Tea tree oil is one of nature’s best essential oils because it is practical, cheap, and there are many uses for it around the home and for your overall health.
So what is tea tree oil? This oil is also known as Melaleuca and is made from the leaves of tea tree plants which are native in Australia. A British explorer, Lieutenant James Cook, saw Australians using the tea leaves from the tree in the 1770s. Later Cook made his own batch of tea and gave it to his crew in order to reduce scurvy.
Today even primitive locations throughout Australia still use the tea tree plant. According to the University of Sydney, many Australians who are aborigines still use the tea tree plant for skin conditions. This is due to its antiseptic properties which are discovered after tea tree leaves are crushed. It can then be applied to infections burns and cuts.
Arthur Pinfold, an Australian state government chemist, published research about tea tree oil’s properties in the 1920s. It was then that the benefits of the oil became more recognized. Through the distillation process, tea tree oil can now be made to have a fresh scent similar to camphor and the color is usually a golden or yellow.
The Abundant Uses of Tea Tree Oil
The oil has qualities that are useful as an antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial compound. It was often used in dentistry and surgery in the 1920s to help prevent infections and clean wounds of patients. Surgeons found it to be more effective than the antiseptic that was used at that time.
Now, tea tree oil is becoming more popular and people commonly use it to personal care products including shampoo, lotion, and soap. There are other uses such as cleaning a toothbrush, treating a home for mold, using as pest control, and adding to laundry to freshen it.
To freshen up toothbrush, just add a drop of tea tree oil to disinfect it to prevent growth of bacteria and mold. For mold in the home, combine a drop with a cup of water and spray on any mold and then wipe the area down. A few drops of tea tree oil with baking soda can also be used as a disinfectant on kitchen or bathroom surfaces.
As an all-natural insect repellent, tea tree oil can repel insects, including pesky ants, due to the potent smell. Adding a couple of drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil makes a great insect repellent. To freshen laundry, just add a few drops of tea tree oil in the washing machine during the wash cycle. It will help kill any organisms that are lingering in the washing machine and will also help the laundry smell fresh.
What Tea Tree Oil is Made of?
There are at least 100 different agents in tea tree oil. Moisture, heat, light, and exposure to air can affect the quality of tea tree oil so it should be placed in a glass airtight bottle and stored in a spot that is cool, dark, and dry.
Additional Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil can be used for numerous things including removing makeup or even removing warts. However, research has also found that it is effective for other health purposes.
According to a study published in Australia, tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide can both help patients with acne. Tea tree oil worked slower but it had less adverse effects than the benzoyl peroxide. For fungal infections, it has been discovered that TTO can be used to treat toenail onychomycosis when used with butenafine.
In this particular study, 80% of patients were absolutely cured. In 2004, a study made possible through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that tea tree oil can help be a useful treatment for wounds and could even treat things such as staph infection. Though this research on staph is inconclusive, signs point to tea tree oil to being beneficial.
Tea tree oil has other uses though that are great. It helps treat lice, dandruff, gingivitis, athlete’s foot, and genital infections. When it comes to the flu, it can be used to get rid of head and chest congestion, a stuffy nose, and other symptoms. It is common for tea tree oil to be used in aromatherapy to help treat colds and flu, especially through steam inhalation. The steam clears nasal passages and helps kill bacteria anyway so adding TTO only helps that much more. To get rid of a cold or the flu, drop a couple of drops to a hot steaming bowl of purified water, lean over it with a towel over your head, and inhale the vapors for 5-10 minutes. Adding it to bathwater can also prevent colds.
How Is Tea Tree Oil Made?
Oil manufacturers are the ones that make tea tree oil on a larger scale using steam distillation in order to extract the oil. However, it is possible for you to make the oil if you happen to have tea tree leaves fresh and on hand.
- Put tea tree leaves in a pot of water that completely covers the leaves. Put a vegetable steamer in the pot on top of the water and leaves and place a measuring cup inside of the steamer.
- Use the lid upside down on the pot so the handle in the center of the lid points toward the measuring cup.
- Boil water in order to start steaming the leaves, allowing the water to condense and evaporate which will then slide the handle into the measuring cup.
- Next, put 3-4 ice cubes on top of the pot lid that is upside down to speed up the condensation of the steam and then when all of the ice has melted, turn off the heat.
- Take the lid off the pot and remove the glass measuring cup and separate its contents into a funnel. Make sure the stopper at the tip of the funnel is closed.
- Once the concoction is in the funnel, close the top and shake it hard then invert the funnel to release the pressure.
- Tea tree oil will then float to the top of the water, separating the water and oil.
- Put a glass bottle under the stopper of the funnel and let the water run out. Pour the oil into a glass bottle that is tinted (preferably an amber color).
- Continue these steps up to three more times to extract more oil from the tea tree leaves.
So How Does Tea Tree Oil Work?
The chemicals seem to kill fungus and bacteria and also eliminate allergic skin reactions and it is believed that the active agent that allows this to occur is the terpene in the tea tree oil. While it is helpful, you should still consider any cautionary advice because while it is mostly safe in toothpaste or mouthwash, it isn’t good to swallow it. Generally, tea tree oil is supposed to be used topically.
If you don’t dilute the tea tree oil slightly, using it at its full strength can cause skin irritation. It is usually diluted with carrier oils such as coconut oil or even raw honey. Tea tree oils come in different percentages and some treatments call for different strengths.
The Safety of Tea Tree Oil
As long as you don’t swallow it and use it topically, yes, it is safe. While it could irritate the skin the first time it is used, start using a lower concentration to determine how sensitive you are to the oil. Also check to make sure you aren’t allergic to it by applying a small drop to your inner arm to see if you have a reaction.
It is suggested that tea tree oil which has been exposed to oxygen be avoided because it is more likely to cause allergies. This type is called oxidized tea tree oil. Instead, try it in a lotion, gel or cream, or even consider an all-natural topical product which has safe amounts of tea tree oil in it.
Potential Risks of Tea Tree Oil
The benefits often outweigh the risks but tea tree oil can cause skin irritations which range from slightly itchy to blistering. The skin irritant in the tea tree oil is 1,8-cineole and sometimes serious reactions occur. You just need to be careful and choose an oil that you know is safe and reputable.
Never ingest tea tree oil because it can cause severe adverse reactions like abnormalities in the blood cells, rashes, drowsiness, hallucination, loss of muscle control in the arms and legs, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and a stomachache. Never let pets ingest it. If large amounts of tea tree oil that is not diluted is applied topically to skin on dogs or cats, they may have an allergic reaction.
Another allergy to consider is whether or not you are allergic to eucalyptol. If so, use with care because some formulas are mixed with it.
Don’t let any warnings scare you off. Tea tree oil is extremely beneficial to the body’s health plus it is great to use around the house.
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