Tea Tree Essential oil has had a bad wrap over the years. People are concerned it is a hormone disruptor, you can’t use it on children and it causes skin irritation! I spoke with Adele, our in house aromatherapist, scientist and creator of the baby skin care brand Honestly. I asked her about the biggest concerns/myths with Tea Tree oil and if she could clear them up for us.
When we are talking about tea tree in this article we are referring to Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (syn. Melaleuca linariifolia var. alternifolia Maid. & Bet.) There are a number of tea tree varieties, such as lemon scented (which use should be restricted in pregnancy).
Below are the common concerns/myths and Adele’s professional answers.
Q: Can tea tree cause skin irritation?
A: Tea tree has mainly been associated with contact dermatitis reactions, this is probably down to an increased number of people using it, and applying it neat. It does not have any other toxicities that could cause harm (unless ingested). Tea tree should be used in a maximum dilution of 15%, not used neat, and especially not used if oxidised (it should be stored in cool dark place).
Myth: Tea tree is a hormone disruptor and shouldn’t be used, especially on baby boys.
A: Both tea tree and lavender were found to be weakly estrogenic to human breast tissue in a study (Henley et al 2007). However, none of the tea tree oil constituents that penetrate human skin (terpinen-4-ol,a-terpineol,1,8-cineole) are estrogenic, either singly or in combination, and a-terpineol is anti-estrogenic.
(The flaw in these findings were that studies on they boys weren’t just neat Tea tree and lavender, they were products which contained tea tree and lavender, who knows what other ingredients were in it. Petrollium, preservatives?)
Q: What age can Tea tree be used.
A: Tea tree is safe for use from birth, on term infants. However this should be at a max dermal dilution of 0.1% EO.
Q: What is tea tree good for, what are the benefits?
A: Tea tree is an infection busting oil. It will fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections.It also stimulates the immune system to act. So basically if you have an infection, tea tree will help. Apply to skin for skin infections, think cold sores, rashes, athletes foot etc. Also applying it to the skin will assist with coughs and colds. You can inhale it to help with respiratory infections, its also an expectorant so if you have a chesty cough it will help loosen that up. It is in Honesly cough oil for these exact reasons.
Finally you can use it in a pessary for UTIs, thrush etc. Just always dilute it in a suitable carrier oil. It can also help heal and prevent secondary bacterial infections on insect bites and chickenpox.
We have some beautiful products containing Tea Tree.
I hope this has helped clear up any confusion you might have had about Tea Tree.