Tea Tree: (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Common names: Manuka, melaleuca, tea tree
oil. The tea tree grows in Australia and
Asia. This tall evergreen tree has a white, spongy bark. The oil from the
leaves is used. Australian Aboriginals
used the leaves to treat cuts and skin infections. They would crush the leaves
and apply them to the affected area. Captain James Cook and his crew named the
tree tea tree, using its leaves as a substitute for tea as well as
to flavor beer. Australian soldiers participating in World War I were given tea
tree oil as a disinfectant, leading to a high demand for its production.
The oil contains
numerous chemicals known as terpenoids. Australian standards were established
for the amount of one particular compound, terpinen-4-ol, which must make up at
least 30% and preferably 4050% of the oil for it to be medically
useful. Another compound, cineole, should make up less than 15% and
preferably 2.5% of the oil.
The oil kills fungus and bacteria, including those resistant
to some antibiotics. A single blind study has shown topical
application of 5% tea tree oil in people with acne is as helpful as
benzoylperoxide and has fewer side effects.
A study found 100% tea tree oil applied topically was as effective as
the antifungal medicine clotrimazole for people with athletes foot
fungus affecting the toe nails.
Tea Tree Oil is also
used for Rosacea when combined with other natural
Oil at a
strength of 70100% should be applied moderately at least twice per day to
the affected areas of skin or nail. For topical treatment of acne, the
oil is used at a dilution of 515%. Concentrations as strong as 40%
may be usedwith extreme caution and qualified adviceas vaginal
While tea tree
oil can be applied to minor cuts and scrapes, use caution for more extensive
areas of broken skin or areas affected by rashes not due to fungus.
The oil may burn if it gets into the eyes, nose, mouth, or other tender
areas. Some people have allergic reactions, including rashes and itching,
when applying tea tree oil. For this reason, only a small amount should be
applied when first using it. Tea tree oil should never be swallowed, as it may
cause nerve damage and other problems.
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