What is a good substitute for tea tree essential oil, especially if someone is allergic to it?
When I am considering an alternate or substitute for an essential oil that I am using a blend, I assess 3 key factors.
Scent: You want an oil that has the fresh, opening, camphoraceous yet woody scent. In this case you could consider eucalyptus or niaouli.
Therapeutic properties: Tea tree is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic, and anti-infectious among other properties. Look at what role it plays in your blend, and then match up oils that offer those same property benefits. For example, patchouli is highly antifungal, followed by antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic. So that could be an option. If you need all of those properties I mentioned initially, then you could look at eucalyptus, thyme, oregano, clove, and/or rosemary.
Chemistry: Tea tree, being in the melaleuca family, is high in monoterpenes (terpinene, pinene, cymene, etc.) and phenols, followed by monoterpinols, sesquiterpenes, oxides, and sesquiterpinols. So, what I do is look at the various chemistry properties of the oils in my Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide to find ones that are similar. Although there are no oils with that same exact chemistry, I’ll look for oils that are rich in monoterpenes, that has phenols near the top of the list, with some monoterpinols, sesquiterpenes, and a little oxides. My list could include citronella, nutmeg (this one has ethers which is not in tea tree), peppermint (although it has ketones in it which is not present in tea tree), Ravintsara, St. John’s Wort & Thyme. From here, I will choose 1 or a combination of 2 to give me the purpose I am looking for.
Safety factors to keep in mind when looking for a good substitute for tea tree essential oil:
- Skin integrity
- Allergies & sensitivities
- Pre-dilute essential oils in a carrier
- Medication contraindications such as taking blood thinners (avoid oils with coumarins such as cinnamon).
- Avoid using too much camphorous oils with asthma & epilepsy.
- Read more safety tips here