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Is there a place for tea tree oil in foot care?

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by Kelvin08, Oct 29, 2008.

  1. Kelvin08

    Kelvin08 Member

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    Hi everyone

    I am aware that Tea Tree Oil has been used by many people for a long time. However, the EU Scientific Committee has expressed concerns about the safety of tea tree oil. Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the lengthy opinion given by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products from 2004 see: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_sccp/docs/sccp_o_00c.pdf

    A more reader friendly article reiterates some of the concerns see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/feb/18/medicineandhealth.health

    I would be interested in whether members of the Forum are using Tea Tree Oil in their practice?Given the concerns raised in the literature, I would be interested to know if practitioners consider it safe to continue to use tea tree oil in practice?


    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2008
  2. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    I can never understand why so many jumped on the tea tree oil bandwagon when it efficacy compared to other modalities (that have well documented efficacy) has not been demonstrated. Is that being ethical?
  3. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

    Tea tree oil

    Origin of this essential oil, the tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia
    Tea tree plantation, Coraki, New South Wales

    Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil with a fresh camphoraceous odor and a colour that ranges from pale yellow to nearly colourless and clear.[1] It is derived from the leaves of the tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, native to southeast Queensland and the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. The oil comprises many constituent chemicals and its composition changes if it is exposed to air and oxidizes.

    Commercial use of tea tree oil began in the 1920s, pioneered by the entrepreneur Arthur Penfold. As of 2017 the global tea tree oil market was valued at US$39 million.[2]

    As a traditional medicine, it is typically used as a topical medication in low concentrations for the treatment of skin conditions, but there is little evidence of efficacy.[3][4][5] Tea tree oil is claimed as useful for treating dandruff, acne, lice, herpes, insect bites, scabies, and skin fungal or bacterial infections.[4][5][6] However, there is not enough evidence to support any of these claims due to the limited amount of research conducted on the topic.[4][7] Tea tree oil is neither a patented product nor an approved drug in the United States,[5] although it is approved as a complementary medicine for aromatherapy in Australia.[8] It is poisonous if consumed by mouth, and unsafe to use on children.[9]

    1. ^ "Essential oil of Melaleuca, terpene-4-ol (tea tree oil): ISO 4730: 2017 (E)". International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Geneva, Switzerland. 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
    2. ^ Cite error: The named reference market was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
    3. ^ "Opinion on Tea tree oil" (PDF). SCCP/1155/08 Scientific Committee on Consumer Products. 16 December 2008.
    4. ^ a b c "Tea tree oil". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Institutes of Health. 2011-11-09. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
    5. ^ a b c Thomas, J; Carson, C. F; Peterson, G. M; Walton, S. F; Hammer, K. A; Naunton, M; Davey, R. C; Spelman, T; Dettwiller, P; Kyle, G; Cooper, G. M; Baby, K. E (2016). "Therapeutic Potential of Tea Tree Oil for Scabies". The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (Review). 94 (2): 258–266. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.14-0515. PMC 4751955. PMID 26787146.
    6. ^ Pazyar, N; Yaghoobi, R; Bagherani, N; Kazerouni, A (July 2013). "A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology". International Journal of Dermatology. 52 (7): 784–90. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2012.05654.x. PMID 22998411. S2CID 2270233.
    7. ^ Cite error: The named reference acs was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
    8. ^ "Summary for ARTG Entry: 79370 TEA TREE OIL PURE ESSENTIAL OIL". Therapeutic Goods Administration. 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
    9. ^ Cite error: The named reference poison was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

    Melinda M. Tong, Phillip M. Altman, Ross StC. Barnetson
    Australasian Journal of Dermatology; Volume 33 Issue 3, Pages 145 - 149; Published Online: 28 Jun 2007
  5. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    I love it!
  6. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Here is part of the news story from the Guardian:
    Tea tree oil faces ban over health fear
    Scientists say even small amounts could provoke rashes and allergies
    Full story
  7. DAVOhorn

    DAVOhorn Well-Known Member

    Dear All,

    Go natural.

    Eat bark of the willow tree.:butcher:

    it improves blood flow and ones circulation and is known to have an anti inflammatory effect.

    might make you ill though if you eat it in its natural state.:dizzy:

    Same with eating the digitalis plant or even the poppy flower.:deadhorse:

    regards David
  8. weenieldie

    weenieldie Welcome New Poster

    We advise using 100% tea tree oil in the treatment of verrucas when the salicylic acid is having no effect. It is difficult to know whether its effective, because its not been fully investigated in scientific trials. Tea tree oil, applied twice daily on its own or mixed with garlic juice seems to have an effect wheather this be antiviral or it damages the verruca cells. But we certainly have had results and ofcourse gentle on the skin unlike the acid or cryo-therapy

    Rebecca :)
  9. Graham

    Graham RIP

    I've found advising patients to run anti clockwise around a bonfire on Belgian independance day works well too!:pigs:
  10. Johnpod

    Johnpod Active Member



    1. Journal of Applied Microbiology 2000, Jan 88; The mode of antimicrobial action of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil), Cox et al.

    2. US Pharmacist 24th April 2001, article by Wendell L Combest, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, University School of Pharmacy, Winchester, Virginia.

    3. Centre for Biostructural and Biomolecular Research, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Western Australia.

    4. Mayo Clinic Health Manager - an online resource: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tea-tree-oil/

    Tea tree oil contains constituents called terpenoids, substances known to have antiseptic and antifungal properties. The compound terpinen-4-ol is the most abundant of these and is thought to be responsible for most of tea tree oil's antimicrobial activity.
  11. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Tea tree oil has those effects in vitro. But, in general, the clinical in vivo trials are showing its no better than placebo.
  12. Johnpod

    Johnpod Active Member

    The references quoted report in vivo observations
  13. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    The only reference you quoted was:
    That was in vitro in a lab. It was not a clinical trial.
    The well designed RCT's show its no better than placebo (like the one posted above). Some poorly designed clinical observations studies with potential for bias (some without a placebo group) claim to show it works.
  14. Sammo

    Sammo Active Member

    Standing on one leg in an east breeze a with your trousers tucked into your socks works well too..
  15. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

    Struth ! They never taught us these "gems" 20 years ago, certainly weren't covered at BootCamp.
  16. That's because it's surpressed by big pharma ;)

    Three cheers for placebos, the most effective, flexible and safe medical treatment you know. Long may they last and long may patients benefit provided medics never become infected with their own propaganda.
  17. On a semi serious note on this one, I might take another opportunity to plug Ben Goldacre's book "bad science". It has a section on this sort of thing. If you are the proud owner of this book (and if you're not, you should be) turn to the chapter on "nonsense de Jour". p93 in the paperback.

    I'm paraphrasing because its a big book.

    There is a chemical called curcumin found in tumeric, which shows promise as a cancer treatment. That is, if you dunk some cancer cells in it they tend to die. Michael Van straten, Ever optimistic writer for the express, has stated that "recent research shows that tumeric is highly protective against many forms of cancer, especially prostate"

    Now there may be evidence that essence of tumeric works on cells in a dish but does this mean eating curry prevents cancer? No. To get to a measurable (much less active) amount of curcumin in your system you'd have to eat 100g of tumeric. For a mutton curry (serves 6) you might use a teaspoon (about 5g) of turmeric. Thats 120 curries in one go. That's a lot of curry. Methane poisoning would probably kill you before you felt the benefit.

    Lots of things have antiseptic and antifungal properties. Fairy liquid has antiseptic properties. Thats not the same as saying that pulling some on a grotty nail will cure the fungus, or that putting it on a VP will get rid of it.

    Some studies are hard to do. This one isn't. Two groups of VPs or fungal nails. Two batches of oil in coded unmarked bottles, one tea tree oil, the other crisp and dry (or other brand of cooking oil) perhaps with a dash of perfume. If tea tree oil IS effective it'll show up. Until such a study, which would be easy and cheap to do, comes up I'll stay in the "placebo" camp. Which is not the same as ineffective, but also not to say its a good treatment.


  18. blinda

    blinda MVP

    Absolutely. Rutherford et al (2007) stated that the antimicrobial effect of Tea Tree Oil (TTO) against bacteria, fungi and virus, NB herpes simplex only, has only been demonstrated in in vitro studies and that no clinical studies have revealed superiority of TTO over existing licensed pharmacological treatment.

    IMO more worryingly, is the fact that the incidence of reactions to oxidized TTO is recorded as being relevant enough to warrant warnings on TTO products. Once a bottle of TTO is opened it continues to oxidate and increase in strength enough to become a severe irritant. Just because it is a `natural` antimicrobial, that does not make it safe (would you eat Foxgloves from your garden if someone said “Hey, it`s natural”?). How many practitioners out there recommending TTO for TP or VPs are explaining the nature of oxidation?

    Agree with the above statement; however these terpenoids (terpinolene, ascardiol, a-terpinene, etc) are KNOWN sensitizers for contact dermatitis, which increase with oxidation of the oil upon exposure to light, moisture, heat and air. So much so that, oxidated TTO has a sensitizing capacity multiple times stronger than a newly opened fresh bottle of TTO, after just a few days if opened daily.

    The amount of pts that I`ve seen presenting with Paronychia and contact dermatisis associated with use of TTO, is enough for me to discourage its use, IMHO of course.



    Rutherford T, Nixon R, Tam M and Tate B. Allergy to tea tree oil: retrospective review of 41 cases with positive patch tests over 4.5 years. Australasian Journal of Dermatology (2007) 48; 83-87

    Aberer W. Contact allergy and medicinal herbs. Journal of the German Society of Dermatology (2008) 6; 15 -24

    Hausen BM. Evaluation of the main contact allergens in oxidized tea tree oil. Dermatitis2004; 15: 213-14
  19. kbarb

    kbarb Welcome New Poster

    No one has been duking it out on this thread for quite a while so I thought I'd post something I found, just to stir up the pot.

    Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties
    Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 January; 19(1): 50–62.

    I would urge anyone interested in the subject to read it before quoting the usual EU issues or Rutherford '07.
    It's a evenhanded but critical look at a large panoply of research to date (2006).

    A few quotes :

    Clinical Efficacy
    . . . . Therefore, although some of these data indicate that TTO has potential as a therapeutic agent, confirmatory studies are required.

    . . . . Despite some progress, there is still a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating efficacy against bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. Large randomized clinical trials are now required to cement a place for TTO as a topical medicinal agent.
  20. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Nothing new there. The in vitro tests show it has "potential as a therapeutic agent", but the in vivo clinical trials have shown it useless.
  21. kbarb

    kbarb Welcome New Poster

    As I wrote, ". . . would urge anyone interested in the subject to read it before . . . "

    It appears that didn't happen.
  22. blinda

    blinda MVP

    Read it......nope. Not changed my mind. They briefly mention saftey;

    Despite the progress in characterizing the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil, less work has been done on the safety and toxicity of the oil.

    Well, such work has since been undertaken. One of which is one I referenced; Aberer (2008) who looked at allergens associated with TTO and other medicinal herbs.

    Also, check out one of the references in the article you supplied;


    Tea tree oil kept in open and closed bottles or other containers undergoes photooxidation within a few days to several months, leading to the creation of degradation products that are moderate to strong sensitizers..... These must be considered responsible for the development of allergic contact dermatitis seen in individuals treating themselves with the oil.

    So, no I won`t be recommending TTO, even if it does kill dermatophytes (as does Domestos). It just aint safe.

  23. kbarb

    kbarb Welcome New Poster

    I am neither an advocate nor a detractor of TTO - I would say agnostic.

    But I think it's rather clear that the authors of article find it neither cure-all nor snake oil, nor useless - in some cases efficacious, in some cases not - the jury is still out.
  24. footdrcb

    footdrcb Active Member

    Ive seem some quite adverse reactions to Tea tree oil.......Sometimes i think plain old vapor rub with camphor will do the same job just fine....Or perhaps a lit oxy torch ...it gets rid of pretty much everything in its path..

  25. 100% effective at treating all known fungal, bacterial and viral pathogens in vitro. Also 100% natural. No studies have been published which show any kind of bioaccumulation, toxicity or mutagenic properties, unlike oral antifungals, which can have adverse side effects. :drinks

    Chlorine dioxide is good too.:bang:

    The whole in vitro / in vivo thing is quite annoying.
  26. MDeSoto

    MDeSoto Member

    While the article does state in its conclusion that "A wealth of in vitro data now supports the long-held beliefs that TTO has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties", the telling sentence, for me, is in the "Clinical Efficacy'" section where it states "onychomycosis is considered to be largely unresponsive to topical treatment of any kind, and a high rate of cure should therefore not be expected." Tea tree oil is no magic cure.
  27. Well spotted!!

    As my rt hon colleague ian often says, the plural of anecdote is anecdotes, NOT DATA!!!
  28. Lucy Hawkins

    Lucy Hawkins Active Member

    When discussing this with members of my local NHS trust they said that they cannot use or recomennnnd the use of TTO. All treatments they give must be evidence based and TTO is not.

    Further for members of the society at least, if you cannot show that you have studied the art and 'science' of essential oil therapy then you are outside your professional insurance and not covered. For members of the Society that course would have to be a Society approved course to give insurance cover. You are at liberty to obtain cover elsewhere and other bodies may differ.
  29. blinda

    blinda MVP

    That`s good to hear Luke. Maybe I`m an old fashioned gal, but I too would like to see the evidence of safe clinical efficacy before I recommend tx of TTO.

    Re; disclaimer for SCP members....subjective at best. But that`s just my opinion, of course ;)
  30. Lucy Hawkins

    Lucy Hawkins Active Member


    I was anticipating Mark would be along.

  31. blinda

    blinda MVP

    holding thumbs...
  32. We had some leaflets produced recently which included T tree oil.

    They did not make it past the draft stage with that on there.:butcher:
  33. blinda

    blinda MVP

    That is also good news. Care to divulge what changed their minds? For educational purposes, of course.
  34. William Fowler

    William Fowler Active Member

    I just caught one of those animal doctor shows on TV. They talked about a dog who got a paw wound. The owner put tea tree oil on the wound. The dog licked it and died. :wacko:
  35. That would be the stuff you kindly sent me on how rubbish tea tree oil was :D
  36. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Gas gangrene and osteomyelitis of the foot in a diabetic patient treated with tea tree oil.
    Cooney DR, Cooney NL.
    Int J Emerg Med. 2011 Apr 14;4:14.
  37. Bel and Davinci while upset for the above patient are 2 happy people more real reasons why not to use TTO
  38. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Antifungal Activity of Nanocapsule Suspensions Containing Tea Tree Oil on the Growth of Trichophyton rubrum.
    Flores FC, de Lima JA, Ribeiro RF, Alves SH, Rolim CM, Beck RC, da Silva CB.
    Mycopathologia. 2013 Feb 8.
  39. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I hope the TTO fans did not miss this
    and appreciate the meaning and significance of that.

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