Tea tree oil has been prized for its healing properties since ancient times. Also known as melaleuca oil, it's commonly used as a natural remedy for acne, mouth and nose infections, insect bites, cuts and various skin disorders. Many people also use tea tree oil for ringworm, a fungal skin infection that can appear on any part of the body, including the scalp, hands and nails. But does this ringworm treatment really work?
Dilute tea tree oil with carrier oils before applying it to the skin. Use a sterile cotton swab or cotton ball.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
This volatile essential oil comes from the plant Melaleuca alternifolia, which grows in Australia. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, tea tree oil may help in the treatment of nail fungus, acne and athlete’s foot. It's typically applied to the affected area and should not be ingested.
The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiviral properties of tea tree oil have been confirmed through test-tube studies, according to The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This natural remedy contains terpinen-4-ol and other beneficial compounds that kill bacteria and fungi.
A 2017 study published in Parasitology Research proves its effectiveness in the treatment of Acanthamoeba infection, which contributes to several eye disorders. Unlike traditional drugs, which exhibit high toxicity, tea tree oil has been shown to reduce the number of amoebae by half within 1.5 hours of administration without causing any adverse reactions.
Other studies indicate that tea tree oil may help treat scabies, head lice, mouth bleeding and other conditions. It is often added as an ingredient in mouthwash, toothpaste, facial creams and acne treatments, thanks to its therapeutic properties. According to WebMD, tea tree oil may be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide for treating acne.
Read more: Tea Tree Oil for Treating Head Lice
Tea Tree Oil for Ringworm
Ringworm is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. It tends to occur in those with a weak immune system as well as in athletes, pet owners and individuals who use public showers or swimming pools. Its primary symptom is a ring-shaped rash.
The infection is caused by fungi, such as Tinea Corporis, Tinea Capitis and Tinea Pedis. Depending on its location on the body, this skin condition might be referred to as jock itch, athlete’s foot or ringworm of the scalp.
Read more: How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Jock Itch
Tea tree oil has emerged as one of the most popular home remedies for ringworm. Even though the research is limited, its antifungal properties and high safety profile are reason enough to give it a try.
For example, a 2017 study published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology shows that this natural oil inhibits the respiratory metabolism and alters cellular structure in Botrytis cinerea and Penicillium expansum. Another study, which was posted in the journal Colloids and Surfaces in 2016 has found that tea tree oil may be effective in the treatment of fungal and bacterial pneumonia with no obvious side effects.
How to Apply the Oil
If you decide to use tea tree oil for ringworm, make sure you apply it safely. Dilute it with coconut oil or other carrier oils in a 1:1 ratio.
The best way to use tea tree oil for athlete’s foot is to apply five drops of it and five drops of any other carrier oil on a cotton swab, or mix them in a small bottle. Massage the affected area with a clean cotton swab or cloth soaked in the oil twice a day.
To treat ringworm of the scalp, apply a mixture of tea tree oil and carrier oil (1:1 ratio) on the problem area. Massage gently. Repeat two or three times daily.
Tea tree oil is generally safe and unlikely to cause adverse reactions unless you're using it undiluted. However, some people may experience skin irritation, redness, burning, itching and other local reactions at the site of application, as the Mayo Clinic notes. It's not recommended to use tea tree oil for jock itch, athlete’s foot and other skin conditions if you have eczema, as it may worsen your symptoms.
Read more: Negative Effects of Tea Tree Oil
This natural ringworm cure should clear up your symptoms within days. Make sure you practice good hygiene to prevent further complications. If the infection persists, consult a dermatologist.
- American Academy of Dermatology: Ringworm
- NIH: Tea Tree Oil
- Medical News Today: 11 Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
- Springer Link: Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Tea Tree Oil in Treatment of Acanthamoeba Infection
- NCBI: Therapeutic Potential of Tea Tree Oil for Scabies
- NCBI: Activity of Tea Tree Oil and Nerolidol Alone or in Combination Against Pediculus Capitis (Head Lice) and Its Eggs
- NCBI: A Comparative Study of Antibacterial and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Mouthrinse Containing Tea Tree Oil
- WebMD: Tea Tree Oil
- CDC.gov: Ringworm Risk & Prevention
- WebMD: Ringworm Pictures Slideshow - A Collection of Photos
- Cleveland Clinic: Athletes Foot, Jock Itch, and Ringworm of the Scalp
- NCBI: Tea Tree Oil Exhibits Antifungal Activity Against Botrytis Cinerea by Affecting Mitochondria
- Canadian Journal of Microbiology: Effects and Possible Mechanism of Tea Tree Oil Against Botrytis Cinerea and Penicillium Expansum in Vitro and in Vivo Test
- Science Direct: Tea Tree Oil Nanoemulsions for Inhalation Therapies of Bacterial and Fungal Pneumonia
- Mayo Clinic: Tea Tree Oil