New horizons for Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil (TTO) or Melaleuca oil has been medicinally used in Australia for more than 80 years. It is an essential oil; steam distilled from the terminal branches of the Australian native plant, Melaleucaalternifolia. This tree has been used therapeutically for even longer. Tea tree oil is well characterized and contains approximately 100 terpenes and their related alcohols. Terpinen -4-ol in tree tea oil exhibits antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties mediated through reduction of tumor necrosis factor, interleukins and prostaglandin E2 production.Thereby it has demonstrated effectiveness for various skin infections and inflammatory immune related skin disorders. Dr. DeepikaLunawat, Consultant, Dermatology/Cosmetology, Fortis Malar Hospital gives a detailed account about the importance of tea tree oil.
Important Facts about Tea Tree Oil:
- The broad spectrum antimicrobial activity is reported against bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal infections of skin and mucosa. Its role in accelerating wound healing process and anti -skin cancer activity in melanoma has also been reported.
- It has a potential to lower bacterial levels on the skin, reduce inflammation, target breakouts thereby having a significant effect in ameliorating acne by reducing both inflammatory and non inflammatory lesions. But there are other aspects of acne like excess oil production, clogged pores, hormones that cannot be targeted by this product.
- Tea tree oil may lower levels of yeast, Malassezia furfur associated with Seborrheic Dermatitis (Dandruff) and combat the inflammatory response that can strike because of it. Shampoos containing 5% tea tree oil may help to tame mild dandruff. For moderate to severe dandruff, dermatologist consultation is a must.
- For fungal issues like ringworm, athletes foot, nail fungus sticking to conventional anti-fungal treatment is recommended. Tea tree oil may halt fungal infections by breaking the outer layer of fungal cells and disrupting how they function, preventing them from growing and dividing. But this mechanism is not reliable enough to depend on to treat these issues. It is mandatory to follow your doctor’s guidelines for treating such infections.
- Studies have analyzed whether or not tea tree oil can treat viral infections like herpes simplex virus infections or human papilloma virus infections like warts. Some studies show inhibited viral replication while others show nil effect. Tea tree oil can treat herpes outbreaks or warts from a human papilloma virus – THIS IS NOT A MEDICAL FACT as of now.
- Tea tree oil can cause irritation or even an allergic reaction. Since tea tree oil like other essential oils is a highly concentrated botanical extract, they can cause contact dermatitis. As tea tree oil ages, the odds of an allergic reaction increases. It is specially not good for people with sensitive skin, eczema, rosacea.
If after weighing the pros and cons, you are sure you want to use this product then following can be taken into consideration
- Tea tree oil can oxidise when exposed to too much light and air, so choosing a product with airtight, dark packaging and using it within the recommended timeframe helps.
- Diluting it in some way and using –example as an ingredient in a cleanser.
- When using for acne, diluting it in water soluble serum helps, else pore clogging effect will be seen.
- Finally the most important part does a patch testing of the product maybe over the forearm before you actually start using it.
- It can be potentially toxic if ingested at high doses however no deaths have been reported.