Tea tree oil derives from the leaves of the Australian tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia. Many people use the oil for medicinal purposes, including healing cuts and wounds.
Today, people use tea tree oil to treat a variety of skin disorders, and it may help people with eczema. In this article, learn more about the effects of applying tea tree oil to the skin.
While there are few studies specifically on tea tree oil as an eczema treatment, researchers do know quite a lot about its many skin-improving properties.
For example, a 2011 study found that tea tree oil was more effective in treating eczema than topical treatments of zinc oxide or ichthammol.
Other potential benefits of tea tree oil for eczema include:
1. Reducing inflammation
Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinen-4-ol. This compound has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate some of the redness, irritation, and swelling associated with eczema.
2. Wound healing
According to an article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, tea tree oil reduced healing times for people with wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus.
However, the experimental study was small, so more research needs to be done to test tea tree oil's wound-healing abilities.
3. Reducing allergic reactions
One study found that applications of high-dose tea tree oil helped to reduce skin hypersensitivity reactions to nickel in people with a nickel allergy.
Eczema is sometimes triggered or made worse by skin allergens and irritants, such as nickel.
However, applications containing lower doses of tea tree oil did not produce the same results.
High-dose tea tree oil applications may produce unwanted side effects, especially in people with sensitive skin. A person should test the preparation on a small patch of the skin before applying to a larger area. People who are sensitive to tea tree oil can dilute it in a carrier oil.
4. Fighting off viruses
Not only can tea tree oil help to kill unwanted bacteria, but it also has antiviral properties.
An antiviral treatment, such as tea tree, can reduce the chances of an infection developing if the eczema causes broken skin or it is weeping.
5. Reducing dandruff
Tea tree oil has antifungal properties, which can help reduce the activity of specific yeasts, such as those known to cause dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.
People also use tea tree oil to treat athlete's foot and nail fungus.
6. Relieving itching
Itchy skin is a hallmark of eczema. One review found that tea tree oil was effective in reducing itching when used for eczema on the scalp.
While it is okay to use tea tree oil on virtually any external area of the body, it is essential to do so safely.
If applying to the face, use preparations specifically designed for the face, scalp, or eyelashes. The skin on the face and scalp is sensitive, so a person should take care when treating eczema, acne, and dandruff.
If using a pure essential tea tree oil, it is crucial to mix just a few drops into a carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil.
It is best to do a test patch by applying a small amount of tea tree oil to a small area of skin and waiting 24 hours. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, it may be safe to use.
A person should always check with their doctor before using tea tree oil preparations to ensure they will not interfere with other eczema treatments.
Tea tree oil can be very potent if not diluted. However, the oil is often sold in low concentrations, such as 5 percent tea tree oil, as adverse effects are usually related to higher concentrations.
Examples of these side effects include:
- allergic skin rash or contact dermatitis
- skin irritation
If a person uses tea tree oil in a concentration of 5 percent or less, they are less likely to experience these side effects.
However, if a person experiences a skin rash after applying tea tree oil, they should stop using the product and speak to a doctor.
A person should never consume tea tree oil. Doing so is known to cause significant adverse effects, including confusion and problems with muscle coordination.
People use topical tea tree oil applications to treat a range of skin conditions, including eczema.
Products containing tea tree oil are available at some pharmacies, health food stores, or online.
The anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties of tea tree can help reduce some of the most significant symptoms associated with eczema.
While there is no cure for eczema, tea tree oil combined with moisturizers and topical steroids may help improve bothersome symptoms.