Tea tree oil can be used as an effective topical application for the treatment of infections due to a variety of microbial and viral agents, including herpes simplex, influenza virus subtype H1N1 and human papilloma virus. Though results of recent clinical research have found beneficial properties of tea tree oil in treating viral infections, consult a physician before using essential oils to combat these pathogens.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree Oil, TTO, is distilled from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, which is indigenous to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. Several studies have demonstrated this essential oil possesses antiviral activities against pathogens causing many types of infections, such as warts, seasonal flu, oral and genital herpes, and cervical cancer.
Treating the Influenza Virus with Tea Tree Oil
The December 2009 issue of “Letters in Applied Microbiology” published a study investigating the antiviral activity of TTO and its main component, terpinen-4-ol. These compounds were evaluated for their inactivating effects against several viruses; including, polio type 1, ECHO 9, Coxsackie B1, adeno type 2, and herpes simplex (HSV) type 1 and 2. The results of the study demonstrated that TTO and some of its constituents possess inhibitory effects on influenza virus subtype H1N1. However, all the compounds tested were ineffective against polio 1, adeno 2, ECHO 9, Coxsackie B1, HSV-1 and HSV-2. The authors further found that none of the tested compounds had the ability to inactivate viral particles individually. They concluded that TTO has an antiviral activity against influenza virus subtype H1N1 only, principally attributed to terpinen-4-ol, and TTO is a promising drug in the management of influenza infections.
The same authors published a follow-up study in the January 2011 issue of “Antiviral Research.” Here, they investigated the action of TTO and its active components against different steps of the replicative cycle of influenza virus subtype H1N1 in dog kidney cells at different times after infection. These experiments showed that viral replication was significantly inhibited if TTO was added within two hours after infection of the cells, which indicated interference at the beginning of the viral replicative cycle during the adsorption step, or the actual entering of the virus into the host cell. The results suggest that TTO did not interfere with attachment of the virus to the cell.
Human Papilloma Virus
The November 2008 issue of “Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice” detailed the first clinical study in which TTO was used for the successful treatment with of a pediatric patient with warts on her right middle finger. The clinicians applied TTO topically to the infection once daily for 12 days and found complete viral clearance of the infected areas. This study emphasizes the potential use of TTO in the treatment of common warts due to human papilloma virus.
Effective Treatment of Herpes Simplex Virus
An article appearing in the January 2004 issue of “Phytotherapy Research” contained a study of essential oils from fresh leaves of several related species of the genus Melaleuca. The oils were distilled, analyzed and rated on efficacy as antimicrobials and antivirals against Herpes simplex virus type 1, HSV-1, the causive agent of oral and genital herpes in humans. The antiviral properties of these oils were studied in African green monkey kidney cells infected with HSV-1 and found to be an effective treatment by inhibiting the replication of viral particles and preventing infection of surrounding cells.
- "Letters in Applied Microbiology"; In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil; A Garozzo et al.; December 2009.
- "Antiviral Research"; Activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil on Influenza virus A/PR/8: Study on the mechanism of action; A Garozzo et al.; January 2011.
- "Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice"; Successful topical treatment of hand warts in a paediatric patient with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia); B Millar et al.; November 2008.
- "Phytotherapy Research"; Chemical and biological evaluation of the essential oils of different Melaleuca species; R Farag; January 2004.