a.k.a.: Tea Tree, Ti Tree, Narrow-leafed Paperbark
Tea Tree is a gift from Australia. It grows as a small, humble looking tree with distinctly fragrant leaves, but its use as an essential oil has caught the world’s attention. Tea Tree essential oil is a powerful antiseptic that knocks out even the most resilient fungi and bacteria.
This powerful medicine is generally for external use, unless of course, you have access to the fresh or dried leaves. Tea tree oil has close to 100 compounds, which the plant has developed to defend itself in the wilds of Australia. In our hands, as healers, this defense system must be handled with care. Tea tree is related to cajuput, another tropical tree, and shares cajuput’s antiseptic properties.
Medicinal Properties of Tea Tree
Tea tree oil is best known for its Terpinen-4-ol constituents, which contain the lion’s share of antimicrobial properties. Cineole is also a common constituent in tea tree oil. This is reputed to cause skin irritation, although researchers differ in opinion on this point. The best tea tree oil has high (over 35%) terpinen-4-ol amounts and low (under 5%) cineole amounts.
Conditions Best Helped by Tea Tree
Tea tree essential oil is potent stuff. Its ability to conquer strong bacterial infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as Staph or MRSA, has made it a standby in many hospitals and other medical institutions. At home, tea tree essential oil is just as powerful an antiseptic.
Tea tree oil is primarily used as an antiseptic for external applications. It’s absorbed into the skin readily and activates white corpuscles, which fend off bacteria and viruses. This makes it an invaluable ally in wound healing. Tea tree can be incorporated into antibacterial spritzers to promote healthy recovery from injuries. It’s great for dental health too. A dab of tea tree oil on a cotton swab placed directly on sore gums can ease infection until the patient can get to a dentist. Tea tree oil is often added to commercial toothpaste or mouth rinse. It’s easy to make your own though. Gingivitis, or bad breathe, can be mitigated by a gargle of 1/2 cup warm water, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a few drops of tea tree oil. Swish, gargle, and spit at least once a day to get rid of bacteria causing the odors.
Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, or boils are best treated by daily applications of tea tree oil. Bug bites are also quick to subside with attention from tea tree oil. Witch hazel astringent or apple cider vinegar or aloe vera gel are good bases for these applications. Both leave the skin feeling clean and pH balanced.
Foot conditions are often caused by invasive fungi. Tea tree oil is a powerful anti-fungal medicine. Athlete’s foot, trench foot, or the follow up care for frostbite can be successfully conquered by persistent application of tea tree oil. It’s easily added to foot baths, foot wraps, or applied neat to severe conditions under a qualified health practitioner’s watchful eye.
Ringworm is yet another fungal condition that bows to tea tree oil. It’s just one of many fungus related illness that can crop up around the body. Candida, jock itch, and thrush are all fungi related, too. Use tea tree oil topically with a supplement of pau d’arco or garlic internally to take care of the problem systemically. Remember to keep the digestive system in balance with probiotics as well.
Tea tree is often added to shampoos and conditioners for controlling dandruff. It’s just as easy to add it to homemade hair rinses for inexpensive and effective dandruff treatment. Tea tree oil is effective on its own or when blended with rosemary or chamomile essential oil.
You can add a few drops of tea tree to salves, herbal lotions, or herbal oils formulated for first aid. Buffered by the oils in these formulas, tea tree will not sting when applied to an open wound as it does when it’s applied all on its own. Plus, it will add its preservative power to the formula thereby helping increase your herbal medicine’s shelf life.
There are many other uses for tea tree oil. It can be dropped into steams for bronchial infections or into the bath water to loosen sore muscles or prevent infection. This is serious medicine and should be handled carefully. Be smart. Remember that safety begins at home.
For More Information on Tea Tree
For more information on Tea Tree, purchase a copy of The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio: Tea Tree: Liquid First Aid. This Herbal Folio contains expanded information, including:
- Gardening and Gathering
- Animal Husbandry
- Household Formulas
- History, Folklore, Myth, and Magic
- A Printable Quick Facts Card
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