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Tea tree oil for skin problems

Tea tree oil is an inexpensive essential oil which has strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. This means it can calm and help fight bacterial, viral and fungal skin infections.

There are close to 300 varieties of tea tree but only one produces the medicinal oil which as long ago as 1922 was reported as being an effective antiseptic.

With its distinctive clean smelling scent, it can be used topically (put directly onto the skin) for a variety of conditions including:

Acne – Tea tree oil is probably best known as a treatment for acne. There is some scientific evidence to support this. A 1990 study published in the Medical Journal of Australia reported that a solution of 5% tea tree oil treated acne just as well as 5% benzoyl peroxide. It may be slower to show benefits but tea tree oil is said to result in less itching, scaling and irritation.

Athlete's foot – Fungal feet infections have, in a trial, improved with tea tree oil. Also, fungal toenail infections treated with the antifungal butenafine hydrochloride and tea tree oil cure 80% of patients.

Burns – It can ease the pain of burns including sunburn. Tea tree oil hydrogel seems to be effective in cooling burns and increasing the rate of healing even if it isn't used immediately.

Warts - It can heal hand warts which have been caused by the human papillomavirus ( HPV).

Skin cancer - 10% tea tree oil/dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) has been shown to slow the growth of subcutaneous melanomas. The anti-tumour activity of tree oil is mostly down to its main active component, terpinen-4-ol, which interferes with the growth migration, and invasion processes of drug-sensitive and drug-resistant melanoma cells.

Cold sores – it's said to relieve the pain of cold sores and speed up healing. It works best against the virus which causes cold sores if it is used before the virus is absorbed into the host cell.

Tea tree oil is also used as an antiseptic for cuts and abrasions, insect bites and stings and boils.

It is reported to have been used on verrucas, abscesses, psoriasis and ringworm.


Tea tree oil isn't for everyone and it can cause adverse reactions, especially at higher concentrations. Always follow the instructions on the label and if irritation, redness, blistering or swelling occurs you should stop using it immediately.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 05, 2016

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