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How to Avoid Side Effects from Tea Tree Oil
One of the most common side effects from tea tree oil is skin irritation. So while this healthy oil has been used for hundreds of years by the Aborigines of Australia for its antimicrobial properties, there is a slight change that you could experience some side effects.
Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic properties due to the presence of terpenes in the oil. What are terpenes? They’re chemicals that are naturally found in many plants that have medicinal properties. Many forms of terpenes are effective against specific strains of bacteria, fungi and viruses. However, while terpenes are a natural ingredient found in tea tree oil, you could experience side effects from them.
The Most Common Tea Tree Oil Side Effects
To avoid the most common side effect of mild skin irritation, you should use a diluted solution of tea tree oil for all topical applications.
You can actually get tea tree oil mixed in toothpastes and mouthwashes so you should be careful to avoid swallowing the tooth paste or mouthwash to prevent any side effects. If you do swallow tea tree oil there’s a possibility you may experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Severe toxic exposure to tea tree oil could lead to dizziness, hallucinations, seizures and even coma.
Here are some research studies looking at the most common allergic reactions and side effect from tea tree oil.
Crawley, Australia – Researchers at the Microbiology and Immunology Department of the University of Western Australia gathered studies from a variety of research databases to determine all reported side effects and reactions from tea tree oil.
They concluded topical use the oil is generally safe to use. However, there are a number of documented effects:
- May be toxic if ingested at higher doses.
- May irritate the skin at higher concentrations.
- Can cause allergies and may occur in people at higher risk for allergic reactions.
Zurich, Switzerland – There have been reports of people experiencing contact dermatitis from cosmetic products containing tea tree oil.
Researchers did skin patch tests on 1216 patients using a number of different allergens such as perfumes, plants, topical drugs, metals, disinfectants and tea tree oil.
Researchers concluded the potential for tea tree oil allergies is low when using diluted concentrations of tea tree oil on healthy skin.
Based on the available research, it appears there’s a low risk for side effects from tea tree oil. However, here are some suggestions for safe use of tea tree oil:
1. Do a skin test by dabbing a small amount on your skin:
- I’ve read about some people getting allergic rashes from 100% tea tree oil. Test it first to make sure you’re not allergic to it. You can also dilute 100% tea tree oil with a ‘carrier oil’ such as olive oil.
2. Never swallow tea tree oil:
- Mouthwashes and toothpastes with tea tree oil should not be swallowed. There have have been cases of tea tree oil poisoning and the safest way to use tea tree oil when it’s applied to the skin.
3. Keep tea tree oil away from small children, babies and even pets:
- Some people wonder if you can use tea tree oil on your pets. There have been reported cases of tea tree oil poisoning in pets. One incident involved a dog suffering a toxic reaction when tea tree oil was applied its fur coat to treat fleas. Be cautious and consult your veterinarian before using tea tree oil on your pet.
4. Don’t put tea tree oil in your eyes or ears:
- Is tea tree oil safe for ear infections? It’s recommended you avoid placing any tea tree oil into the ears. You should consult your doctor for appropriated treatment for any ear infections.
5. Keep your tea tree oil bottle tightly capped when not in use:
- Most tea tree oils come bottled in dark brown bottles to avoid any light exposure. You should know that any extremes in temperatures and light exposure could cause the oil to oxidize and become rancid. Only buy tea tree oils packaged in dark brown glass bottles.
6. Don’t use tea tree oil if you’re pregnant or nursing:
- There are no studies or research to confirm the possibility of side effects during pregnancy or when breast feeding. Howevr, it’s recommended you consult with your physician before using tea tree oil if you’re pregnant or nursing.
A review of the toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil. Side effects from Tea tree oil study. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2006 May;44(5):616-25
Allergic contact dermatitis to cosmetics containing Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) Annales de Dermatologie et de Venereologie. 2001 Feb;128(2):123-6