Tea tree oil has a long history of traditional use in Australia. Aboriginals used tea tree leaves for healing skin cuts, burns, and infections. They would simply crush the leaves and apply them directly to the affected area.
Today, tea tree oil is an essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of “Melaleuca alternifolia,” a plant native to Australia. The oil from the leaves is the part that is used for medicinal purposes, although historically, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which is how tea tree oil got its name.
Tea tree oil contains special substances called “terpenoids.” Terpenoids have been found to have antiseptic and antifungal activity. The compound terpinen-4-ol is the most abundant and is thought to be responsible for most of tea tree oil’s antimicrobial activity.
Tea tree oil is commonly used to treat a number of conditions. The following is a list of the most common ailments that could be treated with the essential oil.
- Athlete’s foot
- Periodontal disease
- As an antiseptic
- Yeast infection
There are some clinical trials that have attempted to prove the effectiveness of tea tree oil. In one such trial performed at the Dental School of the University of Adelaide in Australia, tea tree oil was examined for its effectiveness in treating gingivitis. Forty-nine patients with chronic gingivitis, aged 18 to 60 and comprising both men and women, participated in the trial. The patients were divided into three groups. The group that was given tea tree oil gel to brush their teeth with showed noticeable improvement in gum health. The researchers concluded that tea tree oil could be useful in the treatment of chronic gingivitis.
Tea tree oil is most commonly found as a pure essential oil. You’ll also find it as an ingredient in creams, ointments, lotions, soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste.
Occasionally, people may have allergic reactions to tea tree oil, ranging from mild contact dermatitis to severe blisters and rashes. Remember that tea tree oil should not be taken internally, even in small quantities. The tea tree oil in commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes is generally considered to be acceptable because it is not swallowed. Avoid homemade tea tree oil mouthwashes. Please keep tea tree oil out of the reach of children and pets.