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How to Use Tea Tree Essential Oil for Nail Fungus

6 mins

Andela Patrnogic

Nail fungus causes severe pain and discomfort and can be difficult to eliminate. Using tea tree oil for nail fungus is a proven way to keep your nails healthy.

Tea tree oil is a popular essential oil known for its therapeutic benefits. While it has many healing benefits, tea tree oil's antiseptic and antifungal properties make it an ideal choice for treating nail fungus.

Visiting nail salons that do not properly sanitize equipment, weak immune system, chronic conditions such as diabetes, and a family history of nail fungus are other risk factors. The infection can start out as a yellow or white spot on the base or tip of the toenail or fingernail. As the infection goes deeper, the nail can thicken, discolor, and the edges of the nail crumble. 

Conventional antifungal treatments can take a long time to show results. Most treatments also may not entirely clear the fungus, but help prevent further spreading of the infection. 

Before getting into how to use tea tree oil for nail fungus, let's look at what tea tree oil is all about, its contents, and its anti-fungal properties.

Table of Contents:

  • What is tea tree oil?
  • What is tea tree oil used for?
  • Is tea tree oil good for fungal skin infections?
  • Contents of tea tree oil and their benefits
  • Can you apply tea tree oil directly to nails?
  • How to prepare nails before applying tea tree oil?
  • Trim nails
  • Wash with soap
  • Dry thoroughly
  • How to apply tea tree oil for nail fungus?
  • How often do you put tea tree oil on toenail fungus?
  • How to maximize the effect of tea tree oil?

What is tea tree oil?

Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the evergreen Melaleuca alternifolia tree, native to Australia. Also called 'melaleuca oil,' tea tree oil can be colorless to pale yellow while giving out a fresh camphor-like odor. 

Tea tree oil is one of the important essential oils that are made from plant extracts and used to boost well-being. The term 'essential oil' denotes the fact that the 'essence' of the plants is captured in the oil through steam distillation methods.

In Australia, tea tree oil has been used as herbal medicine for centuries by the aboriginal people to treat colds, coughs, wounds, and skin infections. It is also used to complement conventional treatment in burn care, surgery, and dental care.

nail funges, how to get rid of nail fungus

What is tea tree oil used for?

Tea tree oil is used as a remedy in many conditions, including cold sores, herpes, insect bites, abscess, acne blisters, burns, oily skin, and dandruff. 

Many studies show tea tree oil's efficacy in treating respiratory problems such as cough, cold, asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. 

tea tree, tea tree benefits

The essential oil has been used to treat women's problems such as pruritis, vaginitis, and cystitis. Tea tree oil and other essential oils also form a part of aromatherapy for depression, insomnia, anxiety, and mood disorders.

In addition, there is plenty of evidence that shows the efficacy of tea tree oil for nail fungus. This is because of its bioactive components, many of which have strong antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Is tea tree oil good for fungal skin infections?

In a 2013 study, researchers examined the effect of tea tree oil on nail fungus. They found that the oil stopped the growth of Trichophyton rubrum, the most common cause of nail infections. An older study found that tea tree oil for nail fungus was as effective as the commonly prescribed antifungal cream, clotrimazole.

Another 2013 study involved testing common compounds in essential oils such as tea tree oil in killing Candida lusitaniae, which also can cause nail infection. The study found that these essential oil compounds stopped yeast growth. 

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Out of all compounds, cymene, which is one of the key compounds in tea tree oil, was more effective in preventing fungal growth. Using tea tree oil for nail fungus in addition to standard medication can also be effective. 

A 1999 study found that people with nail fungus were able to manage the infection by using tea tree oil along with standard medication.

Here is a closer look at the different components of tea tree oil and their antimicrobial activities.

Contents of tea tree oil and their benefits

Tea tree oil contains different types of 'terpenes' that give plants such as lavender, cannabis, orange, and pine, their characteristic smell.


A systematic review published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine found that a compound called alpha-sabine is responsible for tea tree oil's potent anti-viral action. This is the reason behind the widespread use of tea tree oil for nail fungus.


Also known as eucalyptol, this terpene imparts the characteristic smell to eucalyptus trees. Researchers have found that cineole effectively prevents the growth of dangerous fungi and microbes.



This terpene has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer effects. In fact, cymene is used to make pesticides and fungicides. Studies have found that cymene can effectively kill many types of harmful bacteria, yeast, and fungi. 


Pinene is an abundantly occurring terpene that gives a strong scent to plants such as rosemary, basil, and pine needles. In Japan, 'forest-bathing' is a type of therapy used where leisurely walks through the forest, inhaling the scent is believed to have restorative and preventive health benefits. 

Studies show pinene has an anti-inflammatory effect and fights skin inflammation. Another study shows that pinene acts as a powerful antimicrobial agent against all types of bacteria and fungi tested.


Limonene, as the name indicates, imparts a distinct citrusy smell to lemons and oranges. A study published in Chemico-Biological Interactions found that limonene has these health benefits:

  • Antiviral
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anticancer
  • Antidiabetic
  • Anticancer

Another study found that limonene has powerful anti-fungal properties and stops the growth of fungus.

Can you apply tea tree oil directly to nails?

Experts recommend using a carrier oil such as olive, coconut, or almond oil to dilute the strong essential oil that can cause skin irritation if directly applied. 

tea tree oil, tea tree for nails

Carrier oils are also derived from plants and “carry” the essential oil to your skin. Add one to two drops of tea tree oil to half to one teaspoon of carrier oil of your choice.

How to prepare nails before applying tea tree oil?

Cleaning and preparing your nails will help maximize the ability of tea tree oil to reach deeper into the nail bed and effectively act against nail fungus. The oil may not penetrate the nail bed if the nails are too long or thick.

Trim nails

Use nail clippers to trim the affected nail. Remove as much of the infected nail as possible to help prevent the spread of the fungus to unaffected parts of the nail. If your nails are too thick, you can file them instead of trimming. Filing will also help remove any leftover infected nail parts, allowing the tea tree oil to penetrate the nail bed.

Wash with soap

After your nails are trimmed and filed, wash them using soap and water. This will help remove any invisible debris of the infected nail that can spread the fungal infection or cause recurrence. 

You can use a tea tree oil-based body wash such as Wow Tea Tree & Mint Foaming Body Wash or WOW Pineapple & Fresh Coconut Water Foaming Body Wash. Enhanced with skincare ingredients such as vitamin E, shea butter, sweet almond oil, and aloe vera, these products can help maximize skin and nail health.

pineapple body wash

Dry thoroughly

Dry the nails by patting them gently with a towel. Ensure the nails are completely dry because a moist and damp environment encourages fungal growth.

How to apply tea tree oil for nail fungus?

You can use tea tree oil for nail fungus by adding it to a carrier oil like coconut or almond oil. Add one or two drops of tea tree oil to 1 to 2 teaspoons of any carrier oil.

Use a cotton swab or cotton bud to apply the tea tree oil blended with a carrier oil to your infected nail. You can wear gloves on the unaffected hand to apply the essential oil. Cover all the areas of the toenail and the surrounding skin as well. Place the cotton swab soaked in the essential oil for a few minutes to allow the nail and the surrounding skin to fully absorb the oil.

Avoid wearing shoes or socks immediately as the tea tree oil can get rubbed off of your nail and skin.

How often do you put tea tree oil on toenail fungus?

You can apply tea tree oil for nail fungus twice a day till the fungal infection abates. Depending on the extent of the fungal infection, it can take a few weeks to a month for results to show.

How to maximize the effect of tea tree oil?

Do a patch test

It is important to do a patch test before applying tea tree oil for nail fungus. To do a patch test:

  • Dilute the tea tree oil (1 drop) with sweet almond oil or coconut oil (half teaspoon)
  • Use a cotton swab to apply the diluted blend below your ear or on your forearm
  • Wait for 24 hours.

If there is no skin irritation, redness, or other allergy symptoms, you can go ahead and apply tea tree oil for nail fungus. Sometimes the allergy may be due to the carrier oil rather than tea tree oil. If you are allergic to nuts, avoid nut-based oils such as almond oil, apricot kernel oil, and argan oil.

how to prevent nail fungus, how to get rid of nail fungus

Clean and trim your nails regularly

Even after your nail heals, it is important to avoid a recurrence by keeping your nails clean and dry apart from regularly trimming them. Avoid staying in damp or wet shoes and socks for a long time, and always sterilize the tools you use to clean and trim nails.

Look for pure tea tree oil

Using high-quality, pure tea tree oil will ensure you get the best results. Here are some things to look out for when buying tea tree oil for nail fungus:

  • 100 percent pure - This means there are no preservatives, fillers, and chemicals used in the therapeutic grade essential oil.
  • Cold-pressed -the oil is made by crushing the leaves of tea tree oil at room temperature without using heat or chemicals. This helps preserve the bioactive elements of tea tree oil.
  • Plant-based and cruelty-free-Most consumers prefer natural, plant-based skincare products because they are safe and effective.
  • Amber packaging - This type of packaging helps prevent any contaminants, including harmful bacteria, from entering the essential oil.

Wow Tea Tree Essential Oil ticks all these boxes to offer 100 percent pure, cold-pressed tea tree oil that is fast-absorbing and chemical-free.

wow tea tree essential oil, wow essential oils

Check out Wow Skin Science's curated range of single and blended essential oils that are pure, cold-pressed, and therapeutic grade.

Nail fungus is a common condition that affects millions of people. It is imperative that you identify and take care of this condition in the beginning itself. The best way to take care of it is with the help of tea tree essential oil. Now that you know all the benefits tea tree essential oil offers and how to use it, you can keep your nails healthy, always.

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