Nerolina, which comes from the land Down Under, is a sweetly-scented oil distilled from the leaves and small branches of an Australian evergreen known as the paperbark tea tree or the broad-leaved paperbark tree.
While it originated in the wild, the tree with the botanical name Melaleuca quinquenervia commonly grows in the wetlands and lowlands of Australia’s east coast and is also native to New Caledonia in the South Pacific as well as Papua New Guinea – the essential oil from the tree ’s health benefits have led to cultivated plantations for the tree that produces the leaves.1
Melaleuca quinquenervia is a sweet member of the tea tree family and is tremendously popular with bees due to the flowers’ sugary scent, although the honey produced from the flowers does not carry the same health benefits as Manuka honey, which is prominently produced by Australia’s neighbor, the island nation of New Zealand.
With Melaleuca quinquenervia, it is the leaves and stems that pack the headiest health punch.
But nerolina essential oil, which is used medicinally and as a component of perfume, is not the only product spawned by the deciduous tree. The paperbark tea tree’s bark is used for a variety of purposes including as a wrap for food, much like grape or banana leaves, while the lumber is used for fences and other projects that require strong, durable wood. Melaleuca quinquenervia is also commonly used as an ornamental in Australia’s parks and gardens as well as along city streets, especially so in Sydney.
The flowers of the paperbark tea tree attract fruit and fox bats as well as a variety of birds and insects that consume both the flowers and the nectar the blossoms produce.
History of Nerolina
Melaleuca quinquenervia was first formally described in 1797 by the Spanish naturalist Antonio José Cavanilles, who wrote about the tree’s slender, pear-shaped leaves and creamy white blossoms.
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Nerolina essential oil, produced from those leaves, has been used medicinally for centuries, and today is most commonly used in perfume and hair products, not only because of its aroma but also for its botanical benefits. Nerolina is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that make it a good solution when it comes to softer, smoother skin.
A cousin of the essential oil Niaouli, which is also native to Australia and extracted from a member of the tea tree family, nerolina is born from one of the most pristine regions of the world, which makes it an extremely potent medicinal essential oil.2
Because it has such a lovely aroma, nerolina can be paired with curative tea tree oils – which are backed by hundreds of studies showing the oil’s ability to kill bacteria, including a 2006 Australian study appearing in the Clinical Microbiol Review – to lift what is typically a medicinal scent.
Used by people indigenous to Australia as a topical antibacterial, nerolina also captured the attention of early European settlers in Australia, who used the oil for aromatherapy to calm and soothe anxiety, especially so when mixed with lavender, an essential oil that is most often used for stress relief.
Nerolina may be exotic and unfamiliar with many outside of Australia – in Florida, where it was established in the Everglades, it is considered an invasive weed – the aroma itself is familiar, with sweet notes of both lilac and lavender with a woodsy base.
Because the leaves of the tree cannot tolerate high temperatures, nerolina is extracted through steam, which produces a high-quality oil.
Nerolina is as diverse as the tree from which its leaves are harvested and is suitable for both therapeutic and perfumery use.
As a medicinal essential oil, nerolina has a rich history.
So, what makes nerolina oil so special? It has a wealth of nutrients that have been shown to offer benefits far beyond a sweet scent.
Alpha-pinene is a terpene most often derived from evergreen trees like Melaleuca quinquenervia that offers myriad health benefits. It not only may help protect brain function including memory by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme that may damage neurotransmitters that send messages from the brain to the rest of the body. It may also naturally ease stress by interacting with the same neurotransmitters impacted by anti-anxiety drugs in the benzodiazepine class such as Xanax and Valium. An anti-inflammatory, benefit-packed alpha-pinene may also improve lung activity by acting as a bronchodilator.3
Linalool is a terpene (a plant compound with a variety of potential health benefits) that is believed to help ease stress, insomnia and overall anxiety. It also assists in the production of vitamin E, an essential antioxidant supports healthy inflammation and helps strengthen skin by protecting delicate cells from free radicals that can result in signs of aging.
Nerolidol is a plant-based sesquiterpene, a variety of terpene, that is found in tea trees include the one that produces nerolina. Nerolidol is effective because its small molecules can pass through cell membranes, encouraging the production of peptides and proteins such as collagen and elastin, making it another skin-friendly terpene.
Alpha-terpineol can permeate the skin’s barrier layer due to small molecules, alpha-terpineol has been studied as a way to help introduce drugs through transdermal absorption. It also offers antibacterial properties and is used in some cleaning products to erase germs.4
Cineole, which has a scent similar to eucalyptus and brings a note of camphor to nerolina oil, works as an antibacterial. It also acts as a natural expectorant, making it a natural treatment for allergies or congestion.5
Here is where the differences between nerolina and its cousin niaouli become more apparent, despite both coming from sweeter varieties of tea trees. While nerolina is high in the compounds linalool and nerolidol, which makes it more soothing, niaouli is high in cineole, which gives it more bacteria-fighting properties – and makes it smell more like traditional tea tree than the sweet nerolina. The two are often confused, despite the differing levels of active compounds in the two oils.
One person’s treasure… In the United States, where the paper bark tea tree is known as the punk tree, as well as tropical regions of the world including Southeast Asia and Africa, melaleuca quinquenervia has been introduced as an ornamental. In the U.S., it is considered an invasive species because it can easily take over a habitat, displacing native species, and it is so difficult to eradicate. (In Australia, melaleuca quinquenervia has shown growth within weeks after the fire, and trees can live for more than 100 years.) It was brought to the Florida Everglades in the early 1900s, where it quickly expanded in the marsh-like region where the climate is so similar to the Australian coast.
Uses for Nerolina Essential Oil
Nerolina is a topical oil that offers far-reaching benefits, from that aroma that is used to soothe away stress and bring peace and tranquility to the nutrients it easily infuses into the body because it is able to permeate the skin’s barrier layer.
Alleviates Stress and Boosts Energy
Life has a way of becoming hectic, leading to high anxiety levels and stress that can trigger insomnia as well as other health problems, type 2 diabetes, the result of long-term levels of excess cortisol. Nerolina’s blend of floral and wood brings to mind the quiet of Robert Frost’s evening forest, quiet and still to soothe the mind and relax the body.
Nerolina also uplifts and provides a natural energy boost, making it a great option for extended workouts or in place of a morning cup of coffee, which can be accompanied by a crash when the caffeine wears off.
Improves Sleep Quality
Because nerolina helps create a sense of calm, it can help quiet the mind, allowing sleep to take over. To get the best benefits, add a few drops of nerolina to water and use it as a mist over bedding each night before turning in.
Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Nerolina oil, when applied to the solar plexus (the area of the abdomen located directly above the diaphragm) or used aromatically, can help balance blood sugar by soothing stress, preventing the release of hormones that send blood glucose levels up. (That doesn’t mean nerolina will make up for a diet made up of nothing more than sugar and carbs. Essential oils are powerful, but they work in synergy with healthy behavior).
Relieves Pain and Inflammation
Nerolina helps promote healthy inflammation, including the inflammation associated with joint pain, such as the pain that accompanies rheumatoid arthritis.
Also suitable for muscle aches, nerolina can be used topically or as an aromatherapy treatment, as both treatment options have shown anecdotally to be beneficial.6
Kills Harmful Bacteria
While niaouli has more of the compound cineole in it, its cousin nerolina also acts as an antibacterial, killing bacteria on the skin, making it not only an appropriate spot treatment for acne but also a great way to eradicate bacteria on household surfaces.
Nerolina can be added to natural household cleaners or laundry detergents, where it can add an appealing scent as it kills germs without chemicals or toxins.
Nourishes Dry Skin
Nerolina is a rich emollient, making it an excellent addition to coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter or other natural moisturizers to accentuate their ability to moisturize and soften skin. It can also be added to homemade soaps and sugar scrubs to boost hydration levels. In addition to dryness, other skin woes that can benefit from nerolina include shingles and cold sores.
Nerolina is packed with linalool, which encourages the production of vitamin E, an antioxidant that encourages cell renewal. Vitamin E has long been used to improve the appearance of existing scars by softening skin and speed the healing process of fresh wounds to limiting scarring.
Nerolina’s nutrients encourage the production of the skin proteins collagen and elastin, which make up the skin’s structural layer while accelerating cell turnover, so new skin cells are revealed faster.
Improves Hair Health
Not only is nerolina added to shampoos and other hair products to eliminate hair odor and add moisture, it also acts as a natural miticide. Nerolina is believed to help fight head lice, and homeopathic sources in Australia recommend adding nerolina to children’s shampoo to fight off the pesky parasites.
Treats Insect Bites
Insect bites, the irritation of poison oak or ivy and rashes can be quickly soothed by nerolina, which decreases the immune response associated with bites and other itch-inducing situations.
Remedies Allergy Symptoms
The aromatherapy benefits of nerolina may include relief from allergy symptoms. The essential oil has been shown to act as a decongestant and an expectorant when used aromatically. It also helps ease breathing by opening up airways, improving airflow to the lungs, giving it potential benefits for asthma treatment as well.7
When using nerolina oil topically, it should be used with a carrier oil such as coconut, almond or olive oil to dilute it, since nerolina so easily penetrates the skin’s surface. Carrier oils also help keep the essential oil in place, so it can go to work easing pain, itching or other conditions for a longer period of time.
To reap the essential oil’s aromatherapy benefits, use nerolina oil in a diffuser, massage it (mixed with carrier oils) into pulse points such as the wrists and elbows, dilute it with water and use it as a mist or add a few drops of nerolina oil to a bowl of hot water and breathe in the bowl’s steam after covering the vessel and the head with a towel, trapping the water vapor.
This Australian essential oil would be an extremely beneficial one to add to your collection with a rich history of medicinal uses and properties. Its earthy and fruity aroma can also help to calm you and alleviate stress. It can be blended will with floral oils such as lemon myrtle, Rosalina, or sandalwood.
If you’re a little skeptical about blending essential oils on your own, give some of the MONQ blends a try through our easy-to-use personal diffusers for a convenient way to reap the benefits of the oils.