Tea tree oil comes from Melaleuca alternifolia which belongs to the Myrtaceae or the myrtle family of plants. This oil comes from a small tree with soft and small narrow leaves and cream-colored flowers. To get tea tree oil however, the feathery and bright green leaves are the ones used. The extracted oil is pale yellow and almost colourless. It is an essential oil that has a fresh and camphoraceous odour. Although they both have the word “tea,” tea tree oil and tea oil should not be used interchangeably as they are from completely different plant sources.
History and Origins of Tea Tree Oil
This essential oil is obtained by the steam distillation process making use of the Melaleuca alternifolia leaves. This plant is a native of Australia. “Tea trees” have long been used by the Bundjalung people of Eastern Australia for their traditional medicinal purposes. They would inhale the oil from freshly crushed leaves and have relief from colds and cough. Whenever they had wounds, they would sprinkle some tea tree leaves on it. To make infusions, they would soak the leaves and drink for cases of sore throat or apply on various skin ailments.
Tea Tree Oil Properties
The main chemical constituents which make up tea tree oil include alcohols, terpinene, terpenes, cineole, cymene, and pinene. The essential oil is obtained from the leaves through steam distillation. It can be used for aromatherapy purposes, as a remedy for ringworm or athlete’s foot, yeast or Candida, oral hygiene, cold sore, flea and other insect bites, sore throat, scabies, and other skin conditions. Tea tree oil has antifungal, antibacterial, vulnerary, analgesic, and antiviral effects as well.
Benefits from Tea Tree Oil
There are several benefits from using tea tree oil. Topically, it can be used as an acne remedy and make the pimples dry up without the pain. It can also be applied to the hair and other affected areas of the skin for lice and fleas, and gradually heals fungus of the nail and even athlete’s foot. Tea tree oil can be applied directly on the skin or added to shampoo and skin lotions. Other skin conditions which benefit from tea tree oil include psoriasis, skin tags, small wounds, and ringworm.
Gargling with tea tree oil can give a person fresher breath. Adding a drop of it onto the toothpaste before brushing the teeth also increases the antibacterial and mouth freshening properties of the product. It can also keep one naturally fresh and clean by using it as a deodorant. This can be done by adding tea tree oil to the bath water, and it will work to prevent the development of bad body odour.
As a remedy for asthma, a few drops of tea tree oil can be added to the humidifier and inhaled for a clearer breathing. A few drops of tea tree oil can help relieve ear aches. Adding a carrier oil such as olive oil in equal parts can help when used for this purpose. It is advised not to ingest tea tree oil, and use in moderation to avoid turning it into a skin irritant.