6 Tea Tree Oil Uses

What can freshen breath, fight infection, and clear up acne all at once? Tea tree oil, from the Australian plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, has widespread medicinal qualities, making it an effective home remedy for many different conditions. Try these tea tree oil uses for yourself.

Tea Tree Oil: A Natural Antiseptic

Tea tree oil is one of the best essential oils for antimicrobial uses. It fights a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, and fungi, helping to get rid of infections and treat a range of conditions caused by bacterial or fungal overgrowth.

Treat athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection, and tea tree oil’s antifungal activity is particularly effective against it. In one study, a 25 percent tea tree oil cream was far more effective than placebo at reducing infection and getting rid of symptoms.[1] Try a footbath with a few drops of the oil in a bucket of warm water.

Clear up acne. Tea tree oil is commonly found in many natural products aimed at treating acne, as it helps to fight bacteria associated with acne and helps reduce inflammation. Products with 5 percent tea tree oil can help to reduce the number of acne lesions by 24% to 62% when applied twice daily for one to two months.[2]

Get rid of lice. Lice can be especially hard to get rid of, particularly with natural products. But laboratory studies show that tea tree oil can kill lice in only thirty minutes, suggesting that it may be an effective natural alternative to conventional lice treatment.[3] Try mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with a few drops of lavender oil and adding it to a small amount of mild shampoo. Lather into the scalp, leave on for thirty minutes, rinse, and repeat as necessary. Be sure to follow other lice treatment strategies, including using a lice comb and thoroughly cleaning your home and clothing.

Fight bad breath. Bad breath is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the mouth. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial activity against many of the bacteria responsible for bad breath symptoms, which may help to keep your breath free of bad odors.[4-6] Mix a few drops of tea tree oil in water to make a mouthwash, or try tea tree oil infused toothpicks as breath fresheners.

Treat toenail fungal infection. Fungal infections on toenails (onychomycosis) are quite common. Topical application of tea tree oil seems to be effective at eradicating this kind of fungal infection, and it may be as effective as prescription medications for the condition.[7-9] Try applying tea tree oil to a cotton ball and dabbing it on your toenails until the infection goes away.

Prevent dandruff. Studies show that tea tree oil can also be effective in treating dandruff. In one study, 5 percent tea tree oil applied daily for four weeks reduced symptoms of dandruff by 41 percent.[10] Try mixing tea tree oil with coconut oil, massaging it onto your scalp, and letting sit for a few hours (or overnight). Wash out using mild shampoo.

Tea tree oil uses in the home

Many people report that tea tree oil can be used to make various DIY cleaning and self-care products. Try these ideas to get you started:

  • Try making an effective, all-purpose cleaner with natural antiseptic qualities by combining a few teaspoons of tea tree oil with a few cups of warm water in a spray bottle.
  • Add a teaspoon of tea tree oil to heavily soiled laundry along with your natural detergent to kill any bacteria.
  • Deter household pests, like ants and bugs, by wiping tea tree oil at points of entry, like windowsills. 
  • Apply a few drops of tea tree oil to your toothbrush between uses to keep it clean and free of germs.

Experiment to come up with your favorite medicinal and household tea tree oil uses; this essential oil is quite versatile and can be very convenient to keep on hand.


[1] Australas J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;43(3):175-8.

[2] Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2015 Feb;45(2):106-10.

[3] Parasitol Res. 2012 Nov;111(5):1985-92.

[4] Int Dent J. 2002 Dec;52(6):433-7.

[5] Arch Oral Biol. 2013 Jan;58(1):10-6.

[6] Clin Lab. 2015;61(1-2):61-8.

[7] Trop Med Int Health. 1999 Apr;4(4):284-7.

[8] J Fam Pract. 1994 Jun;38(6):601-5.

[9] Mycopathologia. 2013 Apr;175(3-4):281-6.

[10] J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Dec;47(6):852-5.

Chelsea Clarkis a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368