A quick history lesson: when Captain Cook landed in Australia in the 1700s, he plucked some leaves from a bush to make some spicy tea. Looking around, he noticed that in addition to making a nice cuppa, the indigenous people were using the leaves as a topical cure for all kinds of ailments, from bug bites to burns. He named it “tea tree oil” (genius!) and brought it back to the New World.
Since then, it’s become a common — and effective — natural remedy. And it’s had some time in the spotlight recently as a favourite beauty and first-aid product of Duchess-to-be Meghan Markle.
At a microscopic level, tea tree oil has been shown to destroy some bacteria and viruses, but its best known in the medical world for its anti-fungal properties. Here are some proven ways you can unleash its powers and use tea tree oil as a natural remedy at home.
Kiss Acne Goodbye
Because of its minimal absorption, tea tree oil is a great topical remedy. Evidence shows it can treat mild to moderate acne in a similar way to benzoyl peroxide 5% gel you’d get at the drugstore, but with fewer side effects, like burning and dry skin.
Doctor’s recommendation: If you’re looking for a natural treatment for acne, tea tree oil is a solid alternative. Here’s my recipe for a quick and easy acne gel you can make at home:
NATURAL TEA TREE NIGHTTIME ACNE REMEDY
pure aloe vera gel (purchased from store or fresh-from-the-plant)
100% tea tree oil
bergamot oil (optional)
DIRECTIONS (increase ratios to desired amount):
1. Mix 1 Tbsp aloe with 1/4 tsp jojoba oil.
2. Add desired amount of tea tree oil. To emulate the studies, add 15 drops; however, you can start with a smaller amount to ensure well-tolerated
3. Add 2-3 drops bergamot oil (optional
4. Store in a well-sealed amber or cobalt jar or bottle.
5. Test on a small patch of skin. Once tolerance is established, apply to freshly-washed face nightly as needed. Wash or rinse your face in your normal morning routine.
Trump Tinea (Athlete’s Foot)
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that can make your feet itch, blister, and crack. But fear not — with its strong anti-fungal properties, tea tree oil is an effective natural treatment. In the research, 72% of patients who used tea tree oil reported improvements in their symptoms, with 55% experiencing a full cure when skin samples were analyzed for fungus under a microscope.
Doctor’s recommendation: Tea tree oil is an effective alternative to prescription and over-the-counter topical anti-fungals. Try this homemade concoction:
TEA TREE AND JOJOBA ATHLETE’S FOOT TREATMENT
100% tea tree oil
pure aloe vera gel (optional)
1. Combine 1 tsp jojoba oil with 1/4 tsp tea tree oil in an amber bottle with dropper. If you prefer a less oily approach, use aloe as your carrier.
2. Apply to affected area(s) with a clean cotton ball twice daily, or add drops directly to skin, rub in with fingers, then wash hands well.
*For an east-meets-west alternative, add 1 part tea tree oil to 2 parts of your favourite OTC anti-fungal cream.
Try Tea Tree Oil on Toenail Fungus (Onychomycosis)
Onychomycosis, better known as toenail fungus, is a difficult condition to treat with anything. If you’re suffering from very thickened, discoloured, crumbling toenails, you might want to head to the podiatrist. However, if it’s a mild case, tea tree oil might help keep symptoms at bay.
Eighteen percent of people who tried a treatment of 100% tea tree oil twice daily for six months were cured (no fungus was present in a nail clippings analysis), and 60% saw improvement in symptoms. However, over the next three months, some noted a recurrence. Debridement was also carried out at 0,1 and 3 months at a clinician’s office, so this might have tipped the scales in tea tree’s favour.
There’s no direct comparison, but studies conducted on the newest pharmaceutical, Jublia, had better results. That said, it’s more expensive, has more potential side effects, and there’s always a concern for research bias from the pharmaceutical industry.
Doctor’s recommendation: Mild symptoms of toenail infection fungus can be relieved with 100% tea tree oil dropped directly onto affected nail(s) twice daily. But, because this fungus can dig in deep, you may need more help in obliterating it for good.
Douse Your Dandruff
If you want to live flake-free, tea tree oil will bring its antifungal functions to your scalp: a concoction of 5% tea tree oil used in shampoo for four weeks helped 41% of people experience improvement compared to 11% in the placebo group.
Doctor’s recommendation: It might be helpful in warding off those little white flakes, but there’s limited evidence it results in an outright cure for dandruff.
A Note on Safe Usage
The above applications of tea tree oil are well-studied, with potential for even more uses for this amazing natural product. But, remember to stay safe: it’s dangerous for infants, adults, and animals to ingest by mouth and its safety has not been established for use by pregnant women. And as always, before you try a new topical treatment, test a patch of skin before rubbing it on the whole enchilada.
Now that you have the whole picture, you can start incorporating tea tree oil into your home remedy routine — and make like Captain Cook.
Ingredients for the above recipes can be found through many different sources. For your reference, I’ve included links to the products that I used: tea tree oil, jojoba, aloe vera gel, bergamot oil (Ste Anne’s), amber bottle with dropper.