Does Tea Tree Oil Have Proven Anti-bacterial Effects ?

09 December 2001


Tea-tree oil has been used in Australia for over 80 years to treat skin and other infections, and it is beginning to catch on here, but does it work ?

The answer, according to Australian researchers, is "yes", and better than some commercially available antibiotics.

Scientists and doctors are keen to discover powerful new bacteria-killing agents because overuse of currently available antibiotics has led to many bacteria becoming resistant.

One bug for example, called MRSA, is now a serious problem in hospitals as there are fewer and fewer antibiotics left to treat it.

In the current study, researchers gave 30 people colonised with MRSA either antibiotics, or Tea-tree ointment.

At the end of the experiment, only 13% of the people treated with antibiotics were clear of MRSA infection compared with an impressive 30% of those treated with tea-tree oil.

This sounds really impressive but how does it work?

Tea tree oil contains about 100 chemicals and, of these, 7 oils, called terpenes, are the commonest.

If small amounts of these terpenes are added to cultures of bacteria, the numbers of bacteria fall by over 90%. It looks like the terpenes are punching holes in the bacteria, causing them to die. 

The really good news is that terpenes also seem to help cold sores, which are caused by herpes viruses, and also thrush, which is caused by a yeast infection called Candida.


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