Tea tree or Melaleuca alternifolia, from which Tea tree oil is extracted is a plant native to southeast Queensland and the northeast of Australia.
Commercial use of Tea Tree Oil started in the 1920s as a traditional medicine for possible treatments of skin conditions including acne, insect bites, and small boils. In recent times, many people have started using tea tree oil for smelly feet.
It is important that you don’t confuse Tea tree with other leaves that are used for black, green and fruity tea especially because Melaleuca alternifolia a.k.a tea tree is poisonous if consumed by mouth, and unsafe to use on children. Source
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil or Melaleuca Oil, is an essential oil extracted from Tea Tree leaves that has a strong and sweet smell described as camphor-like and can be slightly yellow to colorless in appearance. It is often available as 100% concentrates and in dilutions with other oils. Tea tree oil contains about 30% to 50% of terpinen-4-ol, a compound that has been shown to kill some bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Source
How tea tree oil is made
Tea tree oil, or Melaleuca oil, is made from the steam distillation of leaves from the tea tree plant. Be sure to take precautions when making tea tree oil, because some people can have skin irritation from contact with the leaves and the undiluted oils. Source.
Health Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil applied Topically at about 50% concentration is effective for relieving most symptoms of Athlete’s foot including burning, itching, flaking of the skin, and inflammation. It is also effective in clearing up the infection when used regularly for up to 3 weeks. However, according to this study, Tea tree oil in 25% or 50% concentrations were not as effective as medications such as clotrimazole or terbinafine in actually clearing the fungus.
Tea tree oil was found to be more effective than well-known anti-eczema creams such as Clobetasone and Zinc oxide according to this study. It helps in soothing dry skin and reducing the inflammation and irritation caused by Eczema. This study also demonstrated that tea tree oil when used regularly cleared Eczema in as little as 4 weeks.
To Use: Dilute tea tree oil in carrier oils like Almond or coconut oil and apply on dry skin after washing and cleaning with a towel.
As Insect Repellent
A study carried out to determine the insecticidal and repellent effects of tea tree oil found that Cows that were treated with tea tree oil had about 61% fewer flies just 24hours later when compared to Cows that were not treated. Source
Subsequent studies noted that tea tree oil was more potent than DEET, the main active compound in most mosquito sprays, in repelling mosquitoes. Source
Shampoo mixed with up to 50% concentrated tea tree oil showed to be more effective in clearing out Dandruff and reducing itching and flakiness when compared to using shampoos without tea tree oil. Source
To Use: Add some drops of 100% Tea tree oil to your hair shampoo before washing out your hair.
Tea tree oil can often be used to disinfect the surface of small cuts and wounds and prevent them from getting infected. It has good activity against bacteria that live on the skin that is likely to infect any wound.
To use: Dilute tea tree oil in carrier oils like Almond or coconut oil and apply on wound surfaces after washing out.
As Natural Deodorant
Sweat itself does not smell. However, when secretions from your sweat glands combine with bacteria on your skin, a moderate to strong odor is produced. This is typically the same mechanism used by tea tree oil in controlling stinky feet. Tea tree oil’s antibacterial effect makes it a good natural replacement of commercial deodorants and antiperspirants.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Smelly Feet
If you’re wondering how to use tea tree oil for foot odor, then don’t worry. It’s as simple as treating your feet after your bath or shower every day.
- Apply around half a dozen (6) drops to the entire feet after washing and drying them and blend into the skin using clean hands.
- Focus especially on the areas that damp can hide in, for example around the toes, but don’t overuse it, because tea tree oil has been known to cause skin irritation.
- Leave the mixture to soak in naturally before putting anything on your feet like socks or shoes. This should only take a minute or two.
- To reduce the risk of skin irritation that may occur, you can dilute the oil with carrier oils such as coconut or olive oil.
- Repeat this application once or twice per day.
- If you wish, or if you have more time to spare, you can also try a foot soak. Simply fill a bowl with warm (not hot) water, add a few drops of tea tree oil, and leave your feet to soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this once per day, in addition to the above treatment.
- It’s also worth making sure that your feet are completely dry after finishing your foot soak because this is something else that can exacerbate the problem.
Why is it Effective?
In general, smelly feet are caused by two simple things. The first is sweat, combined with the second of naturally occurring foot bacteria and fungus. These two things work in concert, and one tends to feed into the other, which means when one starts to get out of hand, it can make the other far worse.
This happens because the bacteria and fungus that live on and around our feet feed on sweat, so if you let your feet get sweaty, then leave them, the naturally occurring bacteria multiply, causing the smell you hate.
But tea tree oil is an antibacterial agent, which means it cuts this issue off at the source. And because it will stay on your feet for a little while longer, it keeps your feet free of bacteria for longer.
Are there any Adverse Effects?
Ironically, some people experience skin irritation, a condition treated with tea tree oil, when they use tea tree oil. Most people who reported skin irritation used 100% concentrated oil, so it may be advisable to dilute to milder forms or use only a few drops at a time. Source
Tea tree oil is poisonous when taken by mouth. It has been reported to cause drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations, coma, unsteadiness, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, blood cell abnormalities, and severe rashes when ingested by mouth. So it is advisable to not be used in and around the mouth. Source
Not Safe for Children and Pets
Tea tree oil is not suitable for use in children and should be kept out of their reach to avoid accidental cases of poisoning. In Pets like Dogs and Cats, their skin absorbs Essential oils faster and easier than human skin which may likely lead to poisoning. Source
How to Buy Good Quality Tea Tree Oil for Smelly Feet
Whether you’re buying tea tree oil at your local supermarket or online, be sure to look out for good quality oil. Here are some basic things to look out for:
- Oil Purity – Good Quality tea tree oil can be 100% pure or less, as seen in diluted or extracted with other oils such as Olive or Coconut oil, and good manufacturers mention this clearly. If you need 100% tea tree oil, check the label or product information table to confirm before purchase.
- Appropriate Packaging – Tea Tree oil, like other essential oils, can be damaged by light and should be ideally packaged in dark-colored sunproof containers or bottles.
- Reviews – This is only important if you’re buying tea tree oil online. Check to see if the oil has good reviews from other people who have used it.
Whether you think it’s bacterial, caused by sweat or simply something else causing smelly feet for you, tea tree oil can make a huge difference in as little as a few days and hits the problem right at its cause.
It’s a simple, cheap and effective treatment, that’s great for different skin conditions and helps especially for smelly feet. Even if you’ve never tried it before, it’s well worth doing. Head down to your local health store and grab yourself a bottle. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it lasts for ages. If it’s a serious case, you should contact your podiatrist next.
And once you do, make sure you come back here and let us know how it went!