For decades now, tea tree essential oil has been added to many commercial products that cleanse or purify the body. Most notably, it can assist with clearing blemishes. It has proven antibacterial properties and can help reduce germs in both the air and on the skin. Energetically, the strong, bittersweet spiciness of tea tree essential oil will invigorate the heart and mind. It can uplift the spirit and infuse a bit of confidence. When it comes to the best-known essential oils around the world, tea tree oil ranks toward the top of the list. It has gained a reputation of being known as “nature's first aid kit in a bottle” due to its immunostimulant and antiseptic properties and has been used for millennia for treating a whole host of conditions.
Tea tree oil has a fragrance that is reminiscent of eucalyptus oil, which is ironic as both plants originate from the same corner of the world. Its fragrance is easily recognizable, especially to teenagers and anyone who has ever used an anti- acne face wash. It is a multifaceted medicinal treatment for a plethora of fungal and bacterial infections, along with the belief that it may possess the ability to inhibit viral reproduction, but we will reach that a little farther on in the article.
More than being just another anti-acne ingredient, tea tree essential oil is also fantastic for improving the quality of the hair, eradicating head lice, eliminating bacteria and fungi, purifying the air and adding a fresh and relaxing odor to any room that it is used in. While the above may seem impressive, we are just getting started on the therapeutic and medicinal benefits that tea the therapeutic and medicinal benefits that tea tree essential oil has to offer. 1
To help you understand a little bit more about tea tree oil, its origins, and its current everyday uses, we have gathered all of the essential information and compiled it into this detailed guide, which will hopefully help you learn more about it from the ground up. So, if you are ready, let’s go.
A History of the Use of Tea Tree Oil
Historical records show that tea tree oil has been used by the indigenous aborigines of Australia for thousands of years. Tea tree oil is extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia, a species of the tree in the Myrtle family. It is a volatile essential oil that is used to treat a multitude of health conditions and disorders.
In Eastern Australia, the Bundjalung people who are indigenous to the area have been using tea tree oil as a means of treating colds and coughs. They also Infuse the leaves to help treat skin conditions and sore throats, while dried leaves are applied to wounds to aid in healing.
It was in the year 1770 that the HMS Endeavour sailed into Botany Bay in Australia, which today is the current site of Sydney. Captain James Cook then sailed North towards New South Wales, where he discovered forests of trees that had aromatic leaves that were sticky and when boiled produced a spicy tea. 2
It was from this infusion that Captain Cook concocted that led to the birth of the name “tea tree.” Of course, at the time, he did not know of the potential poisoning effect that tea tree oil can have if ingested, but he clearly did not consume much, as he remained in good health. It was during the 1920s that tea tree oil began to be commercially extracted after an Australian, Arthur Penfold was investigating several native oils for business purposes, of which he noted that tea tree oil help promise due to its antiseptic properties. While the majority of essential oils are extracted from a single species of plant, tea tree oil can be extracted from several plants within the same family.
It was originally extracted in Australia from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, is still the main genus used today. Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, several other species rose in popularity, including Melaleuca armillaris throughout Egypt and Tunisia and Melaleuca leucadendra throughout Vietnam and Malaysia. What was once a medicinal extract used exclusively in Australia, tea tree oil has grown in popularity around the world and become one of the leading naturopathic essential oils available.
The Science Behind Tea Tree Oil
With Australia being a continent that has been completely isolated for most of evolutionary history, much of the flora and fauna evolved to be unique. Throughout the centuries, Aboriginal tribes located in New South Wales have long made use of the medicinal powers that tea tree oil offers, especially when it comes to the germicidal properties that the leaves contain.
The extraction process of obtaining tea tree oil involves steam distillation, which primarily uses the terminal branches and leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, which is also known as Australian tea tree. There are many chemical compounds contained within tea tree oil that all work in different ways to promote health and wellness. Below, we will take a further look at each of the major chemical compounds and the benefits that they offer to the individual. 3
To begin with, 4-terpineol is an antiseptic active principle that is found in abundance in tea tree oil. It acts in synergy with the remainder of the chemical components and actively works on eliminating and destroying bacteria upon contact.
Another main vital components found in tea tree oil is 1,8-cineole. It is also commonly known as eucalyptol, which is an ingredient found in many cough suppressants and mouthwashes. While it is a potent insect repellent, there are several species of male orchid bees that actively collect the chemical compound to use during the synthesizing process of pheromones.
Tea tree oil also contains the organic compound known as a-pinene. This compound is an organic anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and has also shown itself to work as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor which can help improve cognitive functions, including memory. A-pinene has also been used as a bronchodilator at low exposure levels.
P-cymene is classified as an aromatic organic compound and is commonly found in many essential oils, with two of the most well-known being thyme and cumin.
The Main Terpenes Found in Tea Tree Essential Oil Include:
Common Uses of Tea Tree Essential OilIt is no secret that tea tree oil is well known for its use as a topical medicinal treatment. For decades, it has been the main component found in anti-acne and anti-blemish face washes and moisturizers around the world. Of course, while there will always come to the forefront of people's minds when asked about tea tree oil, it is able to work on many different conditions both medicinally and therapeutically.
So, what exactly is tea tree essential oil able to help treat? Well, the list is quite impressive and it becomes clear as to why it is known as nature's first aid kit in a bottle. The conditions that tea tree oil is effective to include:
- Skin conditions, such as acne and pimples
- Fungal infections of the fingernails and toenails
- Dandruff and an itchy scalp
- Insect bites and stings
- Bacterial and fungal infections
- Herpes and scabies
- Burns and ringworm
- Flu and colds
- Eczema and inflamed skin
- Urinary tract infections
- Candida, the bacteria responsible for thrush
- Cognitive disorders, such as memory loss
Antiviral propertiesAs noted above, tea tree essential oil is a multi-faceted extract that possesses many different benefits. It has been shown to have anti-viral properties, which could make it a potential treatment option for conditions arising from various different viruses, including herpes and shingles. This has generated interests in the potential use of tea tree oil as a treatment for the above noted viral conditions. 4
Antibacterial propertiesTea tree oil is probably most famed for its antibacterial properties, which makes it a useful tool in the fight of preventing infections in open wounds and burns. It is the antibacterial properties that have made it a popular addition to many anti-acne face washes. In fact, its antibacterial effects are so potent that it is able to target methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is the bacteria responsible for staph infections.
Antifungal propertiesVarious studies performed on the anti-fungal properties of tea tree oil have confirmed that it has a positive effect on several different types of fungal infections, including nail disease and athlete's foot. It has also been shown to actively work against Candida overgrowth and yeast infections when applied topically. When combined with its antiviral and antibacterial effects, it creates the perfect trifecta for treating illness and injury from varying infections. 5
Scalp and cosmetic treatmentsAlong with providing all of the medicinal benefits as noted above, tea tree essential oil is also an ideal addition to daily cosmetic routines. Its ability to provide the individual with antimicrobial properties, along with its distinctive scent makes it a desirable option for many people. In fact, it has been proven to effectively treat acne when compared to a solution of 5% benzoyl peroxide yet does not come with all of the drying side effects. 6 It is also being shown to be effective at treating dandruff when used at a 5% concentration. It is important to remember that tea tree oil has been shown to be more effective at eradicating head lice than many of the other pharmaceutical medications available. 7
Air purifier and cold remedyTea tree oil is the perfect ingredient for use in room diffusers or a personal aromatherapy device. Inhalation, when done properly, is the most direct and immediate route to feeling the effects of an essential oil. Tea tree oil can assist with clearing clogged sinuses, and fight colds. Breathing in its antibacterial and expectorant properties is a wonderful remedy for sickness. Regular, low dose, use via a personal aromatherapy device may be just the thing to stimulate your immune system and ward off viruses. It’s also the most convenient way to benefit from tea tree essential oil!
When you take into account all of the beneficial medicinal and therapeutic effects that tea tree oil affords to the individual, it only serves to highlight how important it really is. It's bactericide, antiseptic and wound healing abilities has firmly placed it in the first aid box in many homes around the world. Tea tree oil is non-corrosive and non-staining and is an environmentally safe organic product.
Final Thoughts about Tea Tree Essential Oil
It is important to remember that if you are going to apply tea tree oil topically, you should first do a test patch on a small area of skin located on the inner elbow. You should wait 24 hours to see if you experience any adverse reactions before using the oil on larger areas of skin. For the most part, tea tree oil is tolerated exceptionally well by the majority of folks and provides them with beneficial therapeutic relief from bites, burns, stings, and wounds.
As you can see from the detailed information above, tea tree oil is perfectly safe for topical or inhalation use in most instances, and will not cause any negative long-term or short-term impacts on your health. It has made its way from the most isolated continent on the planet to be readily available in every country around the world. It is easy to see as to why it held in such high regard and has been used throughout the centuries as a treatment for many different skin conditions.
Statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.