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In this post I’m going to talk about tea tree essential oil, which is also known as melaleuca. This is an oil that you must add to your essential oil kit, or even to your first aid kit. It is one of the top antibacterial essential oils. There is such an array of benefits of tea tree oil and its uses, you will be amazed. Before we get into the benefits and uses, though, let’s learn some facts about this oil.
The scientific name for tea tree is melaleuca alternifolia. This is an Australian evergreen tree and is part of the Myrtaceae family, which have around 230 plant species mostly in Australia. The alternifolia plant is native to the eastern Australian coast in the swampy regions and is also native to Southeast Queensland. The essential oil is extracted from the leaves of these plants. Other species can be found in Tunisia (Melaleuca acuminata), Egypt (Melaleuca ericifolia) , and the United State (Melaleuca quinquenervia).
It seems the name ‘tea tree’ came from Captain James Cook’s use of the plant after witnessing the Aborigines using it as an infusion to treat sore throats, coughs, and colds. It is said the captain brewed a tea to give his crew to avoid sickness. The Aborigines also crushed the leaves and inhaled the oils to treat illnesses. They also made a poultice from the leaves to treat wounds. They discovered long ago in Australia, the powerful properties that tea tree has.
Some Tidbits Of Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea trees can grow fairly quickly and can be harvested in about 2 years from the time they are planted. The essential oil of the tea tree, as I mentioned previously, is extracted from the leaves, which contain tiny sacs that secrete the oil. Twigs can also be used in the extraction process using the steam distillation method. The quantity and quality of the oil depends on when it is extracted, with the winter months being the least favorable time.
The main chemical components/constituents of tea tree essential oil is terpinen-4-ol, which makes up between 35% – 48% of the oil. Other important powerful components in tea tree are, y-terpinene (14-28%), a-terpinene (6-12%), 1,8-cineole (up to 10%), terpinolene (1.5-5%), a-terpineol (2-5%), a-pinene (1-4%), p-cymene (.5-8%), sabinene (up to 3.5%), with smaller amounts of limonene, ledene, gamma-terpinene, and a-pinene. The best quality tea tree oil will have high levels of terpinene-4-ol and low levels of 1,8-cineole. These levels can make a safer with a wide range of usage.
The aroma of Tea Tree essential oil is refreshing, with a medicinal, camphoraceous and woody medium scent. Tea tree oil consistency is thin and has a clear color with a yellow tinge. This oil is a middle note oil and as such makes up between 50 – 80% of the oil blend. Tea Tree is in the camphoraceous/herbal and blends well with other members of its family.
Tea Tree essential oil blends well with these oils:
- Woody family: pine, juniper, and juniper
- Floral family: lavender, geranium, rose, and ylang ylang
- Camphoraceous family: eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint
- Earthy family: Oakmoss
- Herbal family: oregano, basil, German chamomile, clary sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram
- Citrus: bergamot, lemon, and pink grapefruit
- Spicy: black pepper, clove, and nutmeg
Tea Tree blends the best with oils that are invigorating and refreshing. Remember, when blending add top and base note oils to get the best results.
The therapeutic properties of tea tree oil have made it a very valued oil. The properties give it a unique ability to heal. In 1920, it was researched by an Australian chemist, Arthur Penfold, and after that the benefits of the oil became widely known. It was used in the 1920s in dentistry and surgery as an antiseptic. During World War II it was used to help clean wounds and stop infections.
Here are some beneficial properties created by the components of melaleuca essential oil:
antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, expectorant, stimulant, sudorific, antioxidant. These are just some of the properties found in tea tree essential oil.
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
1. Tea tree essential oil has some amazing benefits, one of which is dermatological. It has the ability to help fight facial acne and other face problems. This study shows that the use of tea tree on acne can reduce the facial lesions. It reacted slower than another treatment used in the study, but it had fewer side effects and doesn’t compromise the health of non-acne skin.
Because the oil is anti-bacterial and anti-septic, it makes a good treatment for acne. Acne is caused by oil glands on the skin becoming clogged and forming lesions. Tea tree is used by a few famous people, such as Emma Stone and Meghan Markle, who thinks it works great. In a study done in 2017, researchers concluded that “tea tree oil products significantly improved mild to moderate acne and that the products were well tolerated”.
2. Earlier, I told you about the aborigines in Australia who used crushed leaves of the melaleuca tree to relieve their coughs and colds. They inhaled the scent and also made an infusion to treat their sore throats. The activity of the antimicrobial and antiviral properties in the oils is what makes it so effective. Looking at a study from the American Society For Microbiology, there is evidence to show that tea tree is a great oil to fight respiratory conditions.
3. Because of tea tree’s antimicrobial, anti inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, It has been used to treat wounds for many years. It started back with the Aborigines in Australia. They also used the crushed leaves directly on a wound and put a mud pack over it as a poultice, thus drawing out the infection. In WWII, tea tree oil was put on bandages that were used on wounds. It is still used today on bandages that cover wounds. Here is a study that discusses the use of essential oils in wound treatments. Because bacteria can become resistant to artificial antibiotics, natural antimicrobials, such as tea tree oil, are being tested and used to combat that problem. They do not become bacteria resistant.
4. Head lice can become a real problem in schools. I went through it with my children. It’s not fun. The only thing I knew to use at that time was the shampoo you could purchase at the drug store. I hated using it and the kids definitely did not like it. I have now discovered that tea tree essential oil has insecticidal properties and it can be an effective head lice treatment. I found a study to show how tea tree alone can get rid of lice. Now that, in itself, would be worth using tea tree oil.
5. As tea tree is also an antifungal, it is a good option to deal with nail fungus. To put it bluntly, nail fungus can be a nasty thing to have. Tea tree oil is a great natural product for treatment for nail fungus. There is actually a Global Nail Fungus Organization that claims around 20% of global population have this problem. If you are in this 20%, you might be interested in a study done by the Department of Family Medicine showing tea tree was just as good as a commonly used medicine, Clotrimazole. Melaleuca is also good for fighting athlete’s feet, jock itch, and candida.
6. Most everybody is concerned with oral health and since tea tree is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, it can help to keep your teeth in good shape and your mouth fresh. Tea tree can be a natural remedy to kill the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath and helps to heal your mouth after oral surgery, such as root canals. Here is a great study done on 5 essential oils; tea tree being one of them. It concludes that tea tree oil fights against oral pathogens. Dr. Kate Hammill, from the University of Western Australia, has been studying Melaleuca for years. She has determined in this research that various oral bacteria can be defenseless against tea tree oil, thus making it useful for oral healthcare.
Uses of Meleleuca(tea tree) Essential Oil
Here are some great ways to use this oil to improve your health and home. There are usually three ways to use an essential oil.
1. Topically – This oil can be used on the skin and most of the time diluted 1:1 with a carrier oil of your choice.
2. Aromatically- It’s always a wonderful thing to diffuse oils in your home and this one will help kill bacteria and refresh your home.
3. Internally- As with any essential oil, there is controversy on whether it is safe to take internally. Tea tree is no exception. Essential oils are a very powerful natural medicine. Most of the time, less is better. There are many factors that need to be addressed if a person is considering the internal use of an essential oil, such as why it’s being taken internally, how much is being taken, and how long it is being taken. Most of the problems I’ve read about have come from overdosing.
Dr. Robert Tisserand, a consultant in the essential oil industry and profession, doesn’t “believe it’s an absolute no-no. What I do believe is that you need to known what you’re doing”. Here is an interview with him where he explains the safeties of using essential oils. If you have concerns about using oils internally, read that interview and also check out the NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy). This organization promotes education to the public about aromatherapy (essential oil use).
Here are some ways you can use tea tree essential oil topically:
To fight acne:
To make your own acne face wash, combine five drops of tea tree oil with 2 teaspoons of raw honey. Rub the mixture gently on your face. Leave it on for 1 minute then rinse it off with water.
Another alternative is to mix 4 drops of tea tree with a half cup of water and apply to the face with a cotton ball or pad once daily.
To help relieve a respiratory condition cough, mix 1-2 drops of tea tree with 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil and rub this into the chest and back of the neck.
Wound healing agent:
To help heal wounds and cuts and fight infections, make sure the cut/wound is clean, then put 1-3 drops of tea tree oil on it. Cover it with a bandage.
Every time the bandage is changed, add a few drops of tea tree to the new bandage.
Natural head lice treatment:
To treat head lice, add 3 drops each of tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil to 1 tablespoon of organic shampoo. Wash hair with this and leave on for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing. Use this on a regular basis, until the lice are cleared up.
Another lice treatment is to mix 1 teaspoon of tea tree and 5 tablespoons coconut oil and apply to the scalp and hair strands. Wrap your head with a towel or use a shower cap and let it set for 30 minutes to an hour before washing it. After it’s washed, use a fine tooth comb and comb out the lice. Repeat this 2 or 3 times a week until the lice are gone. For a preventative, when you wash your hair, put some shampoo in your palm and add 1-2 drops tea tree oil. Mix them and wash your hair. Do this every few weeks to keep clear of lice.
Tea tree as an antifungal:
Since tea tree has the ability to kill fungus and even parasites, it’s great to use on nail fungus, and, also, ringworm and athlete’s feet. It can be applied undiluted to the toenail. Put a few drops of the oil on a cotton swab and apply it to the nail. Do this once or twice a day until it relieves symptoms. For extra strength, use a drop or two with the tea tree and apply that to the nail.
To help eliminate ringworm, dilute 2-3 drops of tea tree in a carrier oil and treat the skin 2 or 3 times a day with the mixture.
Tea tree may be a great wart removal. Put a few drops of oil on the wart once or twice a day for 30 days.
For oral health:
Because tea tree fights bad bacteria it can be used to help with oral health. There are a couple of ways to use it. You can add a drop of tea tree oil to your toothpaste right before brushing. You can also make your own DIY toothpaste that is very simple. Add 10 drops of tea tree oil to 1/4 cup coconut oil and a tablespoon (or 2) of baking soda. Use this like you would any toothpaste. It should take care of that bacteria in your mouth. Here is something interesting. You can also use this mixture as a natural deodorant, but cut the amount of tea tree oil to 3-5 drops.
Something else you can do for oral health is make your own mouth rinse. Just add a drop of tea tree essential oil to a cup of warm water and rinse your mouth for about 30 seconds. As an alternative, here is a homemade mouth rinse recipe that I use everyday. It has a few more ingredients, but it gives extra strength in fighting bacteria.
Massage oil blend for sore feet:
Add 12 drops of peppermint oil and 12 drops of tea tree oil with 2 oz. of sweet almond oil in a 4 oz dark glass bottle and shake the bottle to blend it well. Massage the blend gently into feet and toes to give relief to those sore feet.
As a household cleanser:
Yes, tea tree is a natural cleanser to use around your house. For a cleanser, in a quart glass spray bottle, mix 10 drops of tea tree oil to 2 cups hot water and half a cup of vinegar. To give it an extra punch, add 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil to it. See my post about lemon essential oil. You can clean most anything with this cleaner; showers, counter tops, toilets, sinks, mirrors and more.
To clean that dirty bathroom use a bathroom scrub. Combine 10 drops of tea tree oil, water, vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. The soda lifts stains and the vinegar and tea tree fight that bacteria.
To use melaleuca (tea tree) essential oil aromatically:
Room freshener/bacteria killer:
To help eliminate bacteria in your home, use 4 drops each of tea tree essential oil, lemon essential oil, peppermint essential oil, and eucalyptus essential oil and add them to your diffuser. Diffuse your desired length of time. This will help control bacteria and mold in the home and will also refresh the air. You can also add this to a spray bottle filled with water and mist it in the air.
Relief from coughs and congestion:
To help fight colds and relieve congestion, Add 4 drops each of tea tree and eucalyptus oils, 1 tablespoon Vicks Vapor Rub to 3 cups boiling water in a bowl. Leaning over the bowl, drape a towel over your head with your eyes closed, and inhale the steam through the nose and exhale through your mouth. Do this for about 10 minutes. This is also good to help relieve sinus infections.
And for internal use:
For internal use, see the informational section above.
Oil Safety And Precautions
In general, use caution when using any essential oil with pregnant women and children under six. There are some oils that should never be used with children and during pregnancy. Tea tree essential oil is a milder oil, like lavender. These can be diluted to use with children and pregnant women.
As with any oil, there is a risk(albeit very small) of allergic reaction. It usually takes about 10 minutes to notice a reaction. I think, as with a lot of oils, there is a lot of controversy to using tea tree mostly from allergic reactions or overdosing.
As always with any essential oil, use tea tree essential oil in moderation. Don’t overdo it! You can over dose on any essential oil. Sometimes, less is better. If you are being treated for any medical conditions, seek advice from a professional before using.
My Final Thoughts
If you are looking for an oil to add to your essential oil kit, you can see why this oil should be a must have. There are so many benefits of tea tree oil. It is a natural inexpensive alternative to those chemical based treatments that can help with nail fungus, lice, and so much more.
Tea tree is becoming more and more popular in the personal care and cosmetics industry. It is being added to products such as shampoo, lotion, soap and skin creams. That tells you that there has to be some benefits to using it. If you found this post informative or have a question, please leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
As always, thanks for reading!