Botanical: Melaleuca alternifolia
Family: Myrtaceae (myrtle/clove)
The Tea Tree is unique to Australia, and although a native of New South Wales, where it flourishes in wet, swampy ground, it is also cultivated on plantations in other Australian states, including Queensland. The shrubby tree produces needle-like leaves, similar to cypress, with heads of pale flowers, and it generally reaches about twenty to twenty-five feet in height. It is an aromatic tree, owing to glandular dots on the leaves, which, when crushed, release it precious essential oils. The Tea Tree is fast-growing, and it possesses a distinctive feature in that even when the tree is cut down, it will “re-grow” and be ready for harvesting again in two years.
Long before Captain Cook named the plant after he arrived in New South Wales in the eighteenth century, the aboriginal people had used Tea Tree Oil to heal wounds and infections. In 1923, Dr. Penfold proved that Tea Tree Oil was not only much stronger than the common antiseptic of the day, carbolic acid, but Tea Tree Oil did not burn the skin. In World War II, a severe outbreak of foot-fungus hospitalized hundreds of Australian soldiers with no effective treatment at hand. An Australian aboriginal medic remembered Tea Tree Oil, and after the doctors applied the infected feet with the pungent oil, the fungus was killed within a few days. During the war, the producers of Tea Tree Oil were exempted from military service until there was an adequate supply to meet the demands of the military. All Tea Tree Oil was issued to the army, and every serviceman was required to carry it in his first-aid kit to treat tropical infections and wounds.
Next to Lavender, Tea Tree Oil is one of the most popular essential oils in the world, and aside from its therapeutic value, it is an important ingredient in soaps, lotions, deodorants, disinfectants and even air-fresheners.
The essential oil that is extracted from the leaves and twigs of the Tea Tree is produced only in Australia and has a yield of about 1.8%.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any essential oils, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Common Method of Extraction: Steam Distilled
Color: Clear with a Yellow Tinge
Aromatic Description: Light, spicy, pungent with a myristic fragrance
Constituents: 1,8-cineole, y-terpinen-4-ol, a-terpineol, cineole, a-pinene, a-terpenene, b-caryophyllene, linalool, p-cymene, myrcene
Therapeutic properties: Antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, antiseptic, antiviral, balsamic, cicatrisant, expectorant, insecticide, stimulant and sudorific.
Contraindications: Most references list no precautions when using Tea Tree Oil, but it may cause skin sensitization in some people.