Extensive research has been carried out into the composition and chemistry of Tea Tree. Its primary active ingredients include terpene hydrocarbons, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes and it is these compounds that give Tea Tree its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity.
A 2011 study at the Department of Dermatology, Skane University Hospital in Sweden found that Tea Tree Oil was a more effective anti-eczematic agent than zinc oxide and clobetasone butyrate (a steroid medication to treat itching and swelling).
Powerfully anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and antiseptic, Tea Tree essential oil is an effective wound healer that prevents infection.
Much research has been conducted into this particular action of Tea Tree. A 2011 pilot study found that 8 out of 11 wounds treated with Tea Tree reduced in size and began to heal.3 Another study found that the essential oil was effective at treating antibiotic resistant bacteria, in particular, Staphylococcus aureus.4
The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of Tea Tree make it a popular essential oil for the treatment of acne. Calming redness, swelling and inflammation, Tea Tree may also reduce the appearance of acne scars.
In a small study conducted in 2017, the participants applied Tea Tree oil to their faces daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study the researchers concluded, “This study shows that the use of the Tea Tree oil products significantly improved mild to moderate acne and that the products were well tolerated.”5
In another 1990 study it was determined to be just as effective at treating acne as benzoyl peroxide, with less chance of severe negative side effects, though it was slower acting than the peroxide.6
Fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, candida and toenail fungus can all benefit from Tea Tree oil. The active compounds; terpene hydrocarbons, sesquiterpenes, and monoterpenes, destroy the harmful bacteria and fungus causing these problems. The antimicrobial and antiseptic properties disinfect the affected foot area and prevent spreading of the fungus to other body parts. It also acts as an astringent that reduces the redness, scaly, cracked skin or skin peeling on the infected area, thus speeding up the healing process.
Cold Sores (Herpes)
Several studies have confirmed the anti-viral properties of Tea Tree, making it effective against the herpes simplex virus which causes cold sores. A 2001 study at the Department of Virology at the Hygiene Institute in Germany investigated the antiviral activity of Tea Tree Oil and Eucalyptus Oil. They concluded, “Tea Tree oil and Eucalyptus oil are capable to exert a direct antiviral effect on HSV (herpes simplex virus). Although the active anti-herpes components of Australian tea tree and eucalyptus oil are not yet known, their possible application as antiviral agents in recurrent herpes infection is promising.”7
Tea Tree is a potent insecticidal that has proven an effective natural treatment for head lice. A study published in “Parasitology Research” found that a treatment of Tea Tree oil resulted in 100 percent mortality after just 30 minutes of exposure. Furthermore, a higher concentration of the essential oil induced a failure of 50 percent of the eggs to hatch.8
To make your own natural head lice treatment just add a few drops of Tea Tree oil to your favourite carrier oil, wrap in a towel, leave overnight and wash in the morning. Do this for a few consecutive nights to ensure the lice and eggs are thoroughly eliminated.
In 2002, the Journal of the Academy of Dermatology published a study that found that a 5 percent solution of Tea Tree oil was more effective than a placebo at treating dandruff. There was also a reported 41 percent improvement in symptoms.
Participants also reported an improvement of itchiness and greasiness after using the Tea Tree shampoo.9
Folklore and history
Native peoples of Australasia - most notably the Budjalong who lived in the wetlands of north eastern Australia - knew of the special healing properties of Tea Tree. Their tribal name means "Healing Ground" as the creeks were surrounded by Tea Trees that shed their leaves and branches into the water, turning it a deep yellow colour. It was considered a natural healing spa, where they would bathe to treat wounds and sore muscles - it was even used as a "maternity wing" by expectant and birthing mothers.
The “Tea Tree” was first publicised to the western world by Captain James Cook. On his arrival at Botany Bay in Australia, he apparently came across Indigenous people preparing an aromatic and spicy blend of sticky camphor-like leaves that had been gathered from the Melaleuca tree. It is believed that the Captain brewed and served the tea to his crew in order to prevent scurvy.
During World War II, an outbreak of foot-fungus became so bad that they had to hospitalise hundreds of Australian soldiers. Nothing seemed to work. One day, an Indigenous medic remembered about Tea Tree and obtained some essential oil. The doctors coated the affected soldiers' feet with the pungent smelling oil which went on to kill the fungus within a few days. Tea tree oil was so effective as a basic antiseptic, that in World War II soldiers were issued a bottle along with their first aid kit. They found it effective on all sorts of cuts, burns, scratches, and infections.
The ultimate Indigenous Australasian “bush medicine”, Tea Tree Oil has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds, bites, infections and many other conditions.
When Europeans arrived, it’s possible this oil saved many lives in the absence of doctors and medicines of the day. Derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, Tea Tree oil is a powerful plant healer that has a multitude of uses.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Use 6-8 drops of essential oil in a bath and 2-4 drops of oil in an oil burner or diffuser. To make a blend in carrier oil or cream use 18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil. See Essential Oil Dosage Chart
Terpinen as terpinen-4-ol, a-terpineol, globulol, viridifloral, monoterpenes as a-pinenen,
a-terpinene, y-terpinene, p-cymene, limonene, terpinolene myrcene, oxides as 1.8-cineole, 1.4-cineole, sesquiterpenes as aromadendrene, viridiflorene, cadinene, caryophllene, traces of acid.
For external use only. Tea Tree essential oil must be diluted with a carrier oil before use. May cause irritation to sensitive skin.