How to Avoid Side Effects from Tea Tree Oil

hand holding eye dropper of tea tree oil dripping into amber bottle

One of the most common side effects from tea tree oil is skin irritation.

Tea tree oil has gained popularity as a natural antiseptic properties due to the presence of terpenes in the oil.

Terpenes are chemicals that are naturally found in many plants that have medicinal properties. Many forms of these terpenes are effective against specific strains of bacteria, fungi and viruses.

While terpenes are a natural ingredient found in tea tree oil, there is still a possible risk for side effects when these active ingredients are used.

The following studies highlight the risk for possible side effects from tea tree oils.

Scientists Look at Possible Side Effects from Tea Tree Oil

Study #1

Crawley, Australia – A review of the Toxicity of Melaleuca Alternafolia (tea tree oil) conducted by researchers at the Microbiology and Immunology Department of the University of Western Australia concluded that 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.

Study #2

Zurich, Switzerland – A study looking at Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Cosmetics containing Tea Tree Oil was conducted by Swiss researchers at the University of Zurich.

Researchers performed skin patch tests on 1216 patients using a number of different allergens such as perfumes, plants, topical drugs, metals, disinfectants and tea tree oil.

They concluded that the potential for tea tree oil side effects and allergies is low only when using diluted concentrations of tea tree oil on healthy skin.

How to Safely Use Tea Tree Oil

Based on the available research, it appears there’s a low risk for side effects from tea tree oil if using a diluted solution applied topically to the skin.

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:

  • 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:

  • 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. Please consult with your physician before using tea tree oil if you’re pregnant or nursing.


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