Tea Tree Oil and Bacterial Vaginosis

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Bacterial vaginosis is a condition common in women of childbearing age. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the normal balance of good vaginal bacteria becomes disrupted and replaced by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists are studying the use of tea tree oil, purported to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, to treat many types of infections, including bacterial vaginosis. You should always check with your gynecologist before using tea tree oil or any herbal remedy to treat this condition.

Bacterial Vaginosis

As of 2011, scientists do not fully understand the cause of bacterial vaginosis. While any woman can develop the infection, some women are at greater risk, including women with a new sex partner or multiple sex partners and women who douche. It is not clear whether sexual activity can cause bacterial vaginosis but scientists do know that you cannot develop the infection from bedding, swimming pools or toilet seats. The main symptom is an unpleasant strong fish-like vaginal odor, especially after sex. Discharge, when present, may be gray or white and thin in appearance. Some women may experience burning during urination or itching around the outer area of the vagina. It can increase a woman’s susceptibility to some sexually transmitted diseases including herpes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tea Tree Oil

Manufacturers use a steam distillation process to remove the oil from the leaves of the tea tree plant, native to parts of Australia. Herbalists have used the oil of the tea tree for hundreds of years to treat a myriad of ailments including acne, bad breath, dandruff, dental plaque, Athlete’s foot, thrush, lice, genital herpes, nail infections, wounds, burns and Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA. Though holistic practitioners have used the oil for several years, little scientific evidence exists to back up its uses.

The Science

In laboratory studies, scientists found that tea tree oil can kill yeast and some types of bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, as of 2011, there is not sufficient evidence to show that tea tree oil can effectively treat bacterial vaginosis or other vaginal infections, though it may help alleviate the itching caused by yeast or bacteria. You should always consult a physician before using tea tree oil to treat any ailment.


The United States Food and Drug Administration do not regulate herbs or supplements and quality may vary greatly depending on manufacturer. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to tea tree oil ranging from mild skin irritation to blistering rashes. People who ingest tea tree oil may develop potentially dangerous reactions even when used in small doses. The Mayo Clinic explains that reports or reactions to oral tea tree oil include autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal disturbance, drowsiness, lethargy, confusion, severe rash, uneven gait and even coma.