Tea tree oil, or Melaleuca alternifolia, is a folk remedy used for hundreds of years in Australia, introduced to the since colonization of Australia in 1788. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an attractive essential oil for use as a natural remedy for infections. Tea tree oil should never be taken by mouth.
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Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections, or UTI's, affect the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. Bladder infections, also known as cystitis, are a common medical complaint. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, urinary tract infections are "caused by germs, usually bacteria that enter the urethra and then the bladder." UMMC advises that women are more likely to be affected by this condition than men, due to anatomical differences including a shorter urethra and closer proximity to the anus. UTI's often start in the bladder and then infect the kidneys as the infection progresses. The most common source of bladder infections is E. coli, a common bacteria found in the intestine.
Bladder infections have potentially painful symptoms, including pain or burning when urinating and abdominal pain that occur generally towards the center of the abdomen. Urine may appear cloudy and have a foul odor. You may also experience a strong urge to urinate, frequent urination and low fever. A bladder infection may be extremely painful or you might experience very few symptoms.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has proven antibacterial properties, according to the January 2006 summary of research in "Clinical Microbiology Reviews." Tea tree oil displays efficacy against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, gaining much interest in its potential use as an alternative treatment to antibiotics. According to the summary of research, tea tree oil vapors inhibit bacteria including Mycobacterium avium ATCC 4676, E. coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The inhibition of E. coli is of interest, given that this is notably the most common bacteria to cause bladder infections.
The effect of tea tree oil on E. coli suggests it may be effective for treatment of bladder infections where that bacteria is the cause. More research and development of this treatment methodology is required because there are complications to using tea tree oil for bladder infections. Tea tree oil cannot be ingested, so administering it to the area of the infection is not possible at this time. While E. coli is the most common bacteria, it is not the only bacteria that causes bladder infections. Tea tree oil is suggested in the book "Australian Tea Tree Oil First Aid Handbook: 101 Plus Ways to Use Tea Tree Oil" as a prevention for bladder infections. It suggests mixing three drops of tea tree oil with 4 oz. of distilled water, or adding 10 drops to your bath water, for use as a wash for the urethra opening.
- "Australian Tea Tree Oil First Aid Handbook: 101 Plus Ways to Use Tea Tree Oil"; Cynthia B. Olsen; 1999
- "Clinical Microbiology Reviews"; Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties; C. F. Carson, et al.; January 2006
- Medline Plus: Tea Tree Oil
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Urinary Tract Infections - Adults - Overview; David C. Dugdale, III, M.D.; 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Cystitis - Acute - Overview; Linda Vorvick, M.D.; 2008