What Is Tea Tree Oil for?
by CL Hendricks
Tea tree oil is also known as "Melaleuca alternifolia" as it is derived from the leaves of that plant. The "Tea Tree" grows primarily in the area around Australia and has been long known to have a wide range of medicinal and other uses. Scientific studies have confirmed that the oil is capable of killing or reducing microorganisms, fungi or bacterial growth. It is often also used as a household cleaner, skin softener and treatment for insect bites. Many commercial products containing tea tree oil are on the market.
It is worth nothing that tea tree oil is only used externally, and never taken by mouth. It also is not related to other oils from the same species of Melaleuca plant such as manuka oil, cajeput oil, kanuka oil or niauoui oil. Additionally, avoid use near the nose, mouth or eyes as the oil may cause a burning sensation. Ingesting tea tree oil is never recommended as it can cause nerve damage. Read carefully all the label information on any tea tree oil product.
Tea tree oil has been found effective when applied to small injuries such as abrasions, cuts and scratches. Its antiseptic and antibacterial properties encourage healing and reduce the chance of infection. Clinical trails began in 2007, testing the effectiveness of tea tree oil wash on patients who have contracted MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a condition often spread in hospitals that has proved highly resistant to current antibiotics.
Hair and Skin
Some ways to use tea tree oil as a beauty aid are as a hair rinse or conditioner. A few drops of the oil combined with olive oil and worked into the hair adds luster and shine. Add a few drops of the oil to any shampoo or directly on the scalp to treat dandruff. The oil is also found in many commercial skin care products, and there are recipes for homemade treatments for dry skin, dermatitis and chapped lips.
This versatile oil is useful around the home for cleaning and as a laundry additive. A general purpose cleaner made from tree tea oil, vinegar, borax and distilled water is a non-toxic solution which also takes advantage of the oil's antibacterial properties. As a general deodorizer, tea tree oil can be diluted into a spray solution or added to appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine and humidifier to eliminate the musty smell.
Outdoor and Camping
Tea tree oil is popular as an insect repellent, a treatment for bee and wasp stings and mosquito bites, and to remove ticks. It helps reduce blistering and pain of a sunburn, and its moisturizing properties help with the subsequent itching and peeling. An effective treatment for poison oak and ivy is to combine baking soda with drops of tea tree oil to lessen the itch and chance of subsequent infection.