that its aromatic, resinous leaves made a satisfying substitute for proper tea. One hundred and fifty years later, an Australian government chemist named A.R. Penfold studied tea tree leaves and discovered their antiseptic properties. Tea tree oil subsequently became a standard treatment in Australia for the prevention and treatment of wound infections. During World War II, the Australian government classified tea tree oil as an essential commodity and exempted producers from military service.
However, tea tree oil fell out of favor when antibiotics became widely available.
Tea tree oil can kill many bacteria, viruses, and fungi on contact.1,2,12 This makes it an antiseptic, like betadine, hydrogen peroxide, and many other essential oils. It is not an antibiotic in the common sense, because an antibiotic is absorbed throughout the body.
Tea tree oil may be as effective as standard antiseptics for removing resistant strains of staph bacteria from the skin of hospitalized patients.16-18Note: This does not mean tea tree oil is effective as an antibiotic for staph bacteria. It is an antiseptic. Antiseptics work on the surface of the body, while antibiotics work from within.
Additionally, tea tree oil has been proposed as a treatment for vaginal infections, thrush, and oral herpes(cold sores).1,6,7,12 However, there is no reliable evidence to indicate that it is effective for these purposes.
Last reviewedSeptember 2014by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.