The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is native to Australia and New Zealand, but some newer species are now cultivated in Tunisia, Egypt, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the United States.
Do not confuse the tea tree with the tea plant, which is used to brew drinking tea. Melaleuca is related to myrtle. The clear to pale yellow oil is steam-distilled from its leaves and twigs. It smells like camphor and is a traditional home remedy for a wide variety of conditions, including skin issues, nail fungus (athlete’s foot), lice, dandruff, bacterial infections, and herpes.
Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties so it can be used topically (directly on the skin) to treat wounds. Dr. Axe believes that “Tea tree oil is one of the best home remedies for acne,” and provides a recipe for “Homemade Honey Face Wash for Clear Skin.”
Aside from medical uses, its bacteria-fighting ability can be used to make Do-It-Yourself (DIY) cleaning products like laundry detergent. Diffused into the air, it can kill mold.
The cosmetic industry includes tea tree oil in shampoos, massage oils, facial cleansers, and skin and nail creams.
Melaleuca is also a time-honored home remedy for head lice. These little buggers break out in schools and summer camp, infesting scalps with painful, itchy bites and red, angry skin that can become infected when scratched or left untreated.
The Hair Fairies recommend tea tree oil as a preventative barrier method when you hear about an outbreak of lice in your community. A few drops applied to the hairline (border of the scalp) can repel lice because they don’t like the smell. But once established, tea tree oil alone probably won’t get rid of them because it does not suffocate them.
Although authorities like the American Cancer Society claim that tea tree oil has not been proved effective in treating “skin problems and infections in humans,” not everyone agrees.
Over 600 studies related to tea tree or melaleuca are available on this National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine page. Some of the research focuses on medical conditions that are almost unpronounceable – like blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction – but the point is that this plant extract warrants serious and scientific investigation.
In my experience, “folk remedies” and “home cures” often turn out to have chemical attributes that conventional science figures out after the fact. It stands to reason that if a natural substance works to relieve a health problem, people would continue to use it, doesn’t it?
Speculation aside, one clinical study found that melaleuca “has potential anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can be easily applied to the periodontal tissues.”
Another scientific study identified analgesic and anesthetic (pain killing) effects from tea tree oil treatment.
You can get bottles of essential tea tree oil online or in store cosmetic departments. Recipes abound online for “whatever ails you,” so have fun discovering new ways to add this helpful natural plant oil to your medicine cabinet.
Here are a few creative uses for melaleuca from doTERRA:
• Yoga Mat Spray
• Diaper Cream
• Clay Facial Mask
• After Sun Soothing Spray
• Razor Relief Spray
• Shaving Cream
• Whipped Peppermint Foot Lotion
One final note of caution: Tea tree oil is toxic when consumed so keep it away from your mouth – resist any urge to give it a taste test – and keep it well out of reach of children and pets.