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L'huile essentielle d'arbre à thé : est-elle dangereuse en application topique ?

Tea Tree Oil: Side Effects and Possible Skin Reactions.

Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), has been widely studied for many years as an antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and even alternative anticancer agent. While these properties are becoming better characterized, the available data on the safety and toxicity of this essential oil remains relatively limited. Find in this article the essential information to know on this subject.

Tea Tree Oil, Potentially Causing Reaction on Skin.

This essential oil contains allergenic biochemical components in small quantities: limonene (≤ 2%); linalool (≤ 1%) as well as 1,8-cineole, a component that has a reputation for being a skin irritant.

A few studies have been conducted to analyze the tea tree oil side effects and irritant nature. This irritant capacity was studied using patch tests at various concentrations. Skin reactions were very rare and fully dependent on the concentration. They were not dependent on prior exposure to the irritant.

In addition, other studies have been conducted to establish the risk of contact allergies related to the application of this essential oil. Once a tea tree oil allergy has occurred, it is likely that all subsequent exposures to the same ingredient, regardless of concentration, will cause further allergic reactions on the skin. This is called contact dermatitis.

These tea tree oil skin reactions can be avoided 

by using lower concentrations of the irritant. 

It is thus necessary to dilute it in a vegetable oil 

before any cutaneous application 

(20% of essential oil with 80% of vegetable oil).

Note: It is preferable to test the essential oil of tea tree before using it (two drops in the hollow of the elbow for at least 24 hours to check that there is no skin reaction).

The Correlation Between Bad Preservation and Skin Irritation.

Patch tests on three people with allergies to the components of tea tree oil showed that they reacted mainly to sesquiterpenoid fractions but not to pure monoterpenes. It has been suggested that oxidation products formed in the essential oil during prolonged storage are involved.

Indeed, newly distilled tea tree oil appears to have relatively low sensitizing power, whereas that stored for long periods has a significantly increased sensitizing capacity. This same study also suggests that the main allergens formed may be terpinolene, alpha-terpinene, ascaridole and 1,2,4 trihydroxymethane.

Keep Tea Tree oil away from light, as the oxidation of p-cymene can cause skin irritation.

What Are Tea Tree Oil Side Effects or Contraindications?

The essential oil of tea tree is contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and in children under 3 years. It is also contraindicated in case of teat tree oil allergy or hypersensitivity to oleoresins of pine or fir.

People with a skin condition such as eczema should not apply this essential oil pure on the skin either, as it could aggravate their condition. Nevertheless, diluted in a vegetable oil, it can be of great help against this affection.

However, in aromatherapy, inhaling too much or inhaling tea tree oil for too long, can lead to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness. It should never be used for inhalation if you are asthmatic. Furthermore, tea tree oil should never be used internally (orally, by ingestion). It can be toxic and potentially fatal if ingested. If ingested, tea tree oil side effects  may include drowsiness, confusion, uncoordinated movements (ataxia), loss of consciousness.

Tea Tree Essential Oil in Our Products.

Some of our products contain this essential oil because of its excellent antibacterial and purifying properties. Nevertheless, we would like to specify that it is introduced at a low percentage and that the final formulas do not present any risk for human health, as they are subject to mandatory and regulated toxicological studies. 

We have integrated this essential oil at a low percentage for its purifying virtues in the following four treatments:

We do not recommend the purifying botanical blend 

for pregnant women because it contains 

slightly more tea tree essential oil than our 

other three products mentioned above.

Sources :

  • HORNFELDT C. S. & al. Melaleuca oil poisoning. Journal of Clinical Toxicology (1994).

  • OSTERHOUDT K. C. & al. Ingestion of tea tree oil (Melaleuca oil) by a 4-year-old boy. Pediatric Emergency Care (2003).

  • RILEY T. V. & al.Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil: A review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews (2006).

  • TATE B. & al. Allergy to tea tree oil: Retrospective review of 41 cases with positive patch tests over 4.5 years. Australasian Journal of Dermatology (2007).

  • JACOB S. E. & al. Tea tree oil. Dermatitis (2012).

  • ANWAR F. & al. Essential oils used in aromatherapy: a systematic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine (2015).

  • SCHMIDT E. & al. Tea tree oil: contact allergy and chemical composition. Contact Dermatitis (2016).

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. Tea tree oil (2017).

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