TEA TREE OIL
Tea tree oil is a yellow- or green-tinged essential oil with a fresh amphoraceous odour. It is extracted from the leaves of the tree Melaleuca alternifolia which is native to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. The oil is claimed to have benefical cosmetic and medical properties (including antiseptic and antifungal action). Australian Aborigines have used oil extracted from the tree's needles for hundreds of years. Currently, tea tree oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves. Of the over 100 compounds contained in the oil, terpinen-4-ol is responsible for most of the antimicrobial actions. The international standard ISO 4730 ("Oil of Melaleuca, Terpinen-4-ol type") specifies levels of 14 components of the oil.
Preliminary scientific research (mainly in vitro) supports claims for various health benefits. Inhaled, tea tree oil is said to make breathing easier by "breaking up congestion". It supposedly can alleviate a sore throat and minimize the symptoms of cold, flu and systemic fungal infections. It seems effective against candidiasis and other vaginal infections and for hemorrhoids. As a bath additive it may control bacteria in spas and pools. For fungal nail infections, application is twice daily and relief or cure is typically seen in 3–4 months in contrast with the currently accepted medicine which requires costly prescriptions and is taken internally daily for up to a year. Tea tree oil also is used for athlete's foot, foul body odour, burning feet, etc. Massaging tea tree oil into the affected area may alleviate the discomfort of sore muscles or joint injuries. It also reduces hypertrophic scarring.
Botanical Name: Melaleuca alternifolia
Common Method of Extraction: Steam Distilled
Color: Clear with a Yellow Tinge
Perfumery Note: Middle
Strength of Initial Aroma: Medium
Aromatic Description: Medicinal, fresh, woody, earthy, herbaceous.
Possible Uses: Acne, athlete's foot, candida, chicken pox, cold sores, colds, corns, cuts, flu, insect bites, itching, migraine, oily skin, ringworm, sinusitis, sores, spots, urethritis, warts, whooping cough. [Julia Lawless (Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 56-67.]
Constituents: Terpinen-4-ol, Alpha-Terpineol, Cineole, Pinene, Alpha Terpenene, Beta-Caryophyllene [Shirley Price (Hammersmith, London: Thorsons, 1993), 54-5.]