Essential Oil Spotlight: Tea Tree Oil

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By Joanne Beccarelli

Tree tree oil is one of those ingredients that is familiar because it is used and marketed by major personal care companies in soaps, shampoos and lotions, yet most people don’t know why tea tree oil is so beneficial.

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Tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) comes from the leaves of the melaleuca tree, native to Australia’s swampy, southeast coast. It is said that the Aborigines have been using tea tree leaves for medicinal purposes for centuries, but it was when Captain Cook landed in Botany Bay in 1770 that tea made from the leaves was introduced to the European settlers, hence the name ‘tea tree’ was born.

However, it was in the 1920’s after servicemen began to use it for it’s therapeutic benefits and the Royal Society of New South Wales reported that the oil was a particularly effective antiseptic that it became more widely known.(1)

Tea tree oil has a distinctive, strong, woody or herbaceous scent (like nutmeg) and is used in both topical applications when diluted with a carrier oil and diffused, but it should never be ingested. Hundreds of studies have explored the antifungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil for a variety of uses.

Here are a few of the most studied uses for tea tree oil and how to use it:
(Caution: whenever using tea tree oil, test for skin sensitivity first, and never take internally.)

  • Acne – Use 1 drop of tea tree oil mixed with your regular face lotion, aloe vera gel, or a dab of coconut oil or jojoba oil to loosen up blocked pores and disinfect your skin.
  • Athlete’s foot – Soak feet in a warm foot bath with 3 drops of tea tree oil or make a foot powder with ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch, plus 20 drops of tea tree oil. Dust or shake this on your feet daily. If your athlete’s foot is severe, use a mixture of 2-4 drops tea tree oil to 1 teaspoon of oil, and dab on the affected area daily.
  • Bacterial Skin Infections – Clean minor cuts with a mixture of 2 drops tea tree oil and a small amount of carrier oil such as coconut oil or almond oil. Apply directly to the cut or on a bandage that will be placed on the cut.
  • Fungal Nail Infections – Mix 4-5 drops of tea tree oil with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Apply it daily to the affected area until it clears up.  If the fungus is persistent, add a few more drops to your mix. Higher concentrations are generally more effective on fungi.

More common uses, include:

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  • Air Freshener – Diffuse 2-3 drops of tea tree oil. Consider adding another oil such as lavender oil for a more pleasant smell.
  • Bad Breath or Gingivitis – Mix 1-2 drops of tea tree oil in a cup of warm water and vigorously swish around your mouth. Make sure to not swallow it! Repeat daily. If you have tried oil pulling, add 1 drop of tea tree oil to your oil before you begin.
  • Cold Sores – Mix 2-4 drops of tea tree oil with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Apply it regularly to the affected area until it clears up. If the sores are persistent, try applying 1 drop directly to the area.
  • Hair Care / Dandruff – Add 10 drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo and/or conditioner, shake vigorously to combine and you now have a customized product for a healthier scalp and hair.
  • Mold Treatment – In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup white vinegar and 20-25 drops tea tree oil. Spray areas that have mold or mildew, then let sit for at least 10 minutes before wiping.
  • Natural Pest Control – Make a spray with 10-20 drops of tea tree oil and water to use in places where pests may enter your house, or in your garden where ants and other pests are showing up. Make sure to shake the spray bottle before using to disperse oil. If you have a severe challenge with ants inside your home, you can add tea tree oil to the water you use to wash floors, it disrupts their communication systems.
  • Respiratory Infections – Diffuse 4 drops of tea tree oil in a diffuser, or make a spray with 8 drops of tea trea oil in 4 ounces of water.
  • Warts – Apply 1 drop of tea tree oil directly to a wart, or if you have sensitive skin, dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, or almond oil. Higher concentrations are generally more effective on warts.

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When trying any essential oil for the first time, it is important to only use therapeutic grade oils and to proceed slowly. In particular, when trying tea tree oil, it is important to dilute this oil and to apply it frugally until you know if you will have any skin reaction. Also, see How to Start Using Essential Oils for more information about beginning to use essential oils and the benefits of using lavender, peppermint and lemon essential oils.

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Joanne Beccarelli
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Joanne Beccarelli

Holistic Health Coach, Juicing Junkie and Writer at GLAD for Health
Joanne Beccarelli is a holistic health coach, juicing junkie, writer, soon to be cookbook author and recovered emotional eater. Inspired by many great voices in the health-thru-food revolution, Joanne found her way out of hiding in shame (losing almost 100 lbs in the process) and stepped away from the corporate world. She now dedicates every day to helping others who are overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed, find awareness, fulfilment and better health.

Joanne has a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell/T. Colin Campbell Foundation, and became a Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is also a member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), and the International Association of Health Coaches (IAHC).
Joanne Beccarelli
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