Tea tree oil Health Benefits, Uses, Quality & Best Products Compared

Author: Dr. Michael Tyler
Date: 01.10.2020
Reading time: 18:22 min

Tea tree oil comes from the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia), a tree from the myrtle family that is only found in Australia.

Name Tea tree
Lat. Name Melaleuca alternifolia
Synonyms Tea Tree, Mastigobryum trilobatum
Origin Australia
Price per 10ml 6,90

Tea tree oil is used in many medical and cosmetic products today because natural products are becoming more popular, and because of its numerous biologically active ingredients. The fragrance of tea tree oil is typically spicy.

Internal effect

Thanks to its many ingredients, tea tree oil is considered an unofficial herbal remedy against a wide variety of health concerns. Tea tree oil contains over 100 different active ingredients. They fight bacteria, viruses and fungi and can even destroy parasites - although only few of the properties that tea tree oil possesses have been fully explored. Some of its know effects include:

Combat bacteria and viruses

This is probably one of the most important properties of tea tree oil. Due to the extremely high proportion of terpinen-4-oil, it has very potent antibacterial effects. Clinical tests have shown that tea tree oil is effective against bacteria such as Escherichia Coli and many strains of staphylococci. A positive effect in the persistent disease MRSA has also been demonstrated. MRSA (multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that kills several thousand people globally each year.

MRSA has only been around for a relatively short time. According to medical research results, MRSA was caused by a mutation of the Staphylococcus aureus pathogen in hospitals, in which doctors prescribed antibiotics too liberally, and the bacterium has adapted to these antibiotics.

Tea tree oil - alongside expensive high-tech antibiotics - is one of the few therapies available in modern medicine for MRSA. Dr. Dr. Frank Christoph completed his dissertation at the University of Hamburg. In his study, he compared the antibacterial effects of several essential oils and was able to determine that the tea tree oil had the highest germicidal effect among the oils examined.

For respiratory diseases

The high proportion of cineol is especially effective in the lungs. Cineol has provides an expectorant effect to the sinuses and lungs. It is also able to inhibit certain neurotransmitters that are responsible for the narrowing of the bronchi. Cineol is also functional in asthmatics. The administration of pure cineol can improve lung functionality. Tea tree oil can be used as an additional medication for the modern condition: COPD (smoker's lung).

Colds and flu

The active ingredients cineol and terpinen-4-ol in tea tree oil have a powerful healing effects. Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil kills bacteria and viruses. It functions directly against the cold itself and is also able to prevent any subsequent infection, such as sinusitis or pneumonia.

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With bad breath and gingivitis

Everyone has experienced it and everyone has suffered from it - bad breath. It is caused by bacteria breaking down food residues in the mouth, releasing methane and sulphur gases. The antibacterial effect of tea tree oil inhibits the multiplication of these bacteria and thus the production of bad breath. Owing to tea tree oil's germicidal effect, it also helps to prevent gum infections, and helps the body overcome them faster. In addition, tea tree oil prevents tooth decay, since tooth decay is also caused by the bacteria that tea tree oil kills.

For detoxification

Tea tree oil is known to optimise renal (kidney) function. In addition to the liver, the kidneys are the body's main instrument for filtering toxins. Tea tree oil has a diuretic effect and promotes blood flow to the kidneys. This makes it easier for the kidneys to excrete toxins.

External impact

Tea tree oil plant Before you use tea tree oil, you should always perform a compatibility test.

For acne

Tea tree oil has very strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. These properties make it an excellent remedy for acne. It helps the body heal inflamed areas of skin and prevents infection by bacteria.

Against fleas, mites and lice

For decades, the Aborigines have been using the brew from tea tree leaves to repel fleas. The intense fragrance of tea tree oil has a strong deterrent effect on these pests. Infestation of other bloodsucking insects such as mites, fleas and lice can also be combated with tea tree oil.

However, caution is advised when treating pets - especially cats - with the oil. Their systems break down the ingredients of tea tree oil into potential toxins, and it is easy to overdose them. This can result in poisoning and even death of your beloved pets. Refraining from treatment is advised, unless by qualified person(s).

Combating athlete's foot, nail fungus and other skin fungi

Like many other essential oils, tea tree oil has a pronounced antifungal effect. However, this is much stronger in tea tree oil than most other oils. There are reports that treating athlete's foot with tea tree oil can lead to total alleviation of symptoms after only 3 days. Furthermore, tea tree oil is also an excellent help against any other skin fungi.

Preventing and stopping hair loss

Hair loss can have a variety of causes. These can be genetic, hormonal or environmental in nature. The fact that hair loss can also be caused by fungi which nest in hair follicles is actually unknown to many. If this is the cause of your hair loss, tea tree oil is a recommended natural remedy.

Against warts

Stem warts are skin growths that are caused by the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). Because of its antiviral components, tea tree oil has an excellent effect here too. However, a success treatment can take a long time, because once the virus is killed, the body needs time to cause regression of the wart.

Against herpes

The herpes virus is one of the most persistent viruses and cannot be permanently removed from our tissues. Once a herpes carrier, always a herpes carrier - unfortunately this is a sad reality. However, the painful and unsightly sores herpes causes can be successfully treated with tea tree oil, since the oil kills the virus locally. Unfortunately, future outbreaks of herpes cannot be prevented.

Against mosquitoes

Tea tree oil is an excellent natural mosquito repellent. The terpinen-4-ol contained in tea tree as effective as folklore dictates garlic is to vampires. In clinical trials of tea tree oil compared to traditional insect repellents., it was shown that tea tree oil was up to 70% more effective than its chemical competitors.

Side effects

The side effects of tea tree oil are mostly directly related to the age of the oil. Contact allergy is a certain risk.

What is a contact allergy?

Contact allergy is a hypersensitivity, allergic reaction presenting with redness and burning in cases of direct contact with skin or mucous membranes. This is often due to the products of oxidation of limonene and terpinene, which takes place when exposed to atmospheric oxygen.

It is therefore essential to store the tea tree oil in a cool, dark place and protected it from air exposure. If you inhale pure tea tree oil, lung damage can result. Therefore, make sure that small children do not have access to tea tree oil. In males, tea tree oil can greatly increase oestrogen production. This can lead to gynecomastia (mammary gland growth).

Contact allergy develops with repeated uses of tea tree oil. It is the result of an 'immunological sensitization'. Over time, immune system cells learn; they begin to recognize tea tree oil as a harmful substance. If a certain threshold is exceeded, allergic reactions occur. The immune system secretes histamines, which activate the immune cells of the skin to activate against this foreign antigen, and inflammation ensues.

The following symptoms are typical of an immune response:

  • The skin swells and turns red

  • Itching

  • Appearance of a rash with red nodules

  • Seeping blisters form on the skin

Important: Be careful not to allow excessive amounts of tea tree oil to come into contact with dogs or cats. Their bodies cannot satisfactorily break down the ingredients. This could even lead to the eventual death of your pet.

In addition to contact allergies of the skin, tea tree oil can trigger cross-reactivity allergies in sensitive people.

What is a cross-reactivity allergy?

With contact allergy, the skin reacts wherever you applied the tea tree oil. With a cross-reactivity allergies, symptoms can appear anywhere in the body. Cross-reactivity allergies occur when people are allergic to a certain group of chemically similar substances. The body mistakes one substance for another, and an allergic reaction is perpetuated. If you are allergic to resins, the likelihood of cross-allergy with tea tree oil is increased.

If you can't tolerate the oil, there is only one solution: to avoid it!

Application | Uses

To apply the oil, first check your sensitivity to it. Dilute the tea tree oil with a little water and apply it to a small area of skin where you do not mind allergic reactions, or where you cannot see it - for example on the underside of the wrist. Now wait at least 12 hours. This is how long it takes maximally for the body to react to an allergic substance. If an undesirable reaction occurs, then no further use is advised.

Always dilute tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is generally not suitable for broader applications - e.g. for acne. Since it can be very irritating to the skin, tea tree oil should in principle only be used locally so as not to unnecessarily burden affected areas of the skin. Never apply the tea tree oil neat - only diluted.

The correct dilution ratio is 1 percent. That means 1 drop of tea tree oil per 10 ml carrier oil or 1 ml tea tree oil per 100 ml carrier oil. It is important that you use a high quality oil as a carrier oil. For acne, grape seed oil, jojoba oil and cold-pressed coconut oil are suitable.

An exception is foot or nail fungus: here you can apply pure tea tree oil directly and allow it to work for a while. After the treatment, a foot bath with a few drops of tea tree oil in the water can further the effect of the treatment.

Inhaling tea tree oil: how it works

Tea tree oil is also ideal for inhalation, for example for coughs, bronchitis and sore throats.

If you have a cold, you can inhale tea tree oil several times a day. This brings you effective relief for all common colds. Inhaling can also clear up headaches caused by clogged sinuses.

Traditional: bowl and towel

The easiest way to inhale is the traditional bowl of hot water and a large towel. Pour a glass of water (200 ml) into the boil and mix it with 6 drops of tea tree oil. Now, bend over, with your face directly over the bowl. Cover your head and shoulders with a towel so that a small box filled with steam forms around your face. Now inhale this steamy mixture deeply. Ideally, 5 minutes of this is satisfactory. But if that is too long for you: no problem - anything is better than nothing.

Non-hazardous: inhaler

An inhaler, or nebulizer, is ideal for children with a cold. An inhaler uses cold water. So there is no risk of a child being burned by steam or hot water. The normal mixing ratio is 2 drops of tea tree oil per 100 ml of water. However, it is possible to double this dosage.

Saline solutions increase the effect of inhalation. Saline solutions moisten and soothe mucous membranes. You can buy a ready-made saline solution in any pharmacy or make it yourself. To do this, dissolve a heaped teaspoon of table salt in a litre of water.

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Bathing with tea tree oil

All types of fungal diseases, whether in intimate areas or athlete's foot, respond well to a tea tree oil bath. However, you need an emulsifier because essential oils cannot be dissolved in water. You can use up to 8 drops of tea tree oil for a full bath. Half a cup of cream (100 ml) or 1 tablespoon of honey are suitable emulsifiers. Mix the tea tree oil with it and dissolve the mixture in the bath water. The ideal water temperature is around 37ºC. This allows the blood vessels of the skin to expand and thus promoting blood circulation, absorption, and allowing the full effects of the oil. The warmth stimulates the autonomic nervous system and lets you relax automatically.

Bath salt with tea tree oil

It is also possible to make bath salts with tea tree oil. However, it is advisable to prepare the bath salt a week before the bath. For this, put 200 g of Dead Sea salt with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a jar with a lid that closes tightly. Now mix the salt with essential oils and shake the mixture again and again during the contact time. For a pure tea tree oil bath salt, add around 60 drops to the salt. For a full bath, 2 heaping tablespoons of bath salt are enough to dissolve them in warm bath water. You can also use bath salts for foot baths.

Instead of pure tea tree oil, you can use the following mixtures of essential oils with tea tree oil. The amounts given are relative to 200 g of salt:

Something refreshing, soothing and antibacterial

  • 20 drops of lemon

  • 20 drops of lavender

  • 20 drops of tea tree

Antifungal and soothing

  • 20 drops of palmarosa

  • 10 drops of geranium

  • 10 drops of lavender

  • 20 drops of tea tree

To brighten the mood

  • 30 drops of sage

  • 15 drops of mint

  • 15 drops of tea tree

Tea tree oil for fragrance lamps and diffusers

Fragrances act quickly on the psyche because olfactory receptors (in the nose) are directly connected to the brain via nerve fibres. Tea tree oil sustains you emotionally by promoting feelings of self-confidence and general resilience.

Fragrance lamp with flame

A fragrance lamp, like a diffuser, is suitable for distributing essential oils in the room. The distance between the flame and bowl of fragrances should be at least 10 cm. In contrast to a diffuser, a fragrance lamp often has to be refilled. The essential oils usually dissipate within less than an hour.

Ultrasonic diffuser

A diffuser, on the other hand, distributes the aromas using ultrasound. These nebulizers are available in versions that work with and without water. Inexpensive versions with water have the disadvantage that lime residues can accumulate around the diffuser. Diffusers without water are a little more expensive because they work with nano-nozzles. However, they are better for rooms where moisture is a problem, for example in older buildings.

Important : Babies and toddlers should not be exposed to the scents of essential oils.

The following recipes with tea tree oil are suitable for the fragrance lamp and the diffuser.

Relaxation and recharging:

  • 2 drops of tea tree

  • 2 drops of bergamot

  • 3 drops of lavender

  • 1 drop of palmarosa

An aphrodisiac aromatic experience:

  • 3 drops of orange

  • 3 drops of palmarosa

  • 1 drop of cinnamon

  • 1 drop of tea tree

First aid for colds:

  • 3 drops of tea tree

  • 2 drops of eucalyptus

  • 1 drop of lemon

  • 1 drop of mint

  • 1 drop of thyme

Repel lice and fleas with tea tree oil

Head lice are always on the rise. In kindergartens and schools, lice sometimes spread like an epidemic. Tea tree oil is a natural alternative to the chemical agents that kill lice. Length of exposure to the therapy is important in the treatment of lice: you should continue treatment against lice for at least two weeks. Why? Because the eggs take up to 10 days to mature.

Head lice test

You can easily identify an acute infestation of head lice. The first sign of head lice is an itchy scalp. With the following test you can check whether the parasites have spread on your head: bend over so your head is upside down, spread white paper out beneath your. If you shake or comb your hair, the lice will fall out. They are about 3 mm tall and have 6 legs.

Fight lice several times

The best way to fight lice infestations is t take a multi-targeted approach. Firstly, mix 2 tablespoons of carrier oil with 20 drops of tea tree oil and massage this mixture into your scalp. Also, add 5 drops of tea tree oil to a portion of your shampoo. First let the oil soak in for half an hour. Then wash your hair out with the augmented shampoo.

After treatment, carefully comb your hair with a lice comb that removes the dead lice. You should perform this treatment at least 4 times within 2 weeks.

Repel aphids from plants

Aphids usually sit on the underside of the leaf. With a spray solution you can drive the pests away. To do this, mix 1 litre of water with 1 tablespoon of liquid soft soap and 15 drops of tea tree oil. Spray this solution on the undersides of the leaves until the aphids have disappeared.

Eliminate fleas

Fleas love cats and dogs. But sometimes they jump off the animals and nest in upholstered furniture and carpets. The tiny insects can jump one whole meter. During their entire life-span of over a year, they lay eggs continuously. These eggs mature for 4 weeks before hatching. Newly hatched fleas need food and are not picky about it. A single flea can cover your skin with a bunch of itchy wheals.

A flea infected carpet can definitely permanently disrupt your life. You can combat this itching caused by the bites with diluted tea tree oil. To do this, mix 3 drops of tea tree oil into one teaspoon of carrier oil and apply.

Spray infested textiles with a tea tree solution. Combine 1 L of water with 30 ml of tea tree oil and 1 tablespoon of soft soap. Use a spray bottle to apply on carpets and upholstered furniture until the surface is moist.

Tea tree oil for ticks

Ticks can transmit dangerous diseases. You can easily catch a tick while walking through forest or through a meadow with tall grass. They particularly like to nest in darker, moist places, such as wrinkles around the ears, hollow of the knees, armpits and pubic area.

If you spot a tick, you should act quickly - but keep calm. First dab the tick with a cotton swab that you have soaked with pure tea tree oil. That anaesthetises the pest. After 1 minute you can remove the tick with a pair of tick pliers. Then treat the bite with diluted tea tree oil. If fever develops after a tick bite, you should go to the doctor immediately.

Mosquitoes don't stand a chance

Keep mosquitoes away reliably in rooms with a fragrance lamp or a diffuser. Here is the recipe for a popular anti-mosquito mix:

  • 2 drops of tea tree

  • 2 drops of lavender

  • 2 drops of cedar

  • 1 drop of vetiver

  • 1 drop of mint

Production of tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is obtained by steam distillation. Approx. 1 litre of pure tea tree oil is obtained from 100 kg of leaves. This very low yield makes it a very valuable raw material. The extraction of tea tree oil has a long tradition in Australia and is subject to strict rules regarding reaction conditions and the plant parts used. In addition to the common Melaleuca alternifolia, Melaleuca linariifolia and Melaleuca dissitiflora may also be used for the extraction of tea tree oil.

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Chemical composition

Tea tree oil is made up of more than 100 different chemical compounds, but very few have been properly researched. The biologically most important are listed below:

Active ingredient and percentage:

  • Terpinen-4-ol (approx. 40%)

  • Alpha terpinene (approx. 20%)

  • Terpinolene

  • Terpineol (approx. 3-4%)

  • Pinene

  • Myrcene

  • Phellandren

  • Lime

  • P-cymes

  • 1,8-cineole

History

The tea tree was named by the British navigator James Cook. The lieutenant in the British Navy landed in Western Australia in 1770 with his ship - the HMS Endeavor. He led his team on a research expedition through what is now known as Queensland.

On this expedition, he came across the Australian Aborigines, who make a brew from the leaves of the tea tree and use it against various skin diseases.

Because the leaves of the tea tree spread a spicy, black tea-like smell when cooked, Cook called the tree - tea tree. The first scientific research projects related to tea tree oil emerged in the 1920s. After the many positive effects of tea tree oil became popularised, its annual production rose steadily. Today it is around 770 tons.

Botany

Tea tree oil plantation The tea tree is an evergreen tree that is about 7-10 m tall. Its distribution area is in the Australian Queensland and New South Wales. It grows alongside bodies of water such as lakes and rivers in this dry area. Its bark is paper-like and consists of several layers.

Due to its chosen location, its bark is able to withstand the harsh Australian weather conditions such as sandstorms and extreme heat. The bark also protects the tea tree from drying out.

Cultivation

The seeds of the tea tree have long been considered an Australian national treasure. It was forbidden to take the seed out of the country - with threat of long prison sentences. Today, however, the tea tree is grown as a pot plant under controlled conditions worldwide.

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