I love essential oils for many reasons, both medical and aesthetic, and while there are literally hundreds of them, some of which I even include in my own skincare products, my favorite is Tea Tree Oil. Today I’ll tell you why.
Tea Tree Oil, which is obtained from a small tree in Australia, is one of the most potent anti-infectious essential oils. It also has mild anti-inflammatory powers. I just love it. Its main use is as a topical, anti infective ingredient. It’s unusual amongst essential oils because it’s active against all three major classes of infectious agents: bacteria, viruses and fungi. In fact, tea tree oil can kill many germs on contact. This makes it an antiseptic, like betadine, iodine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorhexidine. Now, while it can be used as the only active ingredient to treat different types of skin infections, I like to combine it with other anti infective ingredients to get a synergy amongst the ingredients, which makes it even more potent, especially when treating minor bacterial skin infections.
As an antibacterial and anti inflammatory ingredient, tea tree oil is very useful for treating inflammatory acne pimples. In a clinical trial of 60 people with mild to moderate acne, participants were treated with placebo or 5% tea tree oil gel. The tea tree oil gel was significantly more effective than placebo at reducing both the number of acne lesions and their severity. Tea tree oil is also useful for treating common fungal infections like athletes foot. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 158 people with athlete’s foot were treated with tea tree oil solution or placebo. About 60% of the tea tree treated patients were cured while only 30% of the placebo treated patients got better. That’s a meaningful difference.
While tea tree oil can be used for a lot of other problems, I’ll just mention that it’s also pretty good at helping dandruff.
The downsides? To some people, its Tea Tree Oil’s aroma, which has been described as both spicy and pungent. So in most products, large concentrations aren't used, which may limit its effectiveness. I however have found the aroma in lower concentrations to be a fair trade off for its efficacy!
So, just in case you couldn't tell, I’m a big fan of topical essential oils, especially Tea Tree Oil.