By Michael Russell
Tea Tree oil is gaining more mainstream popularity. Long used in the aromatherapy industry, its health benefits are being touted by many companies who include it in their products.
What is tea tree oil? Its Latin name is Melaleuca alternifolia and it comes from a tree. Melaleuca trees are native to Australia although they are now also propagated in California. The common name 'tea tree' was given when British explorers used the leaves to brew tea. It's antiseptic use has been in existence for hundreds of years, but has only recently been scientifically studied (starting in 1929). The 'official' studying of tea tree oil led to ever increasing interest. Tea tree oil was even supplied in first aid kits to soldiers in the Australian army.
After harvesting, the leaves of the tree are put into a still and pressurized steam is forced through them. The steam, which extracts the essential oils, then is cooled and the tea tree oil is separated from the water.
Some of the reported benefits of tea tree oil include: antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. Antiseptic means that it will kill bacteria, such as those that cause acne. Tea tree oil has been shown to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide in controlling acne, without the irritation and skin drying that accompanies that treatment. Anti-fungal means that it will kill fungus or yeast spores. Tea tree oil used in shampoos can control dandruff by eliminating that fungus from the scalp.
If you have never smelled neat tea tree oil, prepare yourself. It is incredibly strong and smells of a disinfectant. Some people enjoy the smell, but most people find it to be displeasing. However, tea tree can be blended with other essential oils to work with and mask the odor. Tea tree oil is used for its medicinal properties - not its scent!
Tea tree oil is only used on the skin. It should never be taken internally, as it can be very toxic to the liver if ingested. If using a toothpaste with tea tree oil, take extra care not to swallow any of the toothpaste and is not recommended for children. Although tea tree oil can be used neat on the skin, it is best used in dilution to prevent sensitivity from occurring.
Some home uses for tea tree oil:
As an acne treatment, mix tea tree oil with aloe vera gel - using 5% tea tree to 95% aloe vera gel. Apply to clean skin.
Disinfectant spray: Mix a 5% dilution of tea tree oil with rubbing alcohol. Pour into a spray bottle and use this mixture to disinfect and deodorize garbage cans. You can also use this spray in your washing machine to prevent mold and mildew.
For insect bites: Mix a 5% dilution of tea tree oil with aloe vera gel. Use this mixture to soothe bug bites or rashes. It will also help prevent infection.
The uses for tea tree oil are almost endless. As more and more studies are being done, the list of the benefits of tea tree oil grows even longer.