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Aromatherapy
Cajuput

Melaleuca leucodendron

Cajuput (botanical name of the tree Melaleuca leucodendron) essential oil is obtained from a little branch or twig belonging to the Myrtaceae family known as Melaleuca. This oil is extracted from the leaves as well as the buds of cajuput by a process known as steam distillation. The plant, also spelt as cajeput, is found in abundance in the Far East.

Cajuput trees from which the essential oil is obtained are evergreen and very tall, often growing to a height of 30 meters. The trees produce alternate, delicately haired and thick sharp leaves, while the blooms are diminutive and creamy white in hue. The bark of cajuput trunk is thin like a paper and flaking. In Malay, this tree is known as ‘caju-puti' denoting white wood. As mentioned earlier, the cajuput tree is ingenious to south-eastern regions of Asia and the northern part of Australia. The tree has also been introduced and naturalized in several other countries in the region, such as India. Cajuput is intimately related to other trees, such as niaouli, tea tree and eucalyptus.

After steam distillation, cajuput essential oil possesses a potent, clean and piercing smell and is known to possess numerous therapeutic properties. This essential oil also has an ecalyptol tinge and somewhat lemon-like fragrance. Cajuput essential oil has a pale yellowish green hue with a profoundly piercing aroma similar to camphor. The oil obtained by steam distilling freshly picked leaves and small branches of cajuput tree possesses rich cineol content. The oil is so potent that using it in high intensities may often result in irritation.

Cajuput essential oil is a potent antiseptic and produces a comforting effect when applied topically on the skin. As a result, this oil is extensively used in baths as well as massages, especially during the cold season.

The essential oil from cajuput obtained from the leaves and twigs of the tree is prepared in a special way. The leaves from which the oil is prepared are harvested on a hot arid day and concentrated in water. The maceration is fermented for the entire night and steam distilled on the following. It is highly overpowering oil and possesses the fragrance of a blend of camphor and turpentine. This oil has rich cineol content, attributed to cajuputene, and a fragrance similar to hyacinth. The cajuput essential oil can be extracted without much effort via a distillation process using phosphorus pentoxide. As a medication, cajuput essential oil is distinctively volatile and used internally in dosages of two to three minims to treat the conditions for which other oils like clove oil is used. This essential oil is used topically to counter irritation very often. This oil is used as an element in a number of liniments, including Tiger Balm, for aching muscles.

As mentioned before, this essential oil possesses numerous therapeutic properties. For instance, cajuput essential oil facilitates in clearing as well as stimulating the mind, thereby, helping one to concentrate. This oil is also used externally as a chest rub during high fevers - it helps to lower body temperature - as well as bring out mucus and provide relief from respiratory tract congestion. In addition, cajuput essential oil also forms an important ingredient of various oils or ointments meant for providing relief from throbbing muscles, rheumatism and arthritis. Apart from remedial use, this oil is also used for spiritual purposes as it helps to stimulate the development of new avenues. This essential oil is particularly valued highly by the people in the East who use it to treat headaches, colds, throat contagions, toothaches, pains and throbbing muscles, different skin disorders, rheumatism and also bring down high body temperatures during fevers.

Western herbalists have also been using the cajuput essential oil traditionally. It has been established that this oil helps in bringing about a warm feeling as well as hastening the pulse rate. In Western herbal tradition, cajuput essential oil is widely used to treat conditions, such as chronic bronchitis and laryngitis, cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), rheumatism as well as to get rid of roundworms from the body. Since this oil is a potent antiseptic, it is extensively used in dentistry, pharmaceutical work in the form of an antiseptic, in throat lozenges, in preparing expectorants and tonics, gargles and several other remedial products. Cajuput essential oil is highly valued by cosmetics, perfume, and soap and detergent manufacturers. It forms an important ingredient in many of these products. At times, it is also used to add essence to food products as well as soft drinks. It has been established that cajuput oil is effective unwinding oil that helps to enhance the mood as well as strengthen the body's resistance to various contagions. As this essential oil possesses a camphor-like and medicinal aroma, it may also be used in steam inhalation to facilitate clearing blocked nasal passages and the respiratory tract. Moreover, cajuput essential oil is also effective for treating oily skin as well as blemishes or marks.

Since cajuput essential oil is very potent and volatile, it is generally diluted before using it for remedial purposes. Watered down cajuput oil is widely used to heal acne, eczema, bruises, psoriasis, colic, earaches, scabies, burns and scurvy. People in Malaysia use the essential oil obtained from the cajuput trees as a pain killer, while the Burmese blend cajuput essential oil with camphor and apply it topically to alleviate problems related to the joints and bones. This oil may be applied straightway to treat lesions caused by ringworms as well as heal athlete's foot plagues. Cajuput essential oil is also effective in treating insect bites as well as contagious skin diseases (impetigo). It has been proved that diluted cajuput essential oil is also useful as a douche in curing yeast contagions or Candida. To treat throat infections as well as eliminate intestinal parasites, such as ringworms, you may add a few drops (one to ten) on a sugar cube and take it internally. The same treatment, mixing cajuput essential oil with sugar, is also effective in treating cholera. In addition, this oil may also be added to water and used as a gargle to heal bronchitis and laryngitis.

As aforementioned, cajuput essential oil also possesses expectorant properties. Inhaling cajuput vapours helps to remove the congestion from the nasal airways as well as the respiratory tract. At the same time, this helps to bring out the phlegm and mucus from the lungs providing relief in colds and cough. The antiseptic property of cajuput essential oil makes it effective in treating ailments of the respiratory tract, including laryngitis. Topical application of this oil brings about a refreshing effect and helps to treat headaches and drive away exhaustion as well as lethargy that often accompany flu. The antiseptic properties of cajuput also render it as an extremely effective remedy for digestive and urinary infections - particularly those that are chronic. When cajuput essential oil is combined with marjoram oil or rosemary oil, it can be used as a muscle rub that is warm and provides relief from firmness of the muscles as well as rheumatic aches. At the same time, cajuput essential oil is a common remedy for treating head lice or even getting your home rid of pet flea invasion.

The cajuput tree is often called the white bark tree, especially in Malaysia, because it possesses a typical white bark. Similarly, the cajuput essential oil also has a number of names, such as swamp tree oil and white tea tree oil.

Chemical analysis of cajuput essential oil has revealed that it encloses cineol, terpenes, terpinyl acetate, ledene, alloarmadendrene, phytol, platonic acid, terpineol, betulinic acid, viridiflorol, betulinaldehyde, palustrol and a number of other elements. This essential oil is extremely liquefied and clear. Cajuput essential oil has a temperate and fragrant smell along with a camphoraceous flavour that results in a cool sensation in the mouth. Cajuput oil is completely soluble in alcohol.

It has been proved that the essential oil obtained from the tender leaves and twigs of cajuput trees possesses antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. In addition, this oil also possesses anti-neuralgic properties (a drug that helps to alleviate nerve pains) and, hence, it is used to provide relief from nerve pains. At the same time, this oil is antihelmintic (any medication that works against helminthic infections caused by parasitic microbes) and is an effective remedy for eliminating intestinal worms. The carminative (a medication that helps to remove gas from the intestines) properties of cajuput essential oil make it useful against flatulence. Many herbalists also recommend this essential oil to treat skin disorders as it has the aptitude to promote healthy appearing skin.

Cajuput essential oil is also useful in treating toothache. Add a drop of this essential oil to a cotton ball and place it between the gums and the cheeks to alleviate toothaches. This essential is also applied topically to treat cuts and gashes. Using cajuput oil helps to heal wounds without leaving any scar or causing infections. Blend one part of cajuput oil with three parts of olive oil and apply it to your hair regularly at night, as this will facilitate removal of head lice. Applying cajuput oil daily as a vaginal douche also helps in healing sexually transmitted disease (STD) gonorrhea.

Ingestion of cajuput essential oil creates a warm or temperate feeling in the stomach. Use of this essential oil also facilitates in increasing the pulse rate as well as augment urination and sweating. As aforementioned, topical application of cajuput essential oil is also effective in treating insect bites and impetigo. Gargle with the essential oil obtained from cajuput trees added to water helps in healing laryngitis as well as bronchitis, especially when they are chronic. It may be noted here that the use of cajuput essential oil not only helps in curing yeast infections and throat contagions, but also aids in treating parasitic infections caused by roundworm and cholera. Cajuput essential oil is very useful in aromatherapy. Using this oil in aromatherapy helps to promote clarity of the mind as well as thoughts.

General properties

  • analgesic
  • antiseptic
  • antispasmodic
  • antiviral
  • fungicidal
  • stimulant
  • warming

Blends well with

General uses

Precaution

Although the essential oil obtained from the leaves and twigs of cajuput trees possesses numerous therapeutic properties, it is very potent and volatile and, hence, one needs to be cautious while using it. At the same time, remember that cajuput essential oil should always be used in low concentrations (diluted) for use of high concentration of the oil is likely to result in irritation. When you are buying this essential oil from any store selling herbal medications, be careful not to get any adulterated product since using impure cajuput essential oil will only increase the possibilities of irritation. In fact, many vendors often adulterate cajuput essential oil by adding other essential oils, such as camphor, rosemary and turpentine. Occasionally, colorants are also used to cajuput essential oils or other oils to make them appear as cajuput essential oil. If you find that cajuput essential oil is not suitable for your condition or body, you may alternately use niaouli oil as it does not cause any irritation.

Application of cajuput essential oil may result in a number of adverse side effects. The most common side effects caused by this oil may include skin irritation, rapid pulse rate, sweating and others. In addition, some major side effects of using this oil are possibilities of tender breasts, bleeding or hemorrhage, abortion, endometrial hyperplasia (a medical condition when the lining of the uterus becomes too enlarged), infertility and weight gain. Nevertheless, cajuput essential oil rarely causes undesirable side effects, unless it is used in excess or high concentrations.

In addition, cajuput essential oil should also only be used under the recommendation and guidance of a competent and qualified aroma therapist or naturopath. It is advisable that cajuput essential oils should never be used by pregnant women and nursing mothers. In addition, one should also not use this essential oil when suffering from inflammation. This oil is also harmful for asthma patients and, hence, they ought to keep away from using it. In case you intend to use the cajuput essential oil internally, be sure to water it down to very low concentrations. Using high concentrations of this potent and volatile oil may prove to be detrimental for your health and cause several adverse side effects.

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