Where Does Tea Tree Come From?People refer to tea tree most commonly as tea tree oil, Australian tea tree oil, tea tree essential oil, or melaleuca oil. Tea tree oil as referred to in this article refers to the volatile essential oil derived mainly from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil is derived by steam distillation from the leaves of the tea tree. Widespread interest in tea tree oil developed in the 1930s. However, by the 1960s demand for the oil had declined due to the massive development of pharmaceuticals. Combine that with the waning image of natural products and it faded into the background for a while. Interest in tea tree oil re-emerged in the late 1970s and into the 1980s as part of a growing global interest in natural products and homeopathic remedies. Australia established the first commercial tea tree plantations in the 1970s and 80s
Properties of Tea TreeThe main constituents of tea tree oil are alpha pinene, beta pinene, sabinene, myrcene, linalool, and terpinenol, amongst a host of others. Tea tree oils come in six different chemical combinations: a terpinen-4-ol type, a terpinolene type, and four 1,8-cineole types. These various oil types contain over 98 compounds, with terpinen-4-ol as a major component. This latter compound has proven antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Medicinal/Homeopathic Tea Tree Oil BenefitsSome medicinal properties of tea tree include:
- The Aboriginal people of Australia have used tea tree as a traditional medicine for cuts and wounds for centuries.
- Tea tree has powerful antiseptic properties and therefore the ability to assist in treating wounds. To date there have been over 300 scientific studies that confirm tea tree oil’s antimicrobial prowess alone!
- Various studies in recent decades have shown that tea tree has the ability to kill various strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Tea tree is a powerful antifungal it is known to be effective against ringworm.
- There is extensive topical use of tea tree for various conditions including acne, athlete’s foot, lice, nail fungus, cuts, and insect bites.
- Tea tree also has anti-inflammatory and allied properties.
Tea tree has an array of health benefits. A few of the specific conditions for which tea tree has beneficial properties include:
- Psoriasis: Tea tree oil is especially effective as it helps remove dry and dead skin cells that cause psoriasis. Its antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties relieve itching, redness, and burning.
- Eczema: Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties that help to soothe the itch and heal the skin while preventing further damage.
- Staph infections: Tea tree oil can be effective in help fighting these infections. Some studies suggest this includes strains that are resistant to antibiotics.
- Bladder infections: Many of these infections can be antibiotic-resistant and tea tree might help fight these bacteria. The vapors of tea tree oil inhibit the bacteria (one of them being E.coli) that cause these infections.
- Oral thrush: Tea tree oil can act against the Candida albicans yeast that causes oral thrush. Using a tea tree oil gel twice on a toothbrush can reduce gingivitis inflammation.
Some Quirky Facts about Tea Tree
- Eighteenth century sailors named it tea tree, after making a brew that smelled like nutmeg from the leaves of the tree growing on the swampy southeast Australian coast (modern day New South Wales).
- Tea tree oil was an essential part of every Australian soldier’s kit during World War II, especially for antiseptic use and treating feet fungus, which is probably how the word spread regarding the amazing properties and efficacy of the oil.
- No one has manufactured artificial tea tree oil with the same effectiveness of the all-natural original.
- It takes about a ton (2000lbs) of shredded tea tree branches and leaves to make 2 ½ gallons of pure tea tree oil.
Cosmetic/Skincare Uses of Tea Tree OilBesides being great for psoriasis and eczema (see above), tea tree is one of the most effective home remedies for acne, although one must always proceed with caution for that purpose (see caution and tip for you below). One study found tea tree oil to be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide (most commonly used to treat acne), but without the negative side effects of the chemical that many people experience, which can include red, dried and peeling skin. If anything, tea tree oil is also soothing for those using it to treat acne. Caution! Do not swallow tea tree oil. It can cause serious symptoms such as confusion and ataxia (loss of muscle coordination). It can also cause a form of contact dermatitis (localised itchiness) or other negative reaction to the skin for a small percentage of people.
Testing for a Sensitivity to Tea Tree OilA Tip for You: How do you test for sensitivity to tea tree oil? Simple - Put two drops of tea tree oil on a sterile cotton swab. Apply the oil to the inside of your forearm. If your skin does not burn, itch or turn red within two hours, you can are most likely not allergic. If you experience slight irritation, you will want to dilute the tea tree oil by at least 50 percent. Mix five drops of oil with five drops of warm water and test again in a different spot. When you test the second time and there's no reaction then you should be safe to continue use. If a more severe reaction ensues, discontinue use altogether. That being said I don't typically recommend using any essential oil straight on the skin. Over time it can lead to you being allergic to that oil. You can read more about it in my article on the dangers of using essential oils undiluted.
Why We Love Tea Tree in Our ProductsAs a recap of its many benefits, here are some of the reasons why we at Solpri use tea tree essential oils in our products:
- It is especially good for the skin
- It is a powerhouse as a topical lotion
- Tea tree oil has tremendous antiseptic properties
- It is especially adept at fighting infections
- Tea Tree is a noteworthy anti-fungal
“Today, tea tree oil is renowned for its practically endless number of uses, particularly for the skin…There is no doubt that this oil is one that should be on the shelves of all medicine cabinets.” – Natural Living Ideas