The best tea tree oil
While not all natural alternatives to chemical-laden over-the-counter products work, tea tree oil stands out as a highly reliable and trusted remedy for a variety of issues. With a long history of success, not to mention scientific studies to back it up, tea tree oil has strong antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be safely used to treat acne, minor cuts, and other issues. To learn all about the uses of this versatile essential oil, read our concise shopping guide. We've also included our top recommendations, like this therapeutic-grade Australian tea tree oil.
Uses of tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is often called a "medicine cabinet in a bottle" due to its versatile use for the entire household. Derived from the leaves of the native Australian Melaleuca alternifolia plant, tea tree oil has been used for centuries as a cure-all in traditional medicine.
Common uses include:
Acne. Scientific studies suggest that tea tree oil is just as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide treatments. Applied topically, a 5% tea tree oil solution is a chemical-free alternative to popular over-the-counter acne treatments.
Toenail fungus. Studies have also shown that applying tea tree oil directly to fungal infections affecting toenails works just as well as synthetic over-the-counter antifungal products.
Athlete's foot. Diluted tea tree oil will also treat athlete's foot and can relieve the itching, burning, and scaling symptoms associated with the fungal infection.
Cuts and scrapes. Due to its powerful antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is an effective disinfectant that can be applied to minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions.
Insect bites. If you've been bitten or stung by any pests, tea tree oil packs a punch when it comes to relieving itching and irritation with its anti-inflammatory properties. Its antibacterial qualities can also help to prevent infection.
Congestion. If you have a cold or any sort of nasal or bronchial congestion, add a few drops of tea tree oil to boiling water to produce symptom-relieving vapors. When used in a diffuser, tea tree oil may also combat airborne germs.
Bad breath. Gargling with a solution of tea tree oil and water can minimize bad breath and kill odor-causing bacteria. Just be sure not to swallow the mixture.
Hair and scalp. You may see tea tree oil listed as an ingredient in natural anti-dandruff shampoos and scalp treatments. This is because it soothes and treats dry, flaky skin associated with dandruff and other skin conditions.
Household cleaning. Tea tree oil can be added to the laundry to freshen and deodorize a load. It can also be mixed in water with other essential oils and vinegar for a DIY household cleaner. Some consumers diffuse tea tree oil to kill mold.
Considerations when choosing tea tree oil
Be sure to select a product that is 100% pure tea tree or melaleuca oil. Some manufacturers cut their blends with other essential oils, which can limit the potency and benefits of tea tree oil.
The higher the concentration of terpinen-4-ol (the powerful compound responsible for the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil), the more effective it is. Look for a concentration in the range of 10% and 45% -- higher concentrations have most likely been chemically modified.
Tea tree oil features
If you're applying tea tree oil topically, opt for an organic product. Not only do organic products keep you safe from unwanted exposure to agrochemicals, but they also tend to have higher purity and higher concentrations of terpinen-4-ol.
Choose a tea tree oil that comes in a dark bottle to prevent oxidation and a reduction of potency. Light exposure can also increase its levels of para-cymene, which can cause skin irritation.
Tea tree oil prices
Tea tree oils typically come in bottles as small as 0.33 ounces and as large as 16 ounces. For a four-ounce bottle, you can expect to pay between $10 and $30 -- or $2.50 to $7.50 an ounce.
Q. How do I use tea tree oil to treat acne?
A. Tea tree oil works well as a spot treatment. Simply dip a cotton swab in your bottle of tea tree oil and gently dab it onto blemishes. Repeat two or three times daily.
Q. Can tea tree oil be ingested for medicinal purposes?
A. No -- this can lead to serious conditions like severe stomach aches, hallucinations, drowsiness, and even comas. You should also never use tea tree oil on babies under six months of age.
Tea tree oils we recommend
Best of the best: ArtNaturals Tea Tree Essential Oil, 4 oz.
Our take: An authentic Australian tea tree oil that's 100% pure.
What we like: This tea tree oil, which includes a dropper, is sourced from Australia where the best quality tea tree is grown. Unadulterated, therapeutic-grade formula.
What we dislike: Bottle leaks for a small minority of users.
Best bang for your buck: Sun Essential Oils Tea Tree Oil, 4 oz.
Our take: A starter-priced tea tree oil for consumers on a budget.
What we like: Good value. Comes with dropper. Helps with pain relief and can be mixed with a carrier oil for medicinal massage.
What we dislike: May not be a 100% pure blend of tea tree oil.
Our take: An ultra-pure product perfect for diffusers and topical treatments.
What we like: 100% pure formula. Convenient dropper cap. Effective on skin and fungal conditions.
What we dislike: Small bottle comes at a high price point.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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