Herbs > Tea Tree (Melaleuca alernifolia)
Tea tree is native to
Australia, where it was a traditional medicine for
the Aboriginal people, particularly for the
Bundjalung tribe. Despite its name, it is unrelated
to the tea which can be found in most kitchens.
Rather it was named by Captain Cook who, upon
reaching Australia, brewed a tea-like drink from the
The leaves and branches of the tea tree are the
active components of the plant. They are distilled
with steam to produce tea tree oil, which is widely
available from pharmacies and health shops.
Tea tree oil has anaesthetic,
anti-bacterial, antiseptic and anti-fungal
properties. As such, it is valuable as a first aid
treatment for a range of small complaints. It makes
an excellent topical oil to prevent infections and
accelerate the healing of small cuts and grazes, and
also bruises. It removes the itch and irritation
caused by insect bites. It can be applied directly to
burns, after the area has been submerged in cold
water for at least 10 minutes, to soothe the pain and
hasten healing. Tea tree oil can also be applied to
areas of severe sunburn to provide relief and prevent
For athletes foot and
ringworm, tea tree oil can be applied directly to the
effected area. Alternatively, for athletes
foot, the oil can be added to a basin of hot water to
create a foot bath. It is important to dry the feet
thoroughly after this foot bath, and then wash the
towel immediately after use to prevent the spread and
re-infection of the fungus.
Tea tree oil combined with rose
water and witch hazel will help to clear up acne.
Combine 4 drops of oil with 4 tablespoons each of
witch hazel and rose water, then apply directly to
the effected area.
Combing tea tree oil through
the hair will combat lice and nits. It is also
beneficial to add the oil to shampoo to further help
rid the hair of these nuisances.
Tea tree oil is beneficial for
vaginal yeast infections. It can be used either as a
douche or applied to a tampon. To make a douche,
combine 1 part tea tree oil with 4 parts warm water.
Douche with this mixture daily for at least a month.
Alternatively, combine 4 drops of tea tree oil with 2
tablespoons of olive oil. Place 5 drops of this oil
onto a tampon and insert it into the vagina. Leave in
place for several hours. As with the douche, repeat
this regime each day for at least a month.
To eliminate warts, including
plantar warts which occur on the soles of the feet
and are painful to walk on, dab the area with tea
tree oil three times daily until the growth has
Inhaling tea tree oil will help
ease respiratory tract infections and alleviate
breathing difficulties associated with these. The oil
can be sprinkled directly onto a pillow or tissue.
This is particularly good for children who are having
difficulty sleeping because of their illness.
Alternatively, tea tree oil can be added to a basin
of hot water and used as an inhalant. Five drops of
oil to a small basin of hot water is sufficient. This
will also unblock congested sinuses.
Rubbing a few drops of tea tree
oil onto the muscles, or adding the oil to a bath,
will ease muscular aches and pains after engaging in
Tea tree oil is excellent for disinfecting the
home. Adding 20-40 drops to the water when cleaning
floors or a couple of drops on a dusting cloth will
be effective. In addition, tea tree oil repels
insects. It can be vaporized in an aromatherapy oil
burner for this purpose. A more pleasant aroma can be
obtained by combining the tea tree oil with lavender
or lemon oils.
Growing tea tree:
The tea tree is native to the Australian outback,
and so it prefers hot and humid conditions,
especially when young. It will grow to a height of
about 6 metres. It is a particularly hardy plant,
which will grow back rapidly even if reduced to a
stump. Because of this, the tree can be vigorously
harvested and will grow back to be harvestable within
a year. However, because of the complexity of the
procedure which is necessary to obtain tea tree oil,
and the wide availability of the oil, it is
recommended that it is purchased as a finished
product rather than made from scratch.
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