Tea Tree

Melaleuca alternifolia

Herbs gallery - Tea Tree

Common names

  • Cajeput Tree
  • Melaleuca
  • Tea Tree

The tea tree is not the common tea plant that produces both black and green tea. In fact, leaves of this tea tree are known as Melaleuca alternifolia and belongs to the family Myrtaceae that has long been used by the aboriginals as an antiseptic. This tea tree was first discovered in 1770 when Captain James Cook dropped anchor off the coast of New South Wales and his sailors went aground and prepared a perfumed tea from the leaves of a tree growing in the marshy valley there. Because of the aromatic tea prepared by the sailors it is called the tea tree and should not be mistaken to be the common tea plant.

In fact, the aboriginals residing in New South Wales used the volatile oil obtained from the leaves of the tea tree to heal scratches, burns, cuts, insect bites, athlete's foot and other similar problems. While the oil obtained from the tea tree is a popular home remedy in New South Wales, it is now gradually gaining recognition all over the world. The medicinal value of the oil is being gradually recognized by physicians and people across the globe.

Talking about the tea tree's ingredients, it possesses approximately two percent of light lemon-hued explosive oil that has a strong but pleasing nutmeg smell. The oil is acquired from the tea tree leaves through a process of steam refinement. While a third of the oil contains different terpene hydrocarbons like pinene, terpinene and cymene, the remaining part comprises mainly of oxygenated terpenes. The terpenes are mainly terpinen-4-ol that may form up to 60 percent of the total oil derived from the tea tree leaves. The oil also contains some amounts of sesquiterpene hydrocarbons and oxygenated sesquiterpenes.

The oil obtained from the leaves of the tea tree contains marked germicidal activity owing to the presence of terpunen-4-ol and is useful in eliminating germs. Significantly, the commercial manufacture of the oil cannot be done from other Melaleuca variety as many of these possess high intensity of cineole. Cineole is basically a skin irritant that lowers the antiseptic effect of terpinen-4-ol. A study conducted by researchers recently discovered that the oil is effectual in vitro as opposed to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus damages. Though terpinen-4-ol present in the oil derived from the leaves of the tea tree is believed to be the most important active constituent, scientists in Australia have established that the other constituents in this vital oil like alpha-terpineol and linalool are also play a major role in maintaining the anti-microbial activities.

Significantly, arms and ammunition factories in Australia normally induced one percent of the tea tree oil in all machine 'cutting' oils during the World War II as this largely helped in reducing instances of infections owing to scratches or cut marks on the hands of the workers who were engaged in metal filings and turnings. Although there have not been many medical or scientific studies concerning the tea tree oil in recent times, but whatever research has been done on it so far, have revealed that the tea tree oil is effective in healing different vaginal and skin infections. A study conducted by scientists on 124 patients revealed that the tea tree oil is useful in healing acne vulgaris. Another study conducted on 117 patients has established that the ingredients in tea tree oil can serve as an efficient modern-day treatment of toenail onychomycosis that happens from dermatophy, yeast or infrequently mold as well as infections. Many a times, the tea tree oil is also induced in shampoo with a view to free the hair from the flea pets.

When applied locally, tea tree oil may often lead to irritation among some people who are sensitive to such medicines. However, the medicine has been improved upon and the toxicity removed from it as a result presently when it is used, the tea tree oil does not lead to any irritation or side effects. At home and in hospitals, the tea tree oil has numerous uses to clean the environment and acts as an effective antimicrobial. There are many promoters of the substance who believe and will make you believe that it is a magical product, which it is actually not.

Parts used

Leaves, essential oil.


Tea tree has been used for healing various ailments since ages. It is an indigenous remedy whereby the leaves of tea tree are either crushed to breathe in or taken as liquid mixtures or infusions to cure coughs, cold and even skin diseases. The oil obtained from the tea tree leaves can be used to apply on skin infections like athlete's feet and ringworms as well as to heal corns, warts, acne and boils. In addition, tea tree oil is also beneficial for treating infected burn injuries, scrapes, wounds, insect bites and stings as many other disorders of the skin.

Ingredients of the tea tree may also be consumed to cure internal ailments and infections. They are very useful in healing cystitis, glandular fever as well as post-viral fatigue syndromes (ME). Derivatives from the tea tree are also widely used in mouthwashes to fight oral infection and gum diseases. At times, physicians also recommend medicines containing tea tree ingredients for gargle to cure sore throats. As mentioned earlier, tea tree is also useful in healing a variety of vaginal yeast infections.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

Tea tree also known as Melaleuca alternifolia is a natural vegetation that grows widely in Australia and mostly thrives in humid soils. It is found in abundance in New South Wales as well as in Queensland in the southern continent. Although it was earlier collected from the wild, currently it is extensively cultivated in New South Wales and is matured from stem cuttings during the summer. The leaves and tender branches of the tea tree are collected round the year and distilled by steaming to obtain the useful oil.


Although the leaves and other derivatives have been in use for years, the first scientific study on the tea tree oil was carried out in Australia in 1923. The tea tree, its leaves and the various derivatives have been intensively researched since the 1960s. As a result of these studies, the antiseptic properties of the tea tree are well established today. Medical examinations mainly done in Australia have proved that the tea tree and its derivatives are very helpful in healing a wide variety of contagious diseases, especially fungal and skin problems like vaginal yeast infections, bad skin conditions and lumps.

Terpinen-4-ol is known to be one of the most important ingredients of the tea tree. Terpinen-4-ol is considered to be a very useful antiseptic that is well accepted by the skin. In addition to terpinen-4-ol, tea tree oil also possesses cineol that has the capability to aggravate the skin. The content of cineol in tea tree oil varies depending on the quality of the oil extract. While the poor variety of the oil contains a little above 10 percent of cineol, the superior quality tea tree oil may contain as high as 65 percent of cineol.

Usual dosage

In order to get the best results, one may fairly apply the tea tree oil having the strength of 70-100 percent in little parts on the affected areas of the skin or the nails at least twice daily. Contemporary physicians dilute the oil by 5-15 percent for treating acne or bad skin conditions. The concentrations of the oil may also be used, but it should always be done cautiously and following advice of the physicians. The concentration of tea tree oil is normally used to cure vaginal douches.

Side effects and cautions

It may be noted that the tea tree oil should never be used on the skin where there is any open wound - like in the case of broken skin or places influenced by rashes not owing to fungus. Besides, if the tea tree oil comes in contact with the eye, nose, mouth or any other tender body parts it may cause a burning sensation. It is necessary to seek the advice of physicians before applying tea tree oil as many people may suffer from allergies after using it. Application of tea tree oil might also lead to rashes and itching of the skin. Hence it is advised that when using the tea tree oil for the first time, only small amounts of it must be applied. Here is a word of caution: tea tree oil should never be used internally.


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