Archives for February 2012

Tea Tree Oil vs Vaginal Yeast Infections

…seems tea tree may just win

In the same week, both a patient and my brother-in-law mentioned they used tea tree oil for different purposes; so I decided this was a sign to review it’s uses and the research out there.

My patient used a tea tree oil mixture to treat candida vaginitis and my brother-in-law mentioned he was using the tea tree oil to reduce his chances of getting sick by swabbing his nose with it.  I love my tea tree shampoo and I have used a drop of tea tree on pimples before (only because someone else said it worked – not because I knew the research) but never really thought about any medical properties.

I do recall swimming in a pond surrounded by tea trees when I was in Australia many years ago.  Following that swim, my skin and hair felt amazing, and I felt refreshed.  Was it just my imagination?  Maybe, but known as Melaleuca alternifolia, Australian aboriginals used the leaves of the tea tree for healing purposes for generations.

Since I am an Ob/Gyn, of course I had to look most into the treatment my patient was using and just how successful it might be to treat her yeast.  I had no comment really when she mentioned she was doing this, other than “I hope it works”.   Next time someone mentions this treatment, I want a better response.

The active ingredient in tea tree oil appears to be Terpinen-4-ol (terpene) that gives it an antimicrobial and antifungal effect (Carson & Riley, 1995). Even fewer reviews of tea tree oils on viruses and protozoas exist; however, there is a suggestion that there is activity against both (Carson, Hammer & Riley, 2006).

In bacteria and fungus/yeast, the terpenes are thought to work by entering the cell membrane, causing potassium leakage, and ultimately leading to rupture of the cell wall (Cassella, Cassella & Smith, 2002; Carson, Hammer, & Riley, 2006). This would include the Candida albicans species of yeast that is so common with vaginal yeast infections.  While laboratory studies are promising, there are no clinical studies in humans.  The pharmaceutical companies have little interest in this type of research.  Interestingly, the natural vaginal bacteria, lactobacilli, are more resistant to exposure from tea tree (Cassella, Cassella & Smith, 2002).  This suggests that some of the natural flora of the vagina would be protected.  There is a rat model of vaginal candidiasis that supports the use of tea tree for the treatment of this type of yeast infection. (Mondello, De Bernardis, Girolamo, Salvatore, & Cassone, 2003).

While literature on clinical application in humans is lacking, based on in vitro (lab studies using cells/organisms alone) and the support of it’s use in an animal model, there does seem to be a role for tea tree oil use in treating vaginal candidiasis.  However, with the positive benefits, it’s also important to remember that even things that provide such benefits can result in toxic outcomes if used incorrectly.

If ingested, it can be poisonous.  If used orally, swallowing should be avoided.  The main reports note that tea tree can cause irritation to the skin.  Using a well-formulated product, lower in concentration, and by diluting with other components such as oils or creams irritation is reduced.  While allergic reactions have been reported (De Groot & Weyland, 1992), it appears it may be due from oxidation products from aged or poorly stored oils rather than from the oil itself (Hausen, Reichling, & Harkenthal, 1999).

Butterfly on Tea Tree Blossoms

Tea Tree


If I had a patient who really did not want to try the standard treatment of clotrimazole cream or fluconazole pill, or had a bad reaction to either of them then I’d certainly recommend they try this option.  It appears there is the potential for benefit with very little risk.  Even if they had another type of bacterial infection, the data suggest these tea tree mixtures may still treat those.  In fact, if I have another yeast infection, I may just give one of these recipes a try.

There are a few different recipes out there.  The majority make a tea tree suppository with a gel capsule. The mixture contains 1/3 tea tree oil (2-3 drops) combined with 2/3 vitamin E oil, calendula oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, vegetable oil or water (4-6 drops).  This is then used for at least 6 nights (Van Kessel, Assefi, Marrazzo, & Eckert, 2003).  Using a gel capsule prevents the oil from getting on the outside skin to decrease risk of irritation.

According to, in a similar fashion, a tea tree oil tampon can be used nightly instead.  Using the same mixture, saturate a clean and sanitary tampon. Afterwards, insert the saturated tea tree oil tampon into your vagina.  Avoid the outside skin as much as possible.  While Van Kessel et al 2003, suggested a 6 night course, this website article recommended using nightly for up to six weeks.

As with most treatments, the least effective dose possible can prevent the side effects.  I’d try 6 days and see if there was a positive effect with potential for additional use, if necessary.  However, if things don’t seem to be improving after those 6 days, and especially if you haven’t already seen a physician to make the diagnosis, it’d be important to be evaluated for other potential causes of vaginal discharge, some which can be serious.  There have been studies that looked at how well women diagnosis their own yeast infections, and many women over-diagnosed this as a cause of there vaginal irritation or discharge, be sure to see your ob-gyn for evaluation.

Be sure to use only high quality Organic Essential Tea Tree Oil


Carson CF, Hammer KA, and Riley TV, 2006.  Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil: A review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties.  Clinical Microbiology Reviews 19(1):50-62.

Carson CF and Riley TV (1994).  Susceptibility of Propionibacterium acnes to the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia.  Lett Appl Microbiol 19; 24-25.

Carson CF and Riley TV (1995).  Antimicrobial activity of the major components of the essential oil of Melaleica alternifolia.  J Applied Bacteriol, 78;264-269.

Cassella S, Cassella JP, and Smith I (2002).  Synergistic antifungal activity of tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oils against dermatophyte infection.  Int J Aromather 12; 2-15.

De Groot AC and Weyland JW, 1992.  Systemic contact dermatitis from tea tree oil.  Contact Dermatitis 27: 279-280.

Hausen BM, Reichling J, and Harkenthal M. 1999.  Degradation products of monoterpens are the sensitizing agents in tea tree oil.  Am J Contact Dermatitis 10:68-77.  Kristi Patrice Carter, article on bacterial vaginosis treatments.  Accessed:  February 12, 2012.

Mondello F, De Bernardis F, Girolamo A, Salvatore G, and Cassone A (2003).  In vitro and in vivo activity of tea tree oil against azole-susceptible and resistant human pathogenic yeast.  J Antimicrob.  Chemother.  51: 1223-1229.

Pena EF (1962).  Malaleuca alternifolia oil – its use for trichomonal vaginitis and other vaginal infectsion.  Obstet Gynecol 19; 793-795.

Van Kessel K, Assefi N, Marrazzo J, & Eckert L .  (2003).  Common complementary and alternative theraies for yeast vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis: A systemic review.  Obstetrical and gynecological survey 58;351-358.



Happy New Year! New 2012 California Energy Laws

We’re installing solar this year!


Happy New Year again!  As 2012 begins, my family has decided to look into utilizing the power of the sun to reduce some of our electrical costs and decided to install solar.  It’s not in yet but the plan is in the works.

For those of you considering this option, California laws provide some funding to complete your goal.

In the 745 new California laws taking effect or continuing this year, there are 5 set to assist with renewable energy efforts.


Energy – land exchange for renewable energy related projects

Solar Energy Parks Act

Promoting state lands for the advancement, development, assessment and installation of commercial concentrating solar power energy systems.  The State Lands Commission is responsible in determining suitability of the land for this use and appropriate commercial projects to lease the land for this specific use.


Renewable energy: expedited permitting

This bill sets to establish a program to ease and expedite the state permitting process for renewable energy and transmission projects.  Rather vague on the specifics of “expedited permitting” other than designating a timetable once all necessary documents have been provided as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.


Energy efficiency standards

Specified energy efficiency standards are required under California law, contractors, whether licensed or unlicensed in violation of these laws will be penalized.  Encompassed in this law is the aspect of unfair competition and building without proper licenses and permits.


Energy: solar systems funding

California Solar Initiative

A commission established to authorize award of monetary incentives for power generated by solar energy systems that meet the requirement of the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission.  The purpose is to provide incentives for customers for install and provide energy from solar systems as well as provide funding for research and development to explore solar technologies.


Energy: energy conservation projects

The Energy Conservation Assistance Act of 1979

Requires until January 1, 2013 that low-interest revolving loans be provided to eligible institutions to finance projects related to energy conservation, generation of renewable energy sources, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, energy or water efficiency improvements.

When we get our solar in will update on costs, rebates, and savings in our monthly bills.


If you want to read all the bills in their entirety you can use the following with links to each of the bills amendments and final revision: