Tea Tree Oil is a volatile essential oil derived from the native Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia.
If has been used by native Australians for centuries and was discovered in the 1920’s to have antiseptic properties. This house hold essential oil is classified as a schedule 6 poison in Australia.
Tea Tree Oil has been used in the treatment of fungal skin infection and fungal nail infections. This is because Tea Tree Oil is an inexpensive alternative treatment options to other forms of anti-fungal treatments.
But should Tea Tree Oil be used on fungal nails?
Tea Tree Oil has 15 components that are potential skin irritants. These irritants increase in strength with exposure to air and light. This means the risk of allergic reactions increases when the bottle is being constantly opened for daily application.
The essential oil needs to be kept in a tightly sealed dark bottle and kept away from heat and light. Bottles should also be disposed of after 12 months from opening.
A study by (Rutherford et al 2007) found that dermatitis and allergic responses occurred when using concentrations of 10%, 25% and 50%. The results strongly discouraged the use of Tea Tree Oil in preparations stronger than 5%. This is particularly concerning when data shows that preparations under 10% are ineffective.
It should also be noted that studies showing anti fungal properties of Tea Tree Oil have almost always focused on the fungal infection, Candida albicans. This is despite the fact that the most common source of fungal skin and nail infection is Trichophyton dermatophytes.
Although there is a lot of data supporting the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties there is still a lack of clinical evidence to show its efficacy against bacterial, fungal and viral infections.
In summary Tea Tree Oil should not be used for the long term use of fungal infections. This is because preparation under 10% are deemed ineffective and preparations over 10% have caused dermatitis and allergic responses.
If you are experiencing fungal infections on your feet, Well Heeled Podiatry can assist you in choosing the right treatment. We are trained and highly experienced in the treatment and management of fungal skin and nail conditions.