The Tea Tree (melaleuca alternifolia) is a member of the Myrtaceae family and is an indigenous species to Northern New South Wales, Australia. The oil is found within the cells of the leaves, and as the Tea Tree is extremely fast-growing it is a constantly renewable resource. The crushed leaves were used as a general antiseptic by the Native Australians for thousands of years. Captain James Cook and his crew used the leaves as a substitute for tea, hence the name. Unlike the dilute tea, however, the concentrated oil should be used topically, not ingested.
Tea Tree oil is an effective bactericide killing a broad spectrum of bacteria and a range of stubborn fungi. It is safe for healthy tissue and does not inhibit normal cell growth and rejuvenation. Tea Tree oil is a powerful organic solvent and will actually dissolve the lumps of white blood cells which make pus.
The oil contains numerous chemicals known as terpenoids. The oil kills fungus and bacteria, including those resistant to some antibiotics. A single blind study has shown topical application of 5% tea tree oil in people with acne is as helpful as benzoylperoxide and has fewer side effects. Tea tree oil contributes to an extremely effective antibacterial shampoo.
A double blind study found 100% tea tree oil applied topically was as effective as the antifungal medicine clotrimazole for people with athlete’s foot fungus affecting the toe nails. Dilute solutions, containing no more than 5% tea tree oil, can safely be used as a very effective mouthwash.
Unlike many antiseptics, Tea Tree oil kills bacteria as effectively in the real environment of the body as it does in the test tube. Its solvent nature allows it to penetrate into skin layers, even reaching inaccessible sites such as the fingernails and toenails.
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