To the Editor:
With 40% to 60% of US residents using some kind of complementary or alternative medicine in their homes, it is worthwhile to mention a holistic remedy.
Tea tree oil, or ti tree oil,1 also known as cajuput;2Melaleuca leucadendra;2 and Melaleuca alternifolia, 2 is widely used in its native Australia, as well as in the Caribbean Islands. It is used for a range of dermatologic conditions, ranging from acne, fungoid dermatoses, boils, body odor, and molluscum.
Essential oils should never be taken internally. Used on the skin, this oil is benign and has some evidential basis for its use.3 Internal accidental ingestion by children has resulted in central nervous system toxicity.
In our practice, where treatment is indicated for molluscum, we begin with daily external use of tea tree oil. After several days, the lesions seem to disappear. We have seen no side effects, but skin irritation has been reported. We have not conducted a controlled study. However, because of its low cost, benign nature, and safety, we recommend starting molluscum treatment with tea tree oil.
Gerald Ente, MD
1. Physicians Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics; 1998:964-965.