Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia, or Snow in Summer)
While the Melaleuca alternifolia is commonly called "tea tree" it is a misnomer. What we know as Tea-Tree is actually a paperbark rather than a tree. Native to Australia, the evergreen tree produces an oil that is beneficial medicinally as well as cosmetically. The herb has been used for healing by the Australian aborigines since time immemorial.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Not used internally
Externally Tea tree oil is antiseptic, antimicrobial and antifungal. It is used in shampoo to reduce dandruff. It is also used topically to treat Candidiasis (yeast infections) and vaginitis. It can be helpful for acne, although it works a little slower than benzoyl peroxide. The oil can treat insect bites, minor wounds, athlete's foot and boils. It is soothing for sunburns, poison ivy, bee stings, ringworm and ear infections. The oil is added to toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent oral problems like halitosis, canker sores and gum disease. Studies are underway to see if the oil is effective against the various herpes viruses, chicken pox, warts and more.
Other Uses Tea tree oil is used in cosmetic products. Diluted solutions are sold in pet stores to treat fungal and bacterial infections in tropical fish. A solution of oil and water can be sprayed on your pet to kill fleas. It can also be sprayed in areas where fleas lay eggs like the carpet, your pet's bed and the floor. The oil is also used in aromatherapy and can be added to vaporizers or baths to treat respiratory problems. It is added to soaps and is applied to blankets to create an antibacterial covering for burn victims.
Oil The oil that is used is distilled from the leaves of the tree.
Do not take tea tree oil internally. Symptoms of ingestion may include drowsiness, impaired immune function, diarrhea, coma and confusion. Avoid using this herb during pregnancy and lactation. Some people have a sensitivity to the oil and develop dermatitis at the site of contact. Undiluted oil may cause irritation, blistering, redness or itching at the site. Signs of overdose are vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness and poor coordination.
Preparation and Dosage
Always start with a low dosage first. Tea tree oil can be used by itself, but if you have sensitive skin, you may want to use a commercially prepared cream or dilute the oil in a carrier oil like sweet almond oil.