The Secret of the Tea Tree

Although Australians have used the tea tree for thousands of years, the plant didn't gain worldwide fame until 1929, when Dr. Arthur Penfold, along with F.R. Morrison, published "Australian Tea Trees of Economic Value." Shortly after many studies were launched to study the plant and its possible benefits [source: Crawford].

How to Use Tea Tree Oil

There are right and wrong ways to use tea tree oil. When it's used properly, it has the potential to improve your skin. But if it's used improperly, it could end up sending you to the hospital. As mentioned before, tea tree oil isn't meant to be taken orally. Doing so can have serious consequences. Some people will use tea tree oil as a mouthwash to get rid of bad breath, but those who do so should be extremely careful, because swallowing even a tiny amount can cause complications. Most people are probably better off sticking to topical use of tea tree oil.

There is no proven effective dose of tea tree oil, but most studies have used products containing a 5 to 10 percent concentration [source: Mayo Clinic]. For most products containing tea tree oil, you'll be fine as long as you follow the instructions, but if you start to experience any side effects, contact your doctor immediately [source: Medicine Net].

If you want to keep a bottle of tea tree oil in your house, make sure it comes in a dark glass bottle. This will prevent light from penetrating the glass and breaking down the oil inside. To use the oil, simply place a few drops on a cotton swab and apply it to the affected area of your skin. Be careful not to use too much, or you could end up drying your skin out. Similarly, you don't want to use tea tree oil to treat conditions like acne if you're already using a product like benzoyl peroxide. Doing so could leave you with red, irritated skin, and you could end up in a situation worse than the one you started with.

For lots more information on tea tree oil and skin care, see the links on the next page.