There is something almost overwhelming about a blank piece of paper to write an article about the properties of tea tree essential oil because there are just so many! Overwhelmingly it is best beloved by aromatherapists for its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antifungal properties. It also has insecticidal skills - leading to its popularity against head lice and even skin care actions. Today, we'll think about ways to use tea tree essential oil.
One Bottle, So Many Uses
Let's begin with the question: Do you have a tea tree essential oil bottle in your collection? If the answer is no, let me tell you you need one. Even if you never buy another oil bottle in your life, you need this one. Its skills are far-reaching and extraordinary. In a document review done in 2020, tea tree essential oil (TTO) was shown to exert antimicrobial, antifungal, anthelmintic [expelling parasitic worms], anti-viral, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory activities. (de Assis 2020)
Also Read: How to Dilute Tea Tree Oil?
The Healing Tree
Tea tree essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. Native to Australia, tea tree trees thrive in areas along streams and swampy marshlands. The Melaleuca genus belongs to the Myrtaceae or myrtle family and contains around 300 species of plants in the myrtle family. The plants range in size from little shrubs to 100 ft tall trees. In Australia, it is known as a paperbark tree due to its papery white bark. Its name describes how its dark leaves (Mela) contrast brightly against this white (Leuca) bark. It has clusters of tiny white flowers rich in nectar and is an important food source for insects.
Also Read: Is Tea Tree Oil Good For Hair?
Historical of Tea Tree Uses
We are disadvantaged by a lack of documentary evidence of the history of medicinal use of tea tree oil since the indigenous plant knowledge of the First Nations People of Australia and Torres Strait Islanders is retained in the oral record. However, the earliest reported use of the M. alternifolia plant is recorded by settlers as being from the traditional use by the Bundjalung Aborigines of northern New South Wales, inhaling the vapors of "tea trees" to treat coughs and colds and also sprinkled on wounds with poultices (Shemesh, 1991). These records also show tea tree leaves being soaked to make infusions to treat sore throats and for bathing skin ailments (Shemesh, 1991). The oral history of The First Nations also describes lagoons where M. alternifolia leaves fall and decay as healing lakes (Altman, 1997).
So, indigenous people have used tea trees for eons. Still, when Arthur Penfold, an Australian chemist, and museum curator, wrote about his findings into tea tree essential oil in the 1920s, the Western world began to take notice of its effects. In his papers, he detailed germicidal properties, followed by a study and projections into the potential economic worth of tea tree oil. When the Second World War broke out, owners of tea tree plantations were exempted from transcription to ensure that the Australian troops had a ready supply of tea tree oil in their kit bags.
Penfold's forecasts that the tea tree could become an important oil crop were to be realized and then some as it has become one of the world's most respected alternative medicines. In 2017, the global tea tree oil market was valued at $38.8 million and was projected to reach $ 59.5 million by 2025. (Roshan, 2019)
Also Read: Does Tea Tree Oil Help Acne?
With such richness in the genus also comes great chemical diversity. Tea tree essential oil contains around 100 different chemical compounds. While there are no guidelines on the quality of essential oils, there is a profile of 14 various chemical constituents that every tea tree batch should be able to display to be sold as a tea tree oil.
Looking at the GCMS report on tea tree oil is fascinating. (Find it on our tea tree product page, in the tab labeled documents, under the primary picture.) It shows all manner of chemicals that you'd expect to see in other plants, and to some extent, I wonder if that's why it's such an all-around great oil because it has a bit of them all in. Fenchone, that's a fennel chemical, limonene, a citrus constituent, and probably what gives the tea tree its fresh fragrance. Dill ether? Indeed that belongs in dill? And what about eucalyptol? Odd, isn't it?
Also Read: Does Tea Tree Oil Kill Lice?
Those who read about eucalyptus last week will know that eucalyptol is 1,8 cineole and that it slows the breath. Where it made up 60 % of eucalyptus, it's little more than a couple of percents here, which is why it's much safer for children. But if that's why eucalyptus is anti-viral, and it's so low in tea tree…how is tea tree so clever then?
The main component we are interested in here is Terpinen-4-of which makes up just under 40% of the batch of essential oil we are currently selling at Vinevida. It's the only component with a large volume; a few, like alpha-pinene, have between 5-10% but a massive spread of many other trace chemicals. This is probably why it can do so many things…it has an enormous task force to draw on.
Also Read: What is Tea Tree Oil Good For?
Look at it from another cross-section, and look at the chemical groups…so many variations of terpenes named. Terpinen-4-ol, Alpha-terpinene, gamma-Terpinene, Terpin-3-en-1-ol, Alpha-Terpineol, Terpineol gamma…
Terpenes are responsible for how a plant smells, sending pollination lures out, and managing a plant's growth and development. This gives us a clue as to why there are so many essential oils from this genus - they are both aromatic and make lots of oily components. Terpenes are well respected for their medicinal properties, but monoterpenes are widely studied for their anti-viral properties. (Cox- Georgian, 2019)
Also Read: Does Tea Tree Oil Help With Dandruff?
The Magic of Tea Tree's Anti-Viral Properties
In 2009, a remarkable trial was published into the investigations of the anti-viral effects of the different components of tea tree oil. They tested Terpinen-4-ol and five of the other primary features of the oil and found all of them capable of inhibiting the spread of influenza through the body independently. (Garrozzo, 2009) No wonder it's so effective with them all working in synergy.
In 2013, though, a Chinese team demonstrated that Terpinen-4-ol acts in the same way as we expect to see 1.8 cineole doing when eucalyptus comes into contact with the influenza virus. It interrupts haemagglutinin, a protein that lives on the virus's surface. (Li, 2013) The virus needs haemagglutinin to multiply. When it is interrupted, it can no longer undergo transcription, which means the cells can't reproduce or infect other cells. As stated, we also see this is 1,8 cineole, so at least two chemical constituents are attacking the virus from this standpoint in tea tree essential oil, and there are probably many more.
Also Read: Can You Put Tea Tree Oil On Your Face?
HSV - 1
The perfect addition to lip balms or other topical applications when you feel that familiar, unsettling tingle.
One of the critical things about infection is that it can come from anywhere, and while we are familiar with a few names of these germs, others are just random scary scientific names.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, for example. A Gram-negative bacterium that exists in soil and groundwater. This clever and opportunistic pathogen rarely affects healthy individuals but targets weakened immune systems. Prominent examples are cancer patients and newborns, but also people with diabetes (which usually finds its way through cuts), those who have broken skin because of severe burns, or patients with cystic fibrosis who are at high risk from this pathogen.
Consider that it is in soil (so unwashed vegetables and gardening can be problematic), but it also can contaminate water. If this water is used to wash catheters or respiratory equipment, we can also see how it would become dangerous in hospitals.
Tea tree essential oil was demonstrated effective against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in biofilms (in other words, a petri dish). (Brun, 2019)
It would be great to bathe cuts and abrasions from gardening by using it in hand cream or simply as a wash if you have hurt yourself.
Anti-Fungal Properties of Tea Tree
Research has demonstrated that Terpinen-4-ol inhibits dimorphic fungi. Yeasts or molds cause these. In particular, it has a good reputation for candida Albicans (D'auria, 2013). The science of this is quite magical. Tea tree alters how much light can get into the cells, making it a hostile environment for the fungus to grow.
Aromatherapists will utilize it for conditions like athlete's foot and other dermatophytes fungal infections like jock itch. In the case of molluscum contagiosum, a condition often seen in children, tea tree was effective. Still, its effectiveness was increased by combining the tea tree with topical iodine treatment. (Van der Wouden, 2017)
Tea Tree Essential Oil for Acne
Tea tree has been shown as being as effective as a topical application of erythromycin or 5% benzoyl peroxide. (Hammer, 2015)
While one of the thrills of using essential oils for skin care is all the beautiful scents you can use, tea trees should always be considered for acne or blackheads, just as a backing track to deal with any bacterial or fungal stuff going on.
I use it in the teeniest dilutions just so the skin gets a quick dose every time. There is no need to put in so much as to overwhelm your rose…or jasmine, which is a better example of acne.
Why not prepare all your antibacterial oils in a carrier oil - not your cinnamons, but ones you trust on your skin - then add one drop of that preparation into your skincare?
Tea tree works fantastically in cleaners, toners, and face masks.
Also Read: Is Tea Tree Essential Oil Safe for Cats?
Insecticidal Properties of Tea Tree Essential Oil
Ectoparasites live on the skin. The most obvious of these are fleas; we might also think of dust mites or pediculosis (which is the name for head or body lice infestation)—Scabies too, where their mites burrow into the skin to create terrible itching, especially at night. In tropical environments, especially sandy beaches, sand fleas or flies can also lay their eggs on the skin. (You're glad you read that, aren't you?)
These sound rare, but they are responsible for around half a million deaths annually. (Bezabh, 2022)
Studies into Tea tree essential oil demonstrate it has insecticidal properties that can be useful for these delights. (Bezabh, 2022) How tea tree oil attacks these parasites has yet to be fully understood. Some trials show the parasite's respiratory systems struggling, while others demonstrate them going into muscular spasms. In the case of head lice, we know they are suffocated and that the tea tree also kills about 50 % of the eggs. There is a full article about this here, and we also have one about making head lice treatments.
These infestations often partner with secondary bacterial infections so tea trees can be helpful here.
Demodex folliculorum is a type of Demodex mite that lives in facial and eye hair follicles and is usually found on the eyelids and lashes. Their mites can inflame the eyelids and dry the eyes with a condition known as Demodex blepharitis.
Not all patients with these mites have symptoms, which may suggest they are part of the eye's natural flora. Mites are sometimes also associated with rosacea.
In 2020, an article review was done to assess the findings of several other studies. While they could not determine whether topical tea tree oil treatment was better than prescribed treatments, they demonstrated that low dilutions of tea trees could be extremely helpful for balancing this. (Cochrane Database,2020) (Karakurt, 2018)
They used eye baths, but it would work just as well to add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to a carrier oil or moisturizer and apply that instead. Be careful of getting the oil in your eye, of course. Close your eyes and stroke the preparation downwards through the lashes.
A Final Word…
Tea tree essential oil is an excellent broad-spectrum helper and is a superb ally when there are nasties around…whatever that nasty might look like. Use in dilutions of less than 3%, but just 1% on eyelashes or children, and like all essential oils, avoid use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.Also Read: Is Tea Tree Essential Oil Safe For Dogs?