Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, is steam distiled from the leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca alternifolia shrub of the Myrtaceae family. It is a pale yellow color to nearly colorless and clear essential oil with a fresh camphoraceous, light spicy, rather pungent smell odour. There are over 100 components in tea tree oil, but the main chemical components of tea tree oil are a-pinene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-phellandrene, a-terpinene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, y-terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, terpinen-4-ol and a-terpineol. Tea tree oil contains 2.6% Cineole and 41.7 % Terpinen-4-ol. This tea tree oil is a uniquely defined combination of monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and terpene alcohol’s with outstanding therapeutic properties. Light, heat, exposure to air, and moisture can affect TTO’s stability, so make sure to place it in an airtight container and store it in a dark, cool and dry place.
How Does Tea Tree Oil Work
The high terpene content in tea tree oil kills bacteria and fungus and reduce allergic skin reactions. Tea tree oil is meant to be used topically. Some mouthwash or toothpaste products contain tea tree oil but are generally safe, as they are not swallowed. Using tea tree oil at full strength can cause skin irritation, which is why it is often diluted with other natural ingredients, like raw honey or coconut oil. Different treatment options also call for different percentages of tea tree oil. For example, acne treatments only require five to 15 percent TTO. For fungal infections, 70 to 100 percent TTO is used.
Tea Tree Oil is safe, as long as it is applied topically in appropriate doses and NOT swallowed. This oil may irritate your skin, especially if used for the first time. Patch testing for allergy to Tea Tree Oil is recommended starting with low concentrations until you figure out your tolerance. Apply a small amount to your inner arm to see if any reaction occurs. 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.
Tea tree oil can benefit the following skin conditions:
Ring worm and athlete’s foot
Cuts and scrapes
Itching of insect bites and chicken pox
Tea tree oil 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. Tea tree oil is being rediscovered again in the last few years, and it is now added to soaps, shampoos, lotions, and other personal care products. Tea tree oil has many uses around the home, too.
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.
In aromatherapy, 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. Adding an antiviral essential oil like TTO makes it that much more effective. Just add a few drops to a steaming bowl of hot (purified) water, cover your head with a towel, and breathe in the vapors for five to 10 minutes. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your bathwater may also help stop a cold from developing.
Risks of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil contains varying amounts of 1,8–cineole,22 a skin irritant that may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. The rashes are usually mild and itchy, but may also lead to blistering. Serious allergic reactions may also occur. There are other reported instances of dizziness and swelling in his throat.
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. If you are allergic to eucalyptol, use TTO with caution, as many formulas are mixed with eucalyptol.