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Tea Tree Oil Uses and Benefits

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Melaleuca alternifolia (Cheel) Family: Myrtaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is the essential oil steam distilled from the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia . This species is unique to Australia and native to Northern New South Wales. Tea tree oil contains over 100 components, mostly monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and their alcohols.  Terpinen-4-ol is present at the highest levels (minimum 30%) and is responsible for most of the antimicrobial activity. 

History

Tea tree oil (TTO) was first used in surgery and dentistry in the mid-1920s. Its healing properties were also used during World War II for skin injuries to those working in munition factories. TTO's popularity has resurfaced within the last few years with help from promotional campaigns. The oil may be present in soaps, shampoos,lotions.

Botany :-There are many plants known as "tea trees," but Melaleuca alternifolia responsible for the "tea tree oil," Which has recently gained popularity. Native to Australia, the tea tree is found in coastal areas. It is an evergreen shrub that can grow to 6 m tall. Its narrow, 4 cm. needle-like leaves release a distinctive aroma when crushed.The fruits grow in clusters, and its white flowers bloom in the summer.

Uses of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree has a long history of traditional use. Australian aboriginals used tea tree leaves for healing skin cuts and infections, by crushing the leaves and applying them to the affected area. The oil contains constituents called terpenoids, which kill fungus and bacteria.

  • Acne
  • Athlete's foot
  • Minor injuries
  • Vaginitis
  • Thrush
  • As an antiseptic
  • Boils
  • Lice
  • Psoriasis
  • Yeast infection

Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil

Use of tea tree oil has resulted in allergic contact eczema and dermatitis.

Tea tree oil should never be swallowed, as it may cause nerve damage and other problems.

Dosage

The amount of actual tea tree oil in various marketed preparations can range anywhere from 1% to 100%. Often, the stronger products are used for hard-to-treat infections such as toenail fungus, while 5% to 10% tea tree oil gels have been used successfully to treat acne.

Commonly used dosages and durations include:

  • For treating fungal infections of fingernails or toenails use 100% tea tree oil twice a day for 6 months
  • For treating athlete's foot use 10% tea tree oil twice daily for up to one month
  • For acne use 5% to 10% tea tree oil once a day indefinitely
  • For oral candidiasis use one tablespoonful of 5% tea tree oil solution as a mouth wash taken up to 4 times a day. (Make sure to spit out)
Toxicology

Allergic contact eczema was found to be caused primarily by the a-limonene constituent (in TTO) in 7 patients tested. In this same report, alpha-terpinene and aromadendrene additionally caused dermatitis in 5 of the patients. Eucalyptol was found to be the contact allergan in a Dutch report. Contact allergy caused by TTO may be related to cross-sensitization to colophony. A case report describes a petechial body rash and marked neutrophil leukocytosis in a 60-year-old man who ingested about 1/2 teaspoonful of the oil (for common cold symptoms). He recovered 1 week later.

Another case report describes ataxia and drowsiness as a result of oral TTO ingestion (less than 10 mL) by a 17 month-old male. He was treated with activated charcoal, which was only partially successful, but after a short time appeared normal and was discharged 7 hours after ingestion.

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