Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia

Q. I ignored my nail fungus for years but finally my wife started complaining about how gross the nails are. Last fall I started soaking my feet in a dilute vinegar solution for half an hour and then applying tea tree oil directly to the nails. It has taken several months, but the nails are nearly back to normal. What is tea tree oil and why is it so effective?

A. Tea tree oil comes from an Australian tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). It has been shown to have antifungal properties. Tea tree oil is active against the fungi that cause nail fungus (Mycopathologia, online, Feb. 8, 2013).

Some people report that this herbal oil is also effective against bacterial and viral infections.

Dermatologists have found that a combination of tea tree oil and iodine can be useful against molluscum contagiosum, a common childhood rash caused by a virus (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, March, 2012).

The oil derived from tea trees can cause a rash in some people, so it should be tested first. Anyone who would like to know more about home remedies for nail fungus may be interested in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care.

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  1. Riana

    I used Australian tea tree oil underneath my toenails for three days, around the cuticle areas and on four fingernails because I have psoriasis. The first day I used it pure. The second and third days I diluted it with neem oil. The areas started itching on the fourth day and by the end of a week blisters occurred on the toes and the base of the nails started oozing fluids. Why?? Isn’t tea tree oil good?

  2. Kahleen

    Mary – did you put the Tea Tree Oil under your toenails? It would be too harsh on any delicate skin. Note to everyone else who may be sensitive. Try a small spot with a Q-tip to see if you are allergic before using generously. I, myself have never had a problem.

  3. mary

    Tried the Tea Tree Oil and small blisters appeared along with severe itching.
    Thought it would just end with a good washing of the feet in the morning, but the itch has persisted and is driving me crazy with lack of sleep and disruption to my work day, for at least 3 days now. The ‘blisters’ have dried up, but the itch seems to have even increased. Please I really need to have suggestions on how to stop the itching.


    @ CD — Thank you for posting this. I can’t wait to try it on my nails. I got rid of the fungus with the vinegar and mouthwash, but my nails are so YELLOW!


    decongestants also raise your blood pressure. My doctor wanted to put me on medicine until he found out that I had been taking decongestant cold medicine! Everything is back to normal once I got over the cold.

  6. cd

    I read about soaking your feet in warm water with a couple tablets of the fizzy denture cleaner tablets. I tried it and was amazed at how white my nails were… :)


    so true…


    Scalp – rinse hair with apple cider vinegar. Clears up dandruff and psoriasis.


    half white vinegar & half Listerine (brown) soak feet in it while watching your favorite TV (30 mins. Fungus will be gone in a month. Good Luck.

  10. RQM

    Please let your readers know about the side effect of Cold and Sinus tablets which contain pseudoephedrine. My husband has a slightly enlarged prostate, usually non-symptomatic. He developed a very bad cold and took one Advil Cold and Sinus tablet. Within 10 hours he was in the ER and having an in-dwelling catheter placed. The pseudoephedrine caused his prostate to become inflamed or enlarged. The very uncomfortable catheter stayed in for about 36 hours, after which he had to have a cystoscopy and sonogram to check his prostate. Only one tablet containing pseudoephedrine caused this problem.
    Your readers should be aware of this.

  11. J. Garrett

    Also, remember there are different grades of tea tree oil. There are 300+- varieties of Melaleuca trees. The company I represent uses the highest quality Melaleuca plants (from Australia , organically grown)
    for their tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a great antiseptic as well and helps with insects bites.

  12. Debra

    What was your routine with the tea tree oil for toenail fungus? And approximately how long did it take to work? I’m eager to try it.

  13. Donnie

    I’ve used Tea Tree Oil to successfully treat nail fungus. And for Seborrhea on my scalp. I use a few drops mixed with water as a rinse, then shampoo my hair as usual. A vinegar rinse is helpful, too. I also use Tea Tree Oil to treat minor cuts and scapes. It has a strong odor, but works really well.

  14. mms

    This article was interesting but however, according to two podiatrists that I do not have a toe nail fungus and nothing seems to help my whitish yellow big toe nail. I did try Vicks Vapo Rub, white vinegar,etc. but not for more than a couple of dsys. Any suggestions will be helpful as sandal season is here. Thank you!!

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