What You Need to Know About Tea Tree Oil

November 12, 2012

What You Need to Know About Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree essential oil or aromatherapy oil is made from the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia). Although called a tree, the plant really looks more like a shrub. As the common name suggests, people at one time drank the leaves like they would tea leaves. However, it doesn’t make as tasty a drink as tea leaves from the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Drinking tea made from the leaves may also cause diarrhea, vomiting, confusion and coma.

Originally found in Australia, the plant is now grown in the American southwest and parts of Africa. The essential oil is made from distilling the leaves with intense steam heat. The oil is in demand all over the world for a variety of uses from scenting lamp oils to being a crucial ingredient in cosmetics such as shampoos and skin lotions.

Characteristics and Use

Tea tree oil includes terpenoids, which help kill fungi and bacteria. This makes the oil a great antiseptic. The type of terpenoid most found in tea tree oil is called terpenin-4-ol. Australian aboriginal people knew of these properties centuries before doctors discovered how people become ill. The aborigines used crushed leaves on minor burns, wounds and infections.

This oil, although natural, still needs to be treated with respect. It’s nest to use a diluted version than full-strength. Always test a small patch of skin before using a large amount. In 24 hours, if that patch of skin has not reddened, blistered or become itchy, then it should be safe to use in larger quantities. If a boy’s breasts become larger when using this oil, discontinue use. Never let children or pets drink this oil because they could become poisoned.

Medical Conditions Treated Today with Melaleuca alternifolia

Modern medicine has studied this remarkable essential oil and found it effective in these four conditions:

Athlete’s foot: According to one study, 64% of people with athlete’s foot were cured in one month when they used a solution containing 50% tea tree oil. Compare this to a mere 31% cure rate for people using a placebo solution.

Toenail fungal infection: Three separate tests reported that use of 100% pure oil cured stubborn toenail infections within 6 months. Volunteers that suffered from toenail fungus used the oil twice a day. Although this may sound like a long time for a cure, this is the same cure time as for a person treated with 1% clotrimazole anti-fungal ointment. This is one of the very few times that this oil can be used full-strength.

Acne: according to a large study at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, tea tree oil gel took longer than benzoil peroxide to reduce or clear up acne, but caused fewer side effects. The gel took an average of twice as long as benzoil peroxide to work. But 79% of the volunteers using benzoil peroxide reported that their treated skin stung, itched, burned or became very dry.

Dandruff: Shampoo containing 5% oil from Melaleuca alternifolia was used in 126 people with mild to medium-level dandruff. Their scalps cleared up within 4 weeks.

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