Uses and Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil traditionally used to treat wounds, burns, and other skin infections. Today, proponents say the oil may benefit conditions from acne to gingivitis, but the research is limited.

Tea tree oil is distilled from Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia. Tea tree oil may be applied directly to the skin, but more commonly, it's diluted with another oil, like almond or olive, before it's applied. Many products like cosmetics and acne treatments include this essential oil in their ingredients. It's also used in aromatherapy.

This article discusses the latest evidence of tea tree oil's benefits and side effects. It also covers common dosages and what to look for when buying it.

Dietary supplements are not regulated the way drugs are in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, they are not necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, talking to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and checking in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications is important.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredients: Terpinen-4-ol, 1, 8-cineole, limonene, p-cymene, and α-terpinene
  • Alternate namesAetheroleum Melaleucae alternifoliae, Melaleuca alternifolia oil
  • Legal status: Over-the-counter supplement in the United States
  • Suggested dose: 5% eyelid wash for blepharitis (red, swollen, irritated eyelids caused by mites)
  • Safety considerations: Do not swallow; limited safety data for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Uses of Tea Tree Oil

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Tea tree oil contains active ingredients called terpenoids, which have antibacterial and antifungal effects. The compound terpinen-4-ol is the most abundant and is thought to be responsible for most of tea tree oil's activity.

Research on the use of tea tree oil is still limited, and its efficacy is unclear. Some evidence suggests that tea tree oil may help conditions like blepharitis, acne, and vaginitis.


Tea tree oil is a first-line treatment for Demodex blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids caused by mites.

Tea tree oil shampoo and face wash can be used at home once daily for mild cases.

For more severe infestations, it's recommended that a 50% concentration of tea tree oil be applied to the eyelids by a healthcare provider at an office visit once a week. This high potency causes the mites to move away from the eyelashes but may cause skin or eye irritation. Lower concentrations, such as a 5% lid scrub, can be applied at home twice daily between appointments to keep the mites from laying eggs.

A systematic review recommended using lower-concentration products to avoid eye irritation. The authors noted no long-term data for tea tree oil for this use, so more clinical trials are needed.


While tea tree oil is a popular ingredient in over-the-counter acne remedies, there's only limited evidence that it works.

A review of six studies of tea tree oil used for acne concluded that it decreased the number of lesions in people with mild to moderate acne. It was also about as effective as traditional treatments like 5% benzoyl peroxide and 2% erythromycin.

And a small trial of only 18 people, an improvement was noted in people with mild to moderate acne who used tea tree oil gel and face wash on the skin twice a day for 12 weeks.

More randomized controlled trials are needed to determine tea tree oil's effect on acne.


Research suggests that tea tree oil is effective in reducing symptoms of vaginal infections like vaginal discharge, pain, and itching.

In one study involving 210 patients with vaginitis, 200 milligrams (mg) of tea tree oil was given as a vaginal suppository each night at bedtime for five nights. The tea tree oil was more effective in reducing symptoms than other herbal preparations or probiotics.

Some limitations of this study were the short duration of treatment and the exclusion of women who were taking antibiotics or had chronic illnesses. For now, it's best to stick with traditional treatments like antibiotics or antifungal creams.

Additional Uses

In addition, tea tree oil has been studied for the following conditions:

Only very limited research exists on the effects of tea tree oil for these uses. More robust clinical trials are needed to determine if tea tree oil is beneficial for any of them.

What Are the Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil?

Your provider may recommend you use tea tree oil for a skin infection or for another reason. However, using an essential oil like this may have potential side effects. These side effects may be common or severe.

Common Side Effects

Tea tree oil is usually safe for adults if diluted and applied to the skin in small amounts.

People may have allergic reactions to tea tree oil, ranging from mild contact dermatitis to severe blisters and rashes. Tea tree oil has had more allergic reactions reported than any other essential oil, and as many as 3.5% of people may be allergic to it. Applying the pure oil is most likely to cause a reaction, while using a cosmetic product containing tea tree oil is less likely.

Severe Side Effects

Tea tree oil should not be swallowed, even in small quantities. It can cause serious side effects such as:

And there's been a case report of unexplained breast enlargement, called gynecomastia, in a boy who used topical tea tree oil products. Subsequent reserarch suggests that tea tree oil does not cause gynecomastia or other hormone disorders.


Do not use tea tree oil if you are allergic to it or its components (parts).

Pregnant or nursing women should avoid tea tree oil as there's not enough data to know if it's safe for these populations.

Do not use it if you have eczema, as it can be worsened by tea tree oil.

Dosage: How Much Tea Tree Oil Should I Use?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

Researchers have studied various doses of tea tree oil. Some that have been used in clinical trials include:

  • 200 mg vaginal suppository for vaginitis
  • 5% to 50% tea tree oil eyelid scrub for blepharitis
  • 5% to 20% tea tree oil gel for acne

For children, diluting one or two drops of tea tree oil in 1 teaspoonful of olive or almond oil before applying it to the skin is recommended.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Tea Tree Oil?

Never swallow tea tree oil. Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of overdose, whether or not you've swallowed it, such as:

  • Poor coordination
  • Excessive sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Coma


Tea tree oil may interact with the following prescription medications and make them less effective:

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Review the supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Tea Tree Oil

Keep tea tree oil out of the reach of children and pets.

Store in its original container, away from heat and sunlight. Heat and light can cause oxidation, which makes side effects more likely.

Discard after one year or according to the manufacturer's directions.

Similar Supplements

Some other supplements traditionally used for wound healing include:

Other supplements that may offer benefits for vaginal infections are:

Some other supplements that have been studied for acne include:

Discuss these or any supplements you plan to take with your healthcare provider, who can counsel you on drug interactions and precautions.

Sources of Tea Tree Oil & What to Look For

Many supplements are found in foods as well as on the pharmacy shelf.

Food Sources of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed, so it's not found in commercially prepared foods or drinks in the United States.

It is an ingredient in some types of toothpaste and mouthwash, so avoid swallowing any of these products.

Tea Tree Oil Supplements

Tea tree oil is most commonly found as a pure essential oil. It's also an active ingredient in lid scrubs, facial cleansers, eyelid patches, gels, shampoos, and eyelid wipes.

As with any supplement, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you check the Supplement Facts label on your product. This label will contain information about the concentration of the product and any ingredients that have been added.

In addition, look for a product with a seal of approval from a third-party organization providing quality testing. These organizations include USP, ConsumerLab, and NSF.

A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness. Still, it provides assurance that the product was manufactured correctly, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful contaminants.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you put tea tree oil on your nails?

    Yes, and research suggests it may help clear nail fungus. Applying tea tree oil to the nails twice a day for up to six months seems to be safe.

  • Does tea tree oil treat lice?

    Maybe. Limited research shows tea tree oil may treat head lice infestations. A 1% concentration of tea tree oil effectively killed lice, while a 2% concentration was required to kill the eggs.

  • Is tea tree oil effective for molluscum contagiosum?

    Molluscum is a common viral skin condition in children, and treatments are often invasive, such as freezing or lasers to remove the lesions. It's possible that tea tree oil may help, but there isn't much science to prove it.

    A small study researched the effects of tea tree oil and iodine on the skin of children with molluscum twice a day for a month. Tea tree oil combined with iodine was shown to be most helpful, but the study was too small to recommend tea tree oil routinely.

27 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Megan Nunn, PharmD
Megan Nunn, PharmD, is a community pharmacist in Tennessee with over twelve years of experience in medication counseling and immunization.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process