The Many Uses for Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil known for its medicinal properties. Native to the New South Wales, Australia, steam distillation of the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree gives us tea tree oil. Among the 100 compounds contained in the oil, the compound “Terpinen-4-ol” mainly accounts for the antimicrobial characteristics of this miraculous oil.
Tea tree oil is a clear to very yellow or green-tinged essential oil with a fresh camphorous odor. These leaves were earlier used as a substitute for tea, which is how the oil got its name.
One should not confuse Tea Tree Oil and Tea Oil (the seasoning and cooking oil obtained from pressed seeds of the plant Camellia oleifera).
Tea Tree oil was used in Australia as a potent antiseptic long before any scientific research described its benefits based off of study. Crushed Tea Tree leaves were used in traditional medicine by inhaling the oils which helped in treating colds and coughs. It was also common practice to sprinkle the oil on wounds.
It was only after 1920’s that use of the oil itself became popular. A series of research papers evaluating its antimicrobial properties was published by Arthur Penfold and led to its popularity. Even after it gained popularity, the oil was extracted using mobile, makeshift, wood-fired bush and plant material was hand cut on the spot. The demand was very high until World War II and ebbed after the war, mainly due to the development of effective antibiotics and lessening interest in natural products. However, the interest in natural essential oils was rekindled in the 1970s and 1980s and its demand has surged for uses in medicinal and cosmetic uses. Further studies have supported the use of tea tree oil in skin care and for use in various ailments.
Some of the uses of this wondrous oil
Tea Tree Oil for Acne: A study done in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Department of Dermatology proved Tea Tree oil is very effective in treatment of moderate acne.
Inhaling tea tree oil helps to breathe easier by “breaking up congestion.” It can also minimize the symptoms of flu, cold, sore throat and systemic fungal infections.
Dandruff: Tea tree oil shampoo can help significantly reduce dandruff symptoms after 4 weeks of use. This was reveled in a study done on 126 people with mild to moderate dandruff. This is due to its ability to treat Malassezia furfur, the general common cause of the dandruff.
Athlete’s Foot: A study to cure athlete’s foot was done with treatment using a 50% tea tree oil solution and placebo. After two daily applications for 4 weeks, tea tree oil was found to be significantly more effective than the placebo.
Toenails and Fungal Infections: Another study found that 100% tea tree oil was as effective as a treatment for toenail fungus infections; it was as effective as the standard antifungal medication of 1% clotrimazole solution.
Tea tree oil is also effective against candidiasis and other vaginal infections.
It can be used as a bath additive and also may control bacteria in spas and pools.
Tea Tree oil is used in cosmetic products like to make tea tree soap and shampoo.
It has been used in treatments for eye aliments and blepharitis.
It is used in toothpastes, mouth washes for curing bad breath and treating gum diseases.
It is effective in treating minor wounds, insect bites, soothing sunburn and treating ear infections.
The range of tea tree oil uses is incredible for such a simple little product. It can be used to fight fungal infections, it helps to prevent scarring, and it also works on baby’s diaper rash.
If you have ever had a fungal infection such as ringworm or athletes foot you will know how difficult it can be to get rid of it. Ringworm isn’t a worm but a fungus. It got its name as it can grow in circles resembling worms. In fact the Latin name i.e. the medical name for this condition is Tinea which means growing worm. It can occur anywhere on the skin but is most prevalent on the scalp or feet. As tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties, it has proven very effective in getting rid of this condition. Do not apply neat but use it with carrier base oil such as grapeseed oil or sunflower oil. In a diluted form, you can create an effective and gentle tea tree oil acne treatment.
If you are going to have surgery, try having regular massages with this oil before hand as it may help to improve your recovery time as well as reduce scarring. The oil also helps to bolster your natural immune system thus helping your body to fight off infections which are a risk with any form of surgical procedure. The massage itself will also help to offset any nervous feelings you may hold regarding the medical procedure.
If you have children you will probably have come across head lice. These creatures, while not harmful, are extremely irritating, not only because they cause itching but they are also difficult to get rid of. However, lice do not like tea tree oil so try adding a couple of drops of the oil to your normal shampoo. Use every time you wash your child’s hair, massaging it into their scalp and leaving it for five minutes. This should act as a deterrent to lice.
If you regularly suffer from colds and flu, try giving your system a boost via steam inhalation. Add a couple of drops of Tea Tree oil to very hot water. Place a towel over your head and inhale the steam. The antibacterial and anti-viral properties of the oil will help to flush the germs out of your system. If you have children, you might not want to use steaming due to the danger of burns. You can achieve the same effect using a vaporizer in their room while they sleep.
Finally if you or your partner suffers from bad breath, try gargling with a solution of oil and warm boiled water. It is very simple but effective although it does taste rather bitter. This only describes a handful of tea tree oil uses. The list of problems it can help solve is huge, so make sure that your medicine cabinet has a bottle of Tea Tree oil in it!