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J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Sep;17(9):835-41. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0508. Epub 2011 Aug 19.

Survey of the antimicrobial activity of commercially available Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil products in vitro.

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School of Pharmacy, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia.



The aim of this study was to investigate the antimicrobial activity of a range of commercially available tea tree oil (TTO) products and to evaluate whether formulation plays a significant part in their antiseptic activity.


The antimicrobial activity of the purchased products and control TTO solutions was assessed against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Candida albicans using well diffusion, broth microdilution, and broth macrodilution assays.


Zone sizes obtained by the agar well diffusion assay ranged from 0 to 49.8 mm, with the more viscous and lipophilic products producing the smallest zones. Micro- and macrodilution methods showed that eight products had minimum inhibitory concentrations that were lower than the nonformulated TTO control. The remaining three products showed activity equivalent to the TTO control.


In general, the commercially available antiseptic TTO products showed antimicrobial activity that was equivalent to, or greater than the nonformulated TTO control. This suggests that the TTO within these products has retained its antimicrobial activity. Furthermore, the enhanced activity of the products may be attributed to other antimicrobial excipients within the products such as preservatives, or to synergistic antimicrobial interactions between the TTO and other product excipients. The observation that the commercially available antiseptic TTO products tested in this study retained adequate antimicrobial activity emphasizes the importance of considering how product bases and excipients may interact with the active compound during formulation to ensure efficacy of the final product. Finally, the current data suggest that these TTO products may also be active in vivo. However, this can only be determined through further studies and in clinical trials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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