“I need da oy-yo, mama!” says the four-year-old. (Translation? I want the oil, mama!)
He’s being raised by a couple of crunchy parents, so naturally, we’re quite proud when he asks for natural remedies for whatever is ailing him. We love that natural remedies are what our kids know and rely on – much more than a conventional pharmaceutical approach.
And truth be told – essentials oils are definitely one of our family favourites. They’re just so darn versatile! And powerful, too! Ever since diving into the essential oil world four years ago, I’ve been continually blown away by just how effective they can be for all manner of situations – emotional/mental wellness, physical health, household uses, first aid, and so on.
When I first started dipping my toes into the EO world (back when I was still a bit of a skeptic) one of the very first oils I tried was tea tree oil (also known as melaleuca). My head was spinning with all of the potential uses I could try.
How Tea Tree Oil First Won My Affections
Ultimately, the thing that impressed me beyond any shadow of a doubt was when I used it to heal my infected finger. My finger (right beside the nail) had gotten a tiny cut – maybe I had pulled on a hangnail or something – and had gotten very badly infected. For weeks I kind of brushed it off, thinking it would heal on its own. I was in the midst of a super stressful move so I just threw some polysporin ointment on with a bandaid, but it kept getting worse. I had some high-quality essential oil samples on hand to experiment with, but couldn’t find them anywhere. (Spoiler alert: the toddler stole them and hid them behind a dresser. Lovely.)
Finally, my finger was super swollen and red from the knuckle down, hot to the touch, and throbbing. I was so annoyed, and really, really didn’t have time to go sit in urgent care and get antibiotics (nor did I want to take antibiotics in the first place).
With the very best timing possible, we were clearing out the guest room for our move and lo and behold – found the oil stash! I took my tea tree oil and put two drops directly onto the infected area, covered it with a bandaid, and went to bed. (Note: Later in my EO education I learned that it’s safer to always dilute essential oils. They are super concentrated compounds and can cause issues when applied without dilution.)
In the morning, not only was the throbbing pain gone, but the redness and swelling was down, and the whole thing looked ten times better. As it healed, I ended up losing the entire fingernail, but a new one grew back. Long story short, I successfully avoided antibiotics, healed my finger, and tea tree oil was the major hero.
From that day forward, I was totally convinced. I soon began finding tons of new ways to use tea tree oil. It’s the MacGyver of essential oils. (Is that still reference that kids these days are using? I’m so gosh darn old. Apparently you start feeling over the hill when you hit your thirties – who knew!?)
Anyway, stay with me, young folks. Listen to your elders: here are thirteen of the most helpful ways to use tea tree oil. There’s something for everyone on this list!
13 Ways to Use Tea Tree Oil
1. Bacterial infections
Tea tree oil has incredibly powerful antibacterial properties, making a great choice for situations like my infected finger. You could easily make up an antibacterial ointment (like this DIY vapour rub recipe – just switch out some of the essential oils for tea tree) to keep on hand, or you could make a roller ball with just diluted tea tree oil. I use roller ball bottles plus fractionated coconut oil (coconut oil in liquid form).
You can obviously use it on skin infections, but I also use it on things like ear infections, or any other part of the body with a bacterial infection (although I don’t recommend ingestion as I’m not a trained aromatherapist). For something below skin level, I’d simply use my roller ball bottle or ointment on the affected area. The skin absorbs the tea tree oil and carries it into your system.
2. Funky laundry
Got stank in your laundry? Left a load in the washing machine too long? Kitchen cloths have a gnarly smell even after washing? Funky odours from sweaty people in your household?
Add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to your wash! Works like a charm. For kitchen clothes that never feel quite clean, try running a hot cycle with just several drops of tea tree oil and no detergent, and an extra rinse cycle. Sometimes the detergent buildup causes mildew growth and decidedly less-than-fresh smells.
3. Fungal treatment
Try tea tree oil for any sort of fungal skin condition, like tinea versicolour, athlete’s foot, toe fungus, etc. Kick those not-fun conditions to the curb with the power of TTO.
This post on How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Wart Removal Naturally at Home also uses tea tree oil to aid in the healing process.
4. Disinfecting and cleaning
Tea tree is a favourite in natural DIY cleaning recipes. Try my DIY all-purpose cleaner or these reusable disinfecting cloth wipes for easy cleaning without toxic chemicals.
I’m in my early thirties and still get the odd spot once in a while in the old familiar trouble zones on my face. Bah humbug to hormones, amiright?!
When I feel that telltale sign of a pimple under the surface of my skin, I apply my tea tree oil (using my roller bottle that I keep in my bathroom) to it, and it’s usually gone by morning, or after a couple of applications over the course of a day or two. Simple and effective!
6. Hand sanitizer
Try this DIY hand sanitizer recipe to whip up some homemade sanitizer quickly and easily. I like to have several and keep them in different places – my purse, my larger bag, the minivan.
7. Bug repellent
I’ve typically purchased a natural bug spray in the past, but this year I’d like to try making my own. Essential oils can be very effective at repelling unwanted bugs, including mosquitos, ticks, and chiggers. The combo that I’m going with for this summer is geranium, tea tree, and cedarwood.
I’ll update this post in a few months to report how well it works for us, but I know that many others have found success with these three especially.
UPDATE, Nov. 2017: We ended up using this blend from Plant Therapy while camping and it worked AMAZINGLY well, even for my Italian-blooded, mosquito-magnet hubby.
8. Lice repellent
We had a verrrrrry unfortunate run-in with lice just before Christmas last year. It was 7am one December morning after a night of vomiting for three out of five family members. It was a pretty intense 24-hour stomach flu. (I was one of the three – yay for me.) In that early morning hour, unable to sleep while feeling so terrible, I sat on the couch with a child’s head in my lap, watching something on netflix in our stomach-flu zombie state.
I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and it was all downhill from there. I discovered lice in said child’s hair. Cue all the horror and panic. It was dealt with handily by an in-home lice removal service (worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY I PAID TIMES INFINITY) that evening.
The lice removal specialist (she’s been doing this for twelve years!) told me to make a little spray bottle with water and some tea tree oil, and spray my kids’ hair before school every morning. I happily obeyed, and we’ve been lice-free since. If I could send flowers to express my gratitude to the magic of tea tree oil, I totally would.
9. Homemade deodorant
I haven’t yet ventured to making my own deodorant. I don’t know why, but it seems daunting. I have, however, tried a ton of natural brands, and there were a few that stood out above the rest, and they all included tea tree oil. I would like to try making my own this summer to see how it works, and maybe even get hubby on board.
10. Skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema
I was diagnosed with celiac disease in January of 2017, and found out at the same time that psoriasis is also strongly suspected. (Waiting to see the dermatologist to confirm.)
Psoriasis and other skin conditions are no joke. They are uncomfortable (sometimes even painful) and can be embarrassing.
I am experimenting with applying tea tree oil diluted in coconut oil (rub it on like a lotion) on my psoriasis patches. It can help to soothe and relieve itching, as well as exfoliating some of the excess dead skin cells.
11. Mold prevention (be cautious with mold treatment)
Toxic mold can have a devastating effect on your health and your home, and I won’t recommend any sort of natural mold removal techniques unless you involve a mold removal specialist who can help you test for invisible particles in your indoor environment and check for mold in unseen places.
That being said, tea tree oil is a fantastic tool for helping to prevent mold. You can dilute in a spray bottle, and spray in places that may be prone to mold, like bathrooms or basements. You can also just diffuse it.
12. Basic first aid for cuts and scrapes
Most of my kids’ bumps and scrapes require simply a bandaid before they are on their way to play again. (Especially since they feel that they REQUIRE a bandaid for even the most microscopic injuries.) However, from time to time there’s an owie that needs a little extra TLC. After rinsing with clean water and hydrogen peroxide, my go-to remedy to prevent an infection is a small application of tea tree oil. I’d probably just dilute in some coconut oil in a little dish, and gently dab on.
13. Natural teeth whitening
Yup! Who knew the wonders of tea tree oil extended all the way to your pearly whites? (Or, ahem, coffee-stained choppers??) If you’d like a whiter smile without sticking a tray of toxic goo into your mouth, get a great DIY whitening mouthwash recipe here.
Whew! What a list, eh? Are you as impressed as I am?
Apart from soothing an itchy scalp, reducing dandruff and flaking, and preventing excess oil production, tea tree oil improves blood flow and allows nutrients to reach hair follicles, balances the pH level of the scalp, and stimulates the hair growth cycle to give you a head full of strong healthy hair.
Hi Beth, I was looking at this article to find a solution to a possible athlete’s foot (or other fungal infection on my feet, that has spread to my hands). I was so happy to read that I could use Tea Tree Oil to treat it! What would be the best way to use TTO to treat this (foot bath with a few drops of oil added?) And what about for my hands?
Also, I was wondering if it is safe for me to use TTO while nursing an infant (he’s 9 months old now). I remember reading somewhere that pregnant women should not use TTO.
Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
Beth, I’m an EO fan and advocate, too. Tea tree is one of my favorites, and I always like to remind folks to keep it and the citrus ones far from their cats. Thanks for all the good information you share here!
Great reminder! Thanks Leslie!
Tea tree oil is a favourite of mine too. I most often use it for my acne and homemade cleaners. I’m definitely going to add it to my next load of gym clothes laundry through – thanks for the tip!
Yes! So many great uses! 🙂