Monday, February 15, 2010

Tea Tree Oil: Worth The Risks?

I’ll admit it. I jumped on the tea tree oil bandwagon, and I don’t want to get off.

Tea tree oil is said to have numerous uses and health benefits. From relieving the itch of insect bites and speeding up the healing process of cuts and bruises, to clearing up acne and curing athletes food, it seems there is nothing tea tree oil can’t do.

I didn’t start using tea tree oil until I came across recipes for homemade baby wipe solutions that called for a couple drops of the oil. My baby has always had sensitive, diaper-rash-prone skin, and a few sprays of the solution cleared her rash up in no time.

Because I had a bottle of tea tree oil on hand, I began looking up other uses for it.

During my pregnancy, I developed a slight case of tinea versicolor. I didn’t treat it with medication, because I didn’t want to risk hurting my unborn baby. Because I waited quite awhile to treat it, it spread to cover most of my upper arms, neck, and a little on my chest. It isn’t noticeable now, but it will be once I get tan in the summer. I did a little research to see what tea tree oil could do for it.

During my research, I discovered that tea tree oil can indeed clear up tinea versicolor; however, it was also during this research that I became a little wary of using tea tree oil on my baby or myself, or even having it in the house.

Every article written about the benefits of tea tree oil contains a similar warning: “Do not take tea tree oil internally.” I was shocked to read that if an adult consumes a teaspoon of tea tree oil, it can be fatal. I didn’t even want to think about what an accidental ingestion of tea tree oil would do to an infant.

In addition, tea tree oil has been found to alter hormone levels. When tea tree oil was used on young boys, some of them grew breasts. Scary!

The articles all shared a second warning: “Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.”

To be fair, I realize that many products state that a woman should not use their product of pregnant or breastfeeding. The product manufacturers want mothers to check with their doctor before using any product to make sure it is safe in their individual situation.

And yes, tea tree oil is fatal if swallowed. That is alarming when thinking of how children put everything in their mouths. However, I bet that many dishwashing and cleaning products are also fatal if swallowed.

Tea tree oil alters hormone levels. What other unnatural products are in my home that might do the same thing?

I’ve made the decision to keep the tea tree oil around, because I still prefer to use it over other unnatural medications that are probably just as bad for a person. However, I have completely stopped using it daily on my baby’s butt, and only use it on my rash when mixed with body wash – that way it isn’t sitting on and being absorbed into my skin.

What are your thoughts and experiences with tea tree oil? Is it something a parent should be concerned about?

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