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tea tree plant

© 2018 Steven Foster

A tea tree oil monograph for the home

Latin Name: Melaleuca alternifolia

Common Names: tea tree oil, tea tree, Australian tea tree oil, tea tree essential oil, melaleuca oil

This tea tree oil monograph provides basic information about tea tree oil—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.


Tea Tree Oil Basics

  • Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree and has been used as a traditional medicine for cuts and wounds by the aboriginal people of Australia.
  • Today, tea tree oil is often used externally for various conditions such as acne, athlete’s foot, lice, nail fungus, cuts, and insect bites.
  • Tea tree oil is obtained by steam distillation of tea tree leaves. It is used topically (applied to the skin), and is an ingredient in a variety of skin products.

Tea Tree Oil in Health Research

  • Only a small amount of research has been done on the topical use of tea tree oil for health conditions in people.

Tea Tree Oil Research Summary

  • A limited amount of research indicates that tea tree oil might be helpful for acne, nail fungus, and athlete’s foot.

Tea Tree Oil Safety

  • Tea tree oil should not be swallowed. Taking it orally can cause serious symptoms such as confusion and ataxia (loss of muscle coordination).
  • Most people can use topical products containing tea tree oil without problems, but some people may develop contact dermatitis (an allergic skin rash) or skin irritation on the parts of the body where the product was used.

Tea Tree Oil References

  • Jack AR, Norris PL, Storrs FJ. Allergic contact dermatitis to plant extracts in cosmeticsSeminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2013;32(3):140-146.
  • Tea Tree Oil. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at on April 28, 2015. [Database subscription].

PubMed Articles About Melaleuca alternifolia

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; [1988] – [cited 2018 Apr 5]. Available from:

Casarin, M., Pazinatto, J., Santos, RCV., Zanatta, FB., (2018) Melaleuca alternifolia and its application against dental plaque and periodontal diseases: A systematic review.

This is a systematic review of clinical and laboratory studies evaluating the effect of Melaleuca alternifolia on periodontopathogens, dental plaque, gingivitis, periodontitis, and inflammatory responses. The PubMed, Cochrane, Web of science, Bireme, Lilacs, Prospero, Open Grey, and Clinical Trials databases were searched to identify potentially eligible studies through October 2016. Of 1,654 potentially eligible studies, 25 were included in the systematic review. Their methodology was evaluated through the Cochrane Handbook for clinical studies and the GRADE system for in vivo/in vitro studies. Although clinical studies must be interpreted with caution due to methodological limitations, laboratory studies have found promising results. In vitro evidences showed that M. alternifolia has bactericidal and bacteriostatic effects against the most prevalent periodontopathogens. Clinical studies found comparable effects to chlorhexidine 0.12% in reducing gingival inflammation, although the antiplaque effect was lower. M. alternifolia also showed antioxidant properties, which are beneficial to the host, allied to the reduction on immune-inflammatory responses to pathogens. This systematic review suggests that the M. alternifolia has potential anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can be easily applied to the periodontal tissues. However, further clinical trials are needed to elucidate the clinical relevance of its application.

Casarin, M., Pazinatto, J., Oliveira, LM., Souza, ME., Santos, RCV., Zanatta, FB., (2020) Anti-biofilm and anti-inflammatory effect of a herbal nanoparticle mouthwash: a randomized crossover trial.

Laboratory evidence has demonstrated the antimicrobial effect of Melaleuca alternifolia (MEL) against oral microorganisms. This randomized, double-blind, crossover clinical trial, compared the anti-biofilm and anti-inflammatory effects of MEL nanoparticles with 0.12% chlorhexidine gluconate (CHX) on biofilm-free (BF) and biofilm-covered (BC) surfaces. Before each experimental period, the participants refrained from all oral hygiene practices for 72 hours. The 60 participants were randomly assigned to professional prophylaxis in two quadrants (Q1-Q3 or Q2-Q4), and rinsed with MEL or CHX for four days. The Quigley & Hein plaque index (QHPI), gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) volume, and participants' perceptions were assessed. CHX showed significantly lower mean QHPI on BF (2.65 ± 0.34 vs. 3.34 ± 0.33, p < 0.05) and BC surfaces (2.84 ± 0.37 vs. 3.37 ± 0.33, p < 0.05). Intragroup comparisons indicated reductions in GCF in all the groups, with significant differences only for CHX on BF surfaces (p < 0.05). Intergroup comparisons revealed no significant differences (p > 0.05). Based on individual perceptions, CHX had better taste and biofilm control, but resulted in a greater change in taste. Nevertheless, MEL demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects similar to those of CHX. Further clinical trials testing different protocols, concentrations and follow-up periods are required to establish its clinical application.