Used for centuries as a natural antibiotic, tea tree oil is a common home remedy for dandruff, dry hair and an itchy scalp. As with any herbal or home remedy, consult your doctor first to be sure it won’t counteract any prescription medications you’re currently taking.
Identification: Tea Tree Oil
The tea tree, native to Australia, produces leaves and branches that are broken down and distilled into an essential oil. According to Phyllis A. Balch in “Prescription for Herbal Healing,” tea tree oil functions as an antiseptic that can kill many types of fungi and bacteria, including some that resist traditional antibiotics.
Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
Tea tree oil cleanses your hair as well as your scalp and follicles, making it a natural choice for a cleansing shampoo. You can purchase tea tree oil shampoos or make your own. Start with an additive- and preservative-free natural shampoo and add 10 to 20 drops of tea tree oil. Watch out for shampoos that contain sodium laurel sulphate or propyl alcohol, as these are potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
Treating an Itchy Scalp
To treat a persistent and annoying itchy scalp, use tea tree oil directly on the affected skin. Use five to 10 drops of the oil and gently massage them into your scalp. This eases the itch and soothes your skin; it also clears clogged hair follicles. You may want to use tea tree oil shampoo either daily or every other day. If your itchy scalp has progressed into dandruff, use tea tree oil shampoo, leaving it on your scalp for at least one minute before rinsing.
Alternate Uses for Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a proven acne-fighter. Balch notes that in a clinical study, 124 acne patients experienced results as good or better with a 5 percent tea tree oil gel as they did with 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, with fewer side effects. Because of its fungal-fighting ability, tea tree oil can also treat many skin infections, including ringworm and athlete’s foot. According to Cindy L.A. Jones, PhD, in “The Antibiotic Alternative,” tea tree oil also kills the yeast that causes mouth infections and Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that causes skin infections.
Tea tree oil should never be swallowed. According to the American Cancer Society, it can cause hallucinations, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as more serious effects including a coma. The tea tree comes from the myrtle family, so people who are allergic to products that include eucalyptus, clove or guava may also be allergic to tea tree oil. Because full-strength tea tree oil sometimes causes rashes and skin irritation, you may want to use a diluted solution until you know how well your skin tolerates the oil.