Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil with a fresh camphoraceous odor that is derived from the leaves of the tea tree, native to southeast Queensland and the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. Tea tree oil has been used in Australia for hundreds of years and is now becoming increasingly popular in recent decades in complementary and alternative medicines. It is produced by steam distillation of the leaves and branches of the tree.
The primary uses of this oil have historically capitalized on the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions of the oil. According to the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency, traditional usage suggests that tea tree oil is a plausible treatment for “small superficial wounds, insect bites and small boils”, that it may help reduce itching in minor cases of athlete’s foot and help with mild inflammation of the mouth lining. Let’s discuss here more of its benefits:
Of all of the properties claimed for tea tree oil, its antimicrobial activity that has received the most attention. The earliest reported use of this plant was by the Bundjalung Aborigines of northern New South Wales. Crushed leaves of the tree were inhaled to treat coughs and colds or were sprinkled on wounds, after which a poultice was applied. The oral history of Australian Aborigines also tells of healing lakes, which were lagoons into which the tree leaves had fallen and decayed over time.
Reports of the antibacterial activity of tea tree oil appear in literature from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. Then in the early 1990’s, many reports describing the antimicrobial activity of the oil appeared in the scientific literature. All of these effects confirm that the oil compromises the structural and functional integrity of bacterial membranes. A broad range of bacteria have now been tested for their susceptibilities to the resulting in positive proof that this oil could be beneficial as an antibacterial agent.
Comprehensive investigations of the susceptibility of fungi to tea tree oil have only recently been completed. Data now show that a range of yeasts and other fungi are affected by this oil. Subsequent tests have shown that germinated conidia (causing growth of common fungi) are significantly more affected by the oil than non-germinated conidia, suggesting that the oil inhibited fungal growth indicating that the oil could be helpful in stopping and eliminating fungal infections.
A study was performed with tea tree oil and eucalyptus proving they were capable of exerting a direct antiviral effect on HSV (herpes simplex virus) thus providing significant results for their possible application as antiviral agents in recurrent herpes infection is promising.
Studies have shown that tea tree oil has antiprotozoal activity (something that destroys protozoa or inhibits their growth and ability to reproduce). A few of the protozoa of medical importance include Plasmodium (the cause of malaria); Entamoeba histolytica (the cause of amebiasis, amebic dysentery) and Trichomonas vaginalis (a cause of vaginal infection); and Pneumocystis carinii (a common cause of pneumonia in immune-deficient people).
Recent studies now support the anecdotal evidence attributing anti-inflammatory activity to tea tree oil and demonstrating the oil’s effect on a range of immune responses.
Safety and Toxicity:
Topical use is safe and that adverse events are minor, self-limiting, and infrequent. No evidence of irritation was seen when patch testing humans including those who had previous positive reactions to tea tree oil. Rarely, topically applied tea tree oil has been reported to cause systemic effects in domestic animals.
Benefits of Tree Tea Oil:
• Heals infected skin wounds
• Treats acne
• Cures fungus infection of the nails
• Improves athlete’s foot
• Prevents lice
• Improves psoriasis
• Eliminates dandruff
• Heals gingivitis
• Reduces cough
• Improves ear infections
• Gets rid of ringworm
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