Nutriglow

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) is a multi-purpose herb that traces its roots to the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Tea tree oil's properties are contained in the oils of its leaves. The oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and then tested for chemical properties, which can number between 50 and 100. The number of components may explain tea tree oil's many beneficial uses. The main active components are terpinen-4-ol, 1,8-cineole, gamma-terpinene, p-cymene and other turpenes. Its aroma is that of a healthy pleasant disinfectant.

General Use

Antibacterial

The most promising new function of tea tree oil is to counter methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), also called the hospital super bug. This super-bug attacks people who have wounds, such as post-operative infections, and a depressed immune system. MRSA resists conventional antibiotics, except Vancomycin. A Thursday Plantation in vitro study, at East London University, comparing Vancomycin and tea tree oil, shows the latter as a powerful alternative. This study corroborated the University of Western Australia study by Thomas Riley and Christine Carson. Because the spread of MRSA occurs mainly by hands, one London hospital uses tea tree oil soap for staff and patient hygiene.

Tea tree oil works as an expectorant when inhaled or taken internally and has a soothing effect; therefore, it can be used for throat and chest infections, and for clearing up mucus. It is also effective against ear-aches, cystitis and gingivitis. Inhaling steaming hot water with 5 drops of tea tree essential oil added can not only soothe coughing and plugged noses, but doing so at the start of the infection might stop it from spreading. Gargling with 6 drops of tea tree oil in a glass of warm water may soothe sore throats.

Antiseptic

Tea tree essential oil is an excellent natural antiseptic for skin infections. The oil immediately penetrates outer skin layers and mixes with body oils to treat such conditions as insect bites, cuts, burns, acne, infected wounds, bruises, boils, scabies, lice, chillblains, nappy rash, hives, prickly heat and sunburn.

Anti-Inflammatory

Tea tree oil has pain-numbing properties and can be used topically for sprains, arthritis, bunions, bursitis, eczema, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome and haemorrhoids. It is best to use products containing essential tea tree oil, since the pure essential oil would be irritating to sensitive areas.

Anti-Fungal

Tea tree oil is an excellent antifungal agent and can be employed to treat Candida albicans, athlete's foot, ringworm, thrush and onychomycosis (nail infections).

Preventative

Tea tree oil can boost suppressed immune systems and help those with chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Surgeons in Australian hospitals treat patients in these situations with tea tree oil before surgery.

To increase the power of the immune system, several drops of tea tree oil can be added to the bath or weekly massages. A few drops of tea tree oil can also be added to vaporisers.

Personal Hygiene

To fight plaque, brushing with toothpaste containing tea tree oil or adding some to regular toothpaste is advised, as is adding a few drops of tea tree oil to mouthwash. The latter helps both teeth and gums. For sore gums, a few drops of the oil can be swabbed on the sore area.

Household Cleaning

Tea tree oil's natural solvent properties make it an excellent biodegradable cleaning product. It can be used for washing cotton nappies; as a deodoriser, disinfectant, to remove mould, to treat houseplants for moulds and for fungal and parasitic infections.

Animal Care

Because pets also suffer many of the same diseases as humans, tea tree oil can also be used as treatment for such diseases as arthritis, fleas, bad breath, gum disease, abscesses, dermatitis, lice, parasites, ringworm, rashes and sprains. Dogs in particular are susceptible to mange, a hard-to-eliminate skin disorder causing hair loss and itching. Washing a dog or cat using a mild soap and water, then clipping or shaving excess hair before soaking a cotton puff with tea tree oil and saturating specific areas twice daily will help treat mange. For overall application, mixing 1 teaspoon tea tree oil with 1/3 cup of water and spraying the mixture from a plant mister onto the mangy areas is advised.

When using tea tree oil for animals, it should always be diluted, as full strength can cause such reactions as muscle tremors and poor coordination. The oil should be kept away from the eyes.

Precautions

It is wise to check with your health care practitioner when using tea tree oil internally. Some people might be allergic to the cineole in tea tree oil. Pure tea tree oil is contraindicated for babies, young children, pregnant women, and some pets.

Tea tree oil is not to be used for daily hygiene, and is toxic to the liver and kidneys in high or chronic doses. High doses can also be irritating to the skin and provoke an allergic reaction in some people.

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