Melaleuca alternifolia / Tea tree

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan; 19(1): 50–62. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties C. F. Carson,1 K. A. Hammer,1 and T. V. Riley1,2,*
Complementary and alternative medicines such as tea tree (melaleuca) oil have become increasingly popular in recent decades. This essential oil has been used for almost 100 years in Australia but is now available worldwide both as neat oil and as an active component in an array of products. The primary uses of tea tree oil have historically capitalized on the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions of the oil. This review summarizes recent developments in our understanding of the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities of the oil and its components, as well as clinical efficacy. Specific mechanisms of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action are reviewed, and the toxicity of the oil is briefly discussed.

Antiviral Activity
The antiviral activity of TTO was first shown using tobacco mosaic virus and tobacco plants (18). In field trials with Nicotiniana glutinosa, plants were sprayed with 100, 250, or 500 ppm TTO or control solutions and were then experimentally infected with tobacco mosaic virus. After 10 days, there were significantly fewer lesions per square centimeter of leaf in plants treated with TTO than in controls (18). Next, Schnitzler et al. (132) examined the activity of TTO and eucalyptus oil against herpes simplex virus (HSV). The effects of TTO were investigated by incubating viruses with various concentrations of TTO and then using these treated viruses to infect cell monolayers. After 4 days, the numbers of plaques formed by TTO-treated virus and untreated control virus were determined and compared. The concentration of TTO inhibiting 50% of plaque formation was 0.0009% for HSV type 1 (HSV-1) and 0.0008% for HSV-2, relative to controls. These studies also showed that at the higher concentration of 0.003%, TTO reduced HSV-1 titers by 98.2% and HSV-2 titers by 93.0%. In addition, by applying TTO at different stages in the virus replicative cycle, TTO was shown to have the greatest effect on free virus (prior to infection of cells), although when TTO was applied during the adsorption period, a slight reduction in plaque formation was also seen (132). Another study evaluated the activities of 12 essential oils, including TTO, for activity against HSV-1 in Vero cells (110). Again, TTO was found to exert most of its antiviral activity on free virus, with 1% oil inhibiting plaque formation completely and 0.1% TTO reducing plaque formation by approximately 10%. Pretreatment of the Vero cells prior to virus addition or posttreatment with 0.1% TTO after viral absorption did not significantly alter plaque formation.

Some activity against bacteriophages has also been reported, with exposure to 50% TTO at 4°C for 24 h reducing the number of SA and T7 plaques formed on lawns of S. aureus and E. coli, respectively (41).
The results of these studies indicate that TTO may act against enveloped and nonenveloped viruses, although the range of viruses tested to date is very limited.