ALL ABOUT TEA TREE OIL
Tea Tree Essential Oil is derived and steam distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, commonly known as the Tea Tree.
The Melaleuca alternifolia tree received the name Tea Tree from eighteenth-century sailors, who made teas that smelled like nutmeg from the leaves of the (Tea) tree.
Tea Tree Essential Oil is a powerful, antiseptic immune system stimulant that is beneficial for eliminating bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Tea Tree Essential Oil can be used in cosmetics, aromatherapy, and in household cleaning supplies. It can treat wounds, provide soothing relief for aches, pains, and congestion, promote a sense of calm, and disinfect surfaces.
Tea Tree Essential Oil should never be applied to sensitive areas of skin such as around the eyes or in the nose. Sun exposure should be avoided after using the oil, as the oil can sensitize the skin to UV rays.
HISTORY OF TEA TREE OIL
The essential oil of the Tea Tree has been used for decades, and medical studies have documented its advantages as a beneficial aid in eliminating bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This powerful antiseptic is well known for its ability to treat wounds and for its natural anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed that before the advent of antibiotics and prescription medicine, the Australian natives spoke highly of the healing properties that the Tea Tree leaves have to offer. Aside from soaking the leaves in tea infusions or crushing them to inhale the soothing scent of their essential oils for the treatment of coughs and colds, the leaves were also sprinkled on wounds and held in place with mud pack poultices. Applied in this topical manner, poultices were remedies for infections that developed in wounds.
Not to be confused with common tea plants that are used to made black and green teas, the Tea Tree received its name from eighteenth-century sailors, who made teas that smelled like nutmeg from the leaves of the Tea Tree. The story goes that the “Tea Tree” was first publicized by Captain James Cook on Botany Bay in Australia when he came across the Aboriginals preparing an aromatic and spicy blend of sticky camphor-like leaves that had been gathered from the Melaleuca tree. It is believed that the Captain brewed and served the tea to his crew in order to prevent scurvy. Despite this historical anecdote involving the consumption of tea made from the leaves, Tea Tree Essential Oil is not intended for internal use and can have toxic effects if ingested even in small amounts. There is a negligible amount of naturally occurring essential oils found in Tea Tree leaves that have historically been used to make tea, whereas Tea Tree Essential Oil is concentrated and can lead to poisoning.
Tea Tree Essential Oil is derived and steam distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. As aforementioned, it is commonly known as Tea Tree. This is a plant native to the swampy regions of the eastern Australian coast and to Southeast Queensland. Its botanical term “alternifolia” means "having leaves that alternate on each side of a stem.” Tea Tree flowers grow on tall evergreen shrubs and develop in groups on the head or the “spike.” Clustered together on the spike, as many as eighty individual flowers form a shape that resembles white cleaning brushes with small bristles.
BENEFITS OF TEA TREE OIL
Tea Tree Essential Oil’s active chemical components contribute to its reputation as a powerful yet gentle immune system stimulant, as well as to its ability to reduce or eliminate harmful bacteria and infections upon contact. It is known to soothe topical allergic reactions and to treat rashes, burns, dandruff, acne, Athlete’s Foot, and head lice among other ailments. The main constituents of Tea Tree Oil are: α-pinene, β-pinene, Sabinene, Myrcene, α-Phellandrene, α-Terpinene, Limonene, 1,8-cineole, gamma-Terpinene, p-Cymene, Terpinolene, Linalool, Terpinen-4-ol and α-Terpineol.
The best quality Tea Tree Essential Oil contains high levels of Terpinen-4-ol and low levels of Cineole. These ideal levels of each constituent ensure the safety and wider range of usage for the oil. Terpinen-4-ol is a highly-purified Monoterpene, and this class of constituents is known to have anti-bacterial properties. Despite the medicinal benefits of Cineole for treating colds, a high Cineole content is not beneficial for the calming of inflammation or the treatment of wounds. Thus, for therapeutic purposes, it is necessary for this constituent to be found in low concentrations in Tea Tree Oil.
Pinene is known for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant and bronchodilator properties. Sabinene is reputed to work as an antioxidant that exhibits anti-microbial and antifungal properties. It can also be used to treat inflammation on the skin.
Myrcene is believed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibiotic, sedative, and anti-mutagenic properties. α-Terpinene has been known to exhibit antifungal activity. Limonene is believed to exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. 1,8-Cineole has analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and antiviral properties. It is believed to increase cerebral blood flow, reduce tension headaches, and act as a cough suppressant. P-Cymene has potential antioxidant properties and may act as an agent to protect nerve cells against damage. Linalool is a constituent that is known to be sedative, to help lower stress levels, to fight depression, and to soothe inflammation.
Tea Tree Oil can be used in household cleaning products such as laundry soaps, hand soaps, polishes, air fresheners, and insect repellents. It eliminates mold and harmful bacteria on surfaces such as shower curtains and dishwashers, and when it is diffused it works the same way in the air. The fresh, slightly medicinal, camphor-like scent of this oil has been likened to the fragrance of Eucalyptus, and when used for aromatherapy purposes, it is known to reduce feelings of stress, fatigue, and brain fog.
Used topically and cosmetically, Tea Tree Oil can heal skin issues, making it an excellent additive for personal hygiene cosmetic products and toiletries such as bar soaps, face washes, body washes, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, salves, moisturizers, massage oils, and nail conditioners.
COSMETIC: Cicatrisant, Stimulant, Sudorific.
ODOROUS: Expectorant, Stimulant.
MEDICINAL: Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Anti-microbial, Antiviral, Antiseptic, Expectorant, Fungicide, Stimulant, Sudorific.
CULTIVATING AND HARVESTING QUALITY TEA TREE OIL
Tea Tree is able to grow in a wide range of soils and climates including those of Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and some parts of the United States. Many Melaleucas thrive in moist soils that are well-drained and in exposure to full sun, while others are adapted to wet, spongy land such as swamps, marshes, and bogs. Other varieties can survive in dry, sandy soils or even in saltpans.
Due to the speed with which they grow, Tea Trees can be harvested just two years after they are planted. In M. alternifolia plantations, modified forage harvesters are used to finely chop the leaves and twigs into a biomass - a heap of botanical matter - to be transported to a facility to then be steam distilled. The quality and quantity of the oil produced from Tea Tree leaves depend on the time of year that the leaves are cut and harvested; Australian producers have observed that Winter months yield less oil.
HOW IS TEA TREE OIL EXTRACTED?
Each Tea Tree leaf contains tiny sacs that secrete the oil, and Tea Tree Essential Oil is extracted through the steam distillation of the biomass consisting of Tea Tree leaves and twigs. In the distillation facility, the biomass is saturated and cooked with steam inside sealed chambers. The remaining biomass from which the oil is extracted is sometimes recycled back to the harvesting field. Due to its purity in terms of being free of contaminants and weed seeds, it is also sold as mulch. This practice allows the maintenance of the environmental balance, which preserves future plant resources.
TEA TREE OIL USES
The uses for Tea Tree Essential Oil are abundant, ranging from medicinal and odorous to cosmetic. Its many forms include oils, gels, lotions, soaps, shampoos, and sprays, to name a few suggestions for homemade products.
Used in aromatherapy, the fragrance of Tea Tree Essential Oil is inhaled and scent receptors in the brain’s emotional powerhouse process the smell as calming, allowing the brain and body to relax. Similarly, a few drops smoothed onto a pillow may promote faster onset of deeper sleep by reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality. Tea Tree Oil’s expectorant properties also make it effective in facilitating the relief of congestion and respiratory tract infections. By placing a couple of drops in a steaming bowl of hot water and leaning over it to inhale the aromatic vapors with a towel draped over the head and the bowl, Tea Tree Oil can be used to clear up a sinus infection.
Diluted with a carrier oil and used topically, Tea Tree Oil’s sudorific properties may help to eliminate internal bodily toxins by promoting perspiration. Known to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, this soothing oil provides relief to minor burns, sores, bites, and cuts by decreasing pain, inhibiting bleeding, eliminating bacteria from the wound, and promoting the closing of scars. Its potential to restore skin complexion and improve the look and feel of blemished skin is also demonstrated with use on the acne-prone skin on which it slows the look of aging with its powerful antioxidant action. A homemade Tree Tree lotion can be made by mixing five drops of Tea Tree Oil with five drops of Lavender Oil and diluting the blend with one teaspoon of Coconut Carrier Oil. To cleanse the skin and improve the look of pores, a few drops of diluted Tea Tree Oil can be gently applied to problem areas on the skin with a clean cotton bud. When combined with other essential oils and diluted, Tea Tree Oil can also be used in a toner for balancing oily skin. In a warm, relaxing bath, Tea Tree Essential Oil may relieve respiratory discomfort and dermal inflammation.
In hair care, Tea Tree Oil is known to be an antiseptic that effectively eliminates lice and nits. By soothing dry, flaking skin this fungicidal oil can refresh the scalp and eliminate dandruff while boosting circulation, thereby stimulating the growth of hair. Homemade Tea Tree shampoo can be made by combining Tea Tree Oil with other essential oils such as Lavender and diluting the blend with Aloe Vera gel and Coconut Milk. For use as a topical anti-microbial deodorant, Tea Tree Oil can be diluted with Coconut Carrier Oil and mixed with baking soda before being applied under the arms. Other fungal infections that Tea Tree Oil has been known to combat include Athlete’s Foot and toenail fungus.
As a disinfecting air spray, Tea Tree Essential Oil acts as a natural, anti-microbial, non-toxic air freshener that removes bacteria, viruses, and mold from the environment. Combined with Lemon Essential Oil, this spray can freshen the room and eliminate the body odors trapped in shoes and sports gear. To eliminate laundry odors caused by the microbial build-up in washing machines, three drops of Tea Tree Oil can be mixed in with laundry detergent. A surface cleaning agent can be made by mixing Tea Tree Oil with vinegar and Lemon Essential Oil and then diluting the blend with water before using it on counter tops, sinks, kitchen appliances, showers, and toilets. This solution should not be used on granite or marble, as vinegar is acidic and could lead to the disintegration of the stone.
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR TEA TREE OIL
As per NAHA guidelines, New Directions Aromatics (NDA) does not recommend the ingestion of essential oils. In some cases, people who have ingested Tea Tree Essential Oil have reportedly experienced rashes, confusion, unsteadiness, inability to walk and, in some severe cases, prolonged unconsciousness. Pregnant and nursing women are particularly cautioned to avoid using the essential oil without medical guidance.
Tea Tree Oil must never be used near the eyes, inner nose, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin. Once applied topically, sun exposure must be avoided, as the oil can sensitize the skin to UV rays. If Tea Tree Essential Oil is combined with Lavender Essential Oil, the topical application of this blend might potentially be unsafe for pre-pubescent boys, due to the potential of these oils to disrupt hormones in the male body. It is unknown whether it is safe for pre-pubescent girls to use these oils.
When applied topically, Tea Tree Oil should ideally be used in dilution, as using the oil directly or in high concentrations can potentially cause skin irritation; it provides a cooling sensation similar to that of Menthol, which can make the skin feel as though it is burning. If individuals decide to use the oil “neat” – that is without first diluting it – it is recommended that no more than three drops be used directly on the skin. Individuals that suffer from acne-prone skin could sometimes experience dryness, itching, stinging, redness, and burning if the oil is applied topically. A skin test is recommended prior to use.