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Tea Tree Oil

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 15, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)


Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) is also called melaleuca oil or essential oil. It is from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia. This plant is native to the coast of Northeast New South Wales of Australia. Tea tree oil is colored pale yellow to clear and has a distinct camphor – like odor.

Tea tree oil is obtained through the process of distillation of the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia. This essential oil has been the part of many herbal treatments and holistic remedies all around the world.

History and Origin

Tea tree oil is native to the Bungjalung people of Australia where they use this essential oil in traditional medicine. Inhaling the oils of the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia was the only way that they benefited from the therapeutic effects of the plant.
Later on, the use of the oil extracted from the Melaleuca alternifolia became more evident as Arthur Penfold published his research during the 1920’s and 1930’s about the therapeutic properties of tea tree oil.

Ancient Uses

The use of tea tree oil during ancient times was done by the indigenous people of Australia called the Bundjalung. They had no way to extract the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia so they crushed the fresh leaves and inhaled the natural oils. This was used to treat cough, Colds and other pulmonary system disorders.

Modern Uses

In modern times, the demand for tea tree oil has risen due to the antiseptic properties of this essential oil. Tea tree oil is used in the treatment of infection, specifically fungal infections of the skin, nails and genitourinary system. The reason why tea tree oil is highly effective in treating infection is that it is 11 times more active as an anti microbial than phenol. Aside from fungal infections, tea tree oil is also used in treating acne and other skin disorders. Treating acne uses 5% tea tree oil.

Leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia can also be used as a poultice on wounds, boils and other skin disorders. An infusion can also be made from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia to treat sore throat and upper respiratory infections and illnesses.

Side Effects

Although there are many benefits of the tea tree oil, it is highly toxic and very dangerous if swallowed. This can cause severe confusion, hallucinations, coma, severe drowsiness, vomiting and may even cause severe rashes.

Applying tea tree oil externally does not pose any harm or risk at all. However, it is not recommended to be used for very young children and in babies since it may cause loss of consciousness. Tea tree oil may cause a mild rash or contact dermatitis and this can easily be remedied by decreasing the dose of the essential oil.

If you would like to use tea tree oil for its therapeutic properties consult your naturopathic doctor or herbalist regarding the use of this essential oil. Never swallow or inhale tea tree oil in its pure form. You should always dilute the tea tree oil first. Ask your doctor for the most appropriate instructions to dilute the tea tree oil without causing yourself any harm or toxicity concerns.

Read also: Collagen Type II

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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