People use tea tree oil for a wide variety of purposes. The reasons behind the oil's versatility are its antimicrobial properties, which is one way of calling it a disinfectant. Tea tree oil kills microorganisms that can cause diseases, and that makes it useful in treating everything from acne, burns and cold sores to fungal infections, insect bites and inflammation [source: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center].
Experts believe that he anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil can help treat acne and histamine-induced inflammation caused by many allergies. Studies have shown that the oil may fight fungal species as well, which could help in the fight against athlete's foot, fungal nail infections and thrush. It can kill yeast as well, which makes it a potential treatment for vaginal yeast infections and other yeast- or bacteria-related ailments. If you are unfortunate enough to get a staph infection or genital herpes, tea tree oil might also be able to treat the virus associated with those conditions. On top of all that, it could be effective against lice, dandruff, dental plaque and bad breath as well [source: National Institutes of Health].
While there are many claims made about what tea tree oil can and cannot treat, many more studies are necessary before researchers make any definite conclusions. There's no doubt that the oil has some topical antiseptic and antifungal properties, but no one knows exactly how effective it is. Unfortunately, most studies conducted on humans up to this point have been inconclusive [source: Smith].
If you decide you want to give tea tree oil a shot, just make sure you're careful. There are several side effects associated with the oil, and some of them can be harmful. Keep reading to find out what they are.