Replacing Antibiotics with Tea Tree Oil


One word spoken by the World Health Organization (WHO) has rocked the health world, confirming what natural health practitioners have warned us about for years: superbugs.

The overuse of antibiotics and antimicrobial treatments is creating drug resistance, a public health threat in which bacteria, a fungus, or a virus can become completely resistant to drugs – a superbug that can withstand all treatment. The WHO statement on superbugs cautioned,

This means that standard treatments no longer work; infections are harder or impossible to control; the risk of the spread of infection to others is increased; illness and hospital stays are prolonged, with added economic and social costs; and the risk of death is greater—in some cases, twice that of patients who have infections caused by non-resistant bacteria. (1)

It's no wonder that the White House's National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria report recently stated, “The development of non-traditional approaches that are less likely to drive resistance is an important step in breaking the cycle of drug development immediately followed by the development of resistance.” Included in the list of proposed non-traditional therapeutic strategies were phytochemicals and essential oils.

A Public Health Crisis

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When traditional medicines are taken for their antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal effects, far more than the targeted concern is destroyed. The gastrointestinal system probably fares the worst, with beneficial microbial life disrupted. To restore balance, energy and healing efforts are directed toward this damage, taking away from other healing and wellness efforts. Essentially, a spiral of insufficient gut flora reduces immunity, diverts restorative energy, and weakens the body, which is then susceptible to more infections that would need more treatment, and the cycle goes on. You can see how superbugs can quickly become lethal.

Superbug H041 is a sexually transmitted disease that was discovered by public health officials in Japan in 2011. Researchers and natural health professionals agree that this is a frighteningly dangerous health threat. Professor Cathy Ison of the National Reference Laboratory for Gonorrhea expects that it will become untreatable soon. (2) Health officials in the US called for over $50 million in immediate education and awareness funding to help mitigate the dangers of H041. (3)

This is just an example of superbug transmission that should concern us even if we aren't practicing unsafe sex, because it demonstrates the capability superbugs have to threaten public health.

What Are Health Officials To Do?

Should they allocate more money to engineer even stronger, more potent antibiotics that will inevitably become useless or – worse- enhance the problem as bacteria evolve permanent resistance? Or, in a novel approach, could Congress approve measures to fund research toward the best ways to use natural, established, effective solutions like essential oils? I see much more long term potential in the latter, and here are some of the reasons why.

Tea Tree Oil – Natural Antibiotic

Melaleuca Alternifolia hails from Australia, used as a traditional remedy on the eastern coast for centuries. Crushed tea tree leaves soothed cuts and wounds in medicinal poultices. Inhaled vapors treated respiratory illness and discomfort. Finally, in 1923, tea tree oil's antiseptic benefits were scientifically validated when Arthur Penfold discovered the essential oil was a dozen times stronger than carbolic acid!

With this knowledge in hand, Australians brought tea tree oil with them as they fought in World War II. Around this time, pharmaceutical antibiotics came on the scene, disparaging the use of natural remedies. Just a few short years after Western science proved the efficacy of a centuries old traditional remedy, the same science threw it by the wayside. In the ‘60s, the disdain was so heavily felt that the tea tree oil industry collapsed completely, only recently making its return to global popularity.

Tea Tree Research

Slowly, science is catching up in explaining why tea tree oil is such an effective antimicrobial agent. Over three hundred studies are returned referring to tea tree oil's antimicrobial benefits. We know that centuries of use were warranted, but now we are seeing reasoning for Melaleuca's effectiveness in traditional remedies for conditions such as:

  • Acne
  • Bacterial infections
  • Chickenpox
  • Cold sores
  • Congestion and respiratory tract infections
  • Earaches
  • Fungal infections
  • Halitosis
  • Head lice
  • Psoriasis
  • Dry cuticles
  • Insect bites, sores and sunburns
  • Boils from staph infections

And this list doesn't even include the cosmetic and general home uses of tea tree oil, such as make-up removal, laundry freshening and deodorizing.

Returning to its basic foundation as an antibiotic, a 2013 Phytomedicine study weighed the safety factors involved with taking essential oils alongside traditional antibiotics. The essential oils, including tea tree oil, were safe and free of adverse reactions taken in conjunction with popular antibiotics ampicillin, piperacillin, cefazolin, cefuroxime, carbenicillin, ceftazidime and meropenem. What's more, the synergistic effects that we love so much with combined essential oils sometimes occurred with the antibiotics, potentially helping to prevent some resistance. (4) If you absolutely must take an antibiotic course, it may be beneficial to add tea tree oil alongside it.

If it were up to me and some researchers, the antibiotics would never be up for use in the first place. Tea tree oil demonstrated itself as fully effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus mutans, and Escherichia coli in a recent study out of Taiwan, with additional benefits as an anti-inflammatory agent. (5)

Not only does this indicate a promising natural alternative to antibiotics in terms of resistance, but as an affordable remedy, it is a cost effective solution, as well.


Although the scientific literature is very quiet regarding specific essential oil protocols, many people have found the following to be helpful:

  1. Apply diluted tea tree oil on the bottoms of feet. Proper dilution depends on individual sensitivity: 1 drop of EO per 3-5 drops of carrier oil is a good start for adults. For children use extra caution, and be sure to use even more carrier oil.
  2. Put 1 drop of tea tree + 1 drop of oregano in a gel capsule and consume. For people battling a cold, consider taking up two capsules a day.

Caution and Reassurance

As with any strong oil, potency should be considered with regard to safety, and some have suggested that tea tree may be toxic and too strong to use. Officially, thanks to a study out of the Journal of Ethnopharmocology, researchers have deemed it safe to use, just as centuries of wisdom and use have indicated. (6) Simple antibiotic safety principles should be observed, such as confirming bacterial infection before treatment, using only what you need, and protecting your esophagus by ingesting 1-2 drops in gel capsules.

A Note About Estrogen and Tea Tree

The only reason why we’re even having this discussion is because of a poorly researched 2007 New England Journal of Medicine article titled, “Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils.” The long and the short of it is that three boys obscurely developed idiopathic cases of prepubertal gynecomastia (when boys experience enlarged, tender breast buds) for a short period of time (1 – 5 months).

It was determined that all three patients were using either a shampoo, lotion, soap or balm that included lavender oil and tea tree oil as ingredients. The researchers extrapolated that these essential oils were “estrogenic” based off of a preliminary in vitro evaluation. In their words, “On the basis of the three case reports and the in vitro studies, we suspect that repeated topical application of over-the-counter products containing lavender oil or tea tree oil was the cause of gynecomastia in the three patients.” (7)

There are several epidemiological reasons why this conclusion is false and is out of the scope of this article to cover each one, but I’ll leave you with this thought: just because lavender and tea tree oils were two common ingredients in the products that these three boys were using, it does not prove that they were the cause. This is a classic statistics blunder that many make. “Correlation does not imply causation,” because there are countless other variables that not being considered (diet, environmental triggers, medicines, and etc.).

Suffice it to say that essential oils safety expert Robert Tisserand emphatically states that, “Lavender [and tea tree] oil does not mimic estrogen nor does it enhance the body’s own estrogens. It is therefore not a ‘hormone disruptor’, cannot cause breast growth in young boys (or girls of any age), and is safe to use by anyone at risk for estrogen-dependent cancer.” (8) And Tisserand’s conclusion has been supported by more recent research. 

In 2013, for instance, the International Journal of Toxicology published a study confirming that lavender is not estrogenic, at least in female rats. Whether it is for humans remains to be seen, but there is literally no research to prove otherwise. (9)

Tea Tree Oil Uses Infographic

Safety & Contraindications

Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions?

 Let me help take out the guesswork and download my FREE roller bottle guide HERE.

Essential Oil Roller Bottle Dilution Guide

When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.

Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family. 

<< CLICK HERE to Download My FREE EO Roller Bottle Dilution Chart! >>

As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.



This post currently has 21 comments.

  1. Judy
    May 11, 2017

    Dr. Z, I thoroughly enjoy the information you give on essential oils! Thank you for taking your time to do this. I also enjoy reading the comments. MaybGod bless you!

    • Dr. Z
      May 12, 2017

      Thanks so much, Judy!

      I appreciate the kind words and support. 🙂

  2. Chelsie
    October 15, 2016

    I am currently using Oregano and Frankincense diluted in FCO on the bottoms of my daughters feet for a cold. I have done this a few times previously and it works wonders! The cough is gone in less than 24 hours every time. Never thought about tea tree oil, might have to try adding this to my recipe.

    • Customer Support
      October 19, 2016

      Oh yes, Oregano and Frankincense are amazing! It’s good to hear you’re experiencing good results. 🙂

    • Nadine
      February 19, 2017

      How much of each are you using and how much carrier oil? How old is your daughter?

  3. SusanSJN
    March 7, 2016

    Your link to carrier oil in above write up appears to be broken; I am unable to connect. We’re currently trying tea tree oil with a coconut oil carrier to treat a couple of cold sores my husband is prone to. Seems to be more tolerable and just as effective (if not more so) than Abreve.

  4. Nancy Trask
    February 22, 2016

    My husband recently saw a Nurse Practitioner ND who diagnosed a rough red patch on his ankle as a fungus. (Another Nurse Practitioner thought it was eczema.) She said use 8 drops of tea tree oil in 10 ml of carrier oil and apply that twice a day. Whether it’s eczema or a fungus, it’s slowly clearing up!

    • Dr. Z
      February 24, 2016

      Yay!! Awesome story – Praise God!

  5. Denise
    December 30, 2015

    Excellent article. I am prone to bladder infections. Would the oregano and tea tree oil work well for this issue. Thanks.

    • Dr. Z
      December 30, 2015

      Hello Denise, getting oils to reach the bladder is problematic. Some folks have reported that applying diluted EOs on the abdomen and ingesting 2-3 drops in a capsule have helped.

      My recommendation would be to contact a trained functional medical practitioner in your local area to dig deep into the CAUSE to find the CURE.:)

      • Michael
        March 27, 2017

        Hello Mr Eric, I was just reading about the yeast in the body causing ADHD and a foggy mind. I was just curious to know if there are oils I could take to help this? I have almost every oil you could think of.

  6. Tina
    November 16, 2015

    I love reading articles like this. I would find it even more helpful if you would include specific ways to use the oil for different problems.

    • Dr. Z
      November 17, 2015

      Hi Tina,

      Point well taken – I’m actually add to the database (as we speak) with more DIY protocols and etc. In the meantime, I just added this blurb to the article:


      Although the scientific literature is very quiet regarding specific essential oil protocols, many people have found the following to be helpful:

      Apply diluted tea tree oil on the bottoms of feet. Proper dilution depends on individual sensitivity: 1 drop of EO per 3-5 drops of carrier oil is a good start for adults. For children use extra caution, and be sure to use even more carrier oil.
      Put 1 drop of tea tree + 1 drop of oregano in a gel capsule and consume. For people battling a cold, consider taking up two capsules a day.

      • Nigel Ralph
        December 29, 2015

        There was a wonderful bit of research from Griffith University (Australia)about capsules of tea tree oil and tea tree oil suppositories eliminating prostate cancer published in Prostate News, but although I rang and emailed the Uni I never got a response. Do you know anything about this? What concentrations could be used in an enteric coated capsule and which carrier oil would be best? Why doesn’t the tea tree oil kill off our good bacteria.

        • Dr. Z
          December 30, 2015

          Hello Nigel,

          When it comes to this type of research, there are very few human trials – so finding exact protocols are near impossible to come by.

          With that said, the principles in this article can be helpful –>

          Regarding “why doesn’t the tea tree oil kill off our good bacteria,” essential oils have what’s known as “cell selectivity.” In God’s infinite wisdom, they (by and large) leave the “good” bacteria alone. Some oils are so cytotoxic that they kill off ALL microorganisms. The reason why (i.e. the exact mechanism) is still somewhat of a mystery…

          • shirley johnson
            April 30, 2016

            just wondering if you could elaborate on which oils kill ALL bacteria, and which oils selectively kill only the bad ones? thanks 🙂

          • Dr. Z
            April 30, 2016

            Hi Shirley,

            Like essential oils safety expert states, there is no scientific research proving that essential oils harm the gut flora. EOs contain a property that we refer to “cell selectivity.” Meaning, the chemicals in EOs target pathogenic microorganisms, and not probiotics (good bacteria) as one might expect.


          • Sue Mitchel-Runow
            July 16, 2017

            When I was ingesting a few drops of Oregano oil a couple times a day, it felt like it had similar effects to antibiotics I had taken previously. But my gut flora was already wrecked from from taking several rounds so cant say how it would have effected me if my gut flora was strong

          • Dr. Z
            July 19, 2017

            Definitely hard to tell. At the end of the day, you have to listen to your body. Go slow and work your way up with EOs. Remembering that taking probiotics are key to reestablishing gut flora. 🙂


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