Melaleuca alternifolia, also known as tea tree, is a plant belonging to the Mirtaceae family native to Australia. From the distillation of its leaves and the final brunches of the plant an amazing essential oil is obtained, used and appreciated for more than 100 years in Australia but whose renown is growing worldwide. Instead, the tea tree leaves are an ancient remedy of Australian Aborigine tradition used before the essential oil. These leaves were applied indeed as a poultice on wounds or used to prepare decoctions to treat sore throat and cough. Nowadays, tea tree can be found in the form of pure essential oil or cream, that contains the essential oil mixed with other active substances. Why is tea tree so famous? Let’s see its properties.
This natural remedy is, first of all, antiseptic. In addition to this, it shows also anti inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral action with a broad spectrum, by resulting, in many cases, more efficient than traditional medicines in treating resistant infections (Carson et al, Clin Microbiol Rev, Jan 2006). This action is due to the combination of more than 100 active substances in tea tree, especially terpenes, natural compounds produced by animal and plants with powerful anti cancer, anti inflammatory and antiseptic properties (Paduch et al, Arch Immunol Ther Exp, Sep 2007). The main application of tea tree is the topical one to treat skin diseases such as dermatitis, cold sores, acne, seborrheic dermatitis, rash but also dandruff and gingivitis (Pazyar et al, Int J Dermatol, Jul 2013). Moreover, tea tree may result also useful to fight infections of Staphylococcus aureus of the mouth, such as the angular cheilitis that is observed at the edges of the lips, and Candida infections (Mertas et al, Biomed Res Int, Feb 2015).
Also for our little pet friends
Scientific studies have demonstrated that the external application of tea tree, in the form of a cream, is useful in dogs to treat acute and chronic dermatitis, with faster improvements and a quicker relief from the typical dermatitis signs such as itching and alopecia in comparison with traditional treatments (Reichling et al, Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, Oct 2004). However, the intoxication caused by tea tree is possible with nausea and asthenia, for this reason use tea tree just for external applications and always diluted, better if in the form of cream, and for a short period of time. Tea tree should not be used on cats (Khan et al, J Am Vet Med Assoc, Jan 2014).
Essential oil and cream
Tea tree essential oil is a product that you should have always with you, at home, at work and during holidays. You can use it, always diluted, on pimples, wounds, insect bites, dermatitis and cold sores. For example, you can pour a drop on the palm of your hand and mix it with a pinch of your daily face or body cream, then apply on the part. A few drops mixed in the detergent are helpful in case of yeast infections while 2 drops added to a glass of lukewarm water can be used to gargle and rinse the mouth in case of problems of the oral cavity such as canker sores or gum diseases. In alternative, you can add 4-5 drops of tea tree in 50 ml of jojoba oil and use as a first aid serum on the just grown pimple, on the itching insect bite or on the cold sore. A drop of tea tree can be applied pure on the fungus of the toes, a safe and effective treatment reported by scientific studies that show that the benefits of tea tree are similar to that of clotrimazole, a drug used to treat, among other things, the athlete’s foot (Buck et al, J Fam Pract, Jn 1994). 2 drops mixed to the shampoo are a remedy in case of dermatitis of the scalp and dandruff, able to balance the sebum production and to soothe itching and irritation. And what about this remedy? 10 drops of tea tree essential oil added to 100 ml of aloe vera gel become a powerful hand disinfectant lotion that you can take always with you. In alternative, it is possible to buy the tea tree cream, very useful in case of itching, eczema, dry and flaking skin, acne but also dermatitis in dogs with the limitations seen before.