Tea Tree

The tea tree, or malaleuca, plant is native to Australia and is a member of the myrtle tree family. It is highly prized by primitive Australian communities for its unique healing ability. The leaves are simply crushed and applied it to cuts, burns, and infections. According to the University of Sydney, numerous aboriginal communities along the east coast of Australia have a long historical use of tea tree as an antiseptic for skin conditions.

Tea Tree Oil also called melaleuca oil, is made from the leaves of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia). It has been long valued for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. In the 1920s, it was used in dentistry and surgery to clean wounds and prevent infections. Surgeons believed that it is more effective than carbolic acid, the commonly used antiseptic at that time.

Household uses of tea tree oil, include:

  • Toothbrush cleaner A drop of tea tree oil can disinfect your toothbrush, which is a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
  • Mold treatment Mix a drop with a cup of water, spray on moldy areas, and then wipe clean. For an all-natural disinfectant, you can also sprinkle a few drops of tea tree oil along with baking soda on your bathroom or kitchen surfaces.
  • Natural pest control The strong smell of tea tree oil naturally repels ants and other insects. I recommend making a natural insect repellent by mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil.
  • Laundry freshener Adding a few drops of this oil during the wash cycle will make your laundry smell crisper and kill organisms lurking in your washer.

Medical Benefits

Studies have been conducted to prove the potential benefits of tea tree oil for health ailments, such as:
  • Acne - A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that Tea Tree Oil had similar effectiveness on Acne as benzoyl peroxide. Although the onset of action in tea tree oil was slower, it caused fewer side effects than benzoyl peroxide.
  • Fungal infections - A study published in the journal Tropical Medicine and International Health found that treating toenail onychomycosis with 2% butenafine and 5% tea tree oil in cream cured 80 percent of patients.
  • Bacterial infections A 2004 study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) found that tea tree oil may be used as an adjunctive treatment for wounds, and may even help treat severe infections.
  • Smaller-scale clinical studies on tea tree oil revealed TTO's potential for treating athlete's foot, dandruff, lice, gingivitis, and genital infections.

    Tea tree oil is said to be helpful in alleviating chest and head congestion, stuffy nose, and other symptoms of colds and flu, especially when used in steam inhalation. Steam inhalation clears the congested nasal passages and kills bacteria.

    The antiviral properties makes adding a few drops to a steaming bowl of hot (purified) water, covering your head with a towel, and breathing in the vapors for 5-10 minutes, beneficial.

      Step-by-step process for extracting the oils (source: offthegrid)
    • Put the leaves in a pot and cover with water. Place a vegetable steamer in the pot over the top of the leaves and water.
    • Put a measuring cup inside the steamer.
    • Place the lid on the pot upside down, so that the handle nub in the center is pointing toward the measuring cup.
    • Boil the water to steam the leaves. The water will condense and evaporate, and the condensation will slide toward the handle and into the measuring cup.
    • Put about four ice cubes on top of the upside down pot lid to hasten the steam condensation.
    • Turn off the heat once all the ice has melted.
    • Take off the lid and pour the ice cube water into the sink, and then remove the glass measuring cup.
    • Pour the measuring cup contents into a separating funnel, but make sure the stopcock at the bottom of the funnel is closed. Close the top of the funnel and shake vigorously.
    • Invert the funnel and then open to release the pressure. The oil will float to the top of the water, effectively separating the two substances.
    • Put a glass bottle beneath the stopcock and release the water. Pour the oil into a tinted glass bottle. Repeat the process up to three more times to pull more oil from the leaves.

    Cautionary words on Tea Tree Oil

    Tea tree oil maybe a skin irritant. Determine if you have an allergic by applying a small amount to your inner arm to see if any reaction occurs.

    The NCCAM recommends avoiding oxidized oil, which has been exposed to air, because it may trigger allergies more than fresh tea tree oil. Avoid using undiluted tea tree oil to avoid irritation as well. Instead, use it in gel, cream, or lotion form. Look for an all-natural topical product that incorporates tea tree oil in safe quantities.

    Do not swallow or ingest tea tree oil. It may cause severe reactions, such as rashes, blood cell abnormalities, diarrhea, stomachache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, hallucinations, and ataxia (loss of muscle control in the arms and legs).

    Tea tree oil may also be toxic to pets if ingested. Veterinary toxicologists found that large amounts of undiluted tea tree oil applied to the skin of cats and dogs caused a hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction.

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