What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that comes from an evergreen shrub in the myrtle family, Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Also known as the paperbark tree because of the appearance of its bark, this small tree has delicate foliage and wispy white flowers. It has a habit of growing in swamplands near the coast.
Although this plant grows only in a small region of the world, it has become so well-known and popular as a homeopathic remedy that products containing the oil are now globally distributed and found on store shelves throughout the world. It is most widely-known for treating conditions and symptoms that affect the skin, feet, and nails.
Tea Tree Oil Uses And HistoryThe tea tree plant has long been used by indigenous peoples as a natural remedy to treat colds, cough, and skin conditions. Traditionally, the leaves of this plant were crushed to release the oils and applied directly to the skin. Aboriginals also soaked the leaves overnight to create a liquid that could be used for sore throats and colds.
It was first studied as an antiseptic and used for Australian soldiers in the Second World War.
In 1925, it was distilled for the first time, and it is now general practice to steam-distill the leaves of this Australian plant to extract the essential oils. Most of the products currently on the market that boast containing tea tree oil use it in its essential oil form.
Although it contains many active compounds, the main component thought to support its effectiveness in treating ailments in terpinen-4-ol. This terpene has been found to have strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has the ability to kill a variety of viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Because of the high price tag and costly side effects of most antifungal medications and topical creams, home remedies and natural products are a nice alternative to consider. With the rise of interest in natural healing as well as the fact that tea tree oil is relatively inexpensive and easily accessed, more people are wondering about the benefits and usage of this versatile plant extract.
What is Tea Tree Oil Good For?
Because of its antiseptic, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil has a range of medicinal uses. The beneficial effects of tea tree have been seen on various skin conditions and fungal infections. It may be effective in soothing and treating acne as well as other forms of skin inflammation, such as psoriasis. Fungal infections like ringworm, athlete’s foot, and tinea versicolor have been treated with tea tree oil because of its tendency to inhibit fungal growth.
It is also a proven natural deodorant, a pleasant side effect of its ability to kill off bacteria. The antimicrobial properties eliminate odor-causing bacteria that can create embarrassing foot and body odor.
Perhaps one of its most promising uses is as a cure for nail fungus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the treatment of toenail fungus, 80% of patients using a cream containing the Melaleuca oil experienced complete relief of their symptoms.
How Does Tea Tree Oil Work?
It is believed that tea tree oil works to fight off fungal infections and bacteria in a few different ways. Firstly, it has been proven to damage the cell walls of bacteria in several studies. Authors of scientific research studies have suggested that the fat-loving compounds of Melaleuca destroy cell membranes and reduce the cell’s ability to survive and reproduce.
Tea tree oil has demonstrated itself to work particularly well to quell candida albicans, a yeast that commonly affects skin, genitals, throat, and mouth. It’s this fungus that shows up on our skin as issues like athlete’s foot and jock itch.
In addition, it may increase the activity of white blood cells, which help our bodies to fight off germs and viruses. In this way, it stimulates the immune system and speeds up the recovery process.
The high concentration of terpenes in Melaleuca oil contains anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil tends to reduce the inflammatory immune response by blocking histamine release. Especially when applied topically to the affected areas, it has demonstrated the capability to soothe inflamed skin.
How To Use Tea Tree Oil
There are many great ways to take advantage of this wonderful plant essence in your everyday life. The oil itself can be used in a vaporizer for aromatherapy purposes, or used topically for skin irritations. When applying tea tree essential oil to skin, it is important to note that it should never be applied in full strength. Always use a carrier oil such as coconut oil, almond oil, or jojoba.
These days, there are many fantastic care products on the market that contain tea tree essential oil that are made to target specific issues. For foot and body odors as well as fungal infections and skin irritations, body washes containing Melaleuca can be used daily in the shower. A daily or weekly foot soak can help soften skin and soothe inflammation. Skin creams with tea tree oil, rubbed into the skin several times a day, may help reduce the discomfort of fungal infections like athlete's foot and ringworm.
Contradictions and Suggestions
Although tea tree oil is generally recognized as safe, there are a few things that are important to keep in mind when using it. While it can be applied topically in various forms and even used as a mouth rinse, it should not be ingested. It may be slightly toxic if consumed in large amounts and there are no known benefits of taking it orally.
When using tea tree essential oil on your skin, always test a small area of skin first. Some people are allergic to the oil, and it can cause contact dermatitis. Always mix with a carrier oil when applying directly to skin. A good ratio is about 10 drops of carrier oil for every drop of tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil has many important medicinal benefits and is most noted for its antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. There are a lot of commercial products on the market today, and it’s important to source out companies that care about quality. When shopping for tea tree oil, make sure to look for 100% pure essential oils and check to see that the correct species name (Melaleuca alternifolia) is listed on the product.
Looking for high-quality tea tree oil body care? Check out Purely Northwest’s line of tea tree oil skincare products.