James Cook was one of the greatest sea navigators in history. In the late 1700s, he sailed from England around South Africa, to Tahiti, Australia and beyond. His eyes saw what very few had in his time. He and his men were aware of the risks of their adventure. He wrote, “every man
On his trip through the South Pacific, over 1000 new plant species were identified. One
“Crushed leaves of ‘tea trees’ were inhaled to treat coughs and colds…”
Since then we have learned much about the leaves from the tea tree and the oil extracted from it. The scientific community is validating what the Aborigines knew from their experience.
Of the three main infectious organisms that affect humans, tea tree oil has been found to effectively combat them all: fungi, bacteria
Using tea tree oil against herpes simplex virus in the lab greatly reduced virus titers. Researchers concluded
As mentioned, studies documenting tea tree oil’s efficacy are limited as it is
Antifungal & Yeast
During World War II an outbreak of foot fungus hospitalized hundreds of Australian soldiers. None of the ointments, lotions or medicines of that time worked to stop the fungus. One day a medic who was an Aborigine from Australia remembered about the tea tree. After coating affected soldiers’ feet with the pungent smelling oil, the fungus was killed within a few days. Tea tree oil has also been used to treat dandruff and oral thrush. In the lab, Candida albicans cells were treated with tea tree oil. It was found that “the different components of tea tree oil vary in their modes of action against yeasts and that tea tree oil has several mechanisms of antifungal action.”4
Tea tree oil has been found to be effective for treating ringworm and other fungal infections of the skin, such as athlete’s foot and jock itch, and fungal infection of the nails. It has also been used to treat boils and other localized bacterial infections.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia evaluated tea tree oil and lavender oil as an effective treatment for head lice. Assessing 123 individuals with head lice as well as a control group, the authors of the study concluded, “The high efficacy of the melaleuca oil (tea tree oil) and lavender oil product and the head lice ‘suffocation’ product offers an alternative to the pyrethrins-based product…. Tea tree and peppermint caused the most repellence, and tea tree and lavender prevented some blood feeding on treated skin. Comparatively, tea tree oil was most efficacious, with DEET ranking equal second overall.”5 A 2008 study in the lab showed that a tea tree oil preparation was more effective against head lice than permethrin, a popular pharmaceutical remedy.
Tea tree oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and is usually non-irritating.
Scabies results in red rashes that can be quite itchy. It is caused by mites burrowing into the skin. There has been some documentation of resistance to anti-parasitic compounds typically used to treat scabies. Concern over treatment failures has brought tea tree oil into the spotlight as an effectual option in the treatment of scabies.
Tea tree oil has also been used as a mosquito repellant and for treating their bites. Tea tree oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and is usually non-irritating. Test a small area of skin before applying the oil liberally. If the essential oil irritates your skin, wash it off with soap and water and dilute the tea tree oil in five parts of jojoba or almond oil before reapplying.
Tea tree preparations may be as effective as drug therapy for the treatment of certain staph skin infections, according to reports in The Journal of Hospital Infection (2004; 56: 283–6). Two hundred and twenty-four people were studied and either treated with tea tree oil or typical drug therapies. Tea tree oil was found to be just as effective as the drug therapies in treating Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Whether from insects or the microscopic world, we face very real dangers, especially when we travel to unfamiliar areas of the globe. Tea tree oil seems like a well worth
- Cook, James. “Cook’s Journal: Daily Entries.” South Seas Voyaging Accounts. 6/13/1770. http://southseas.nla.gov.au/journals/2cook/17700613.html.
- Carson, C.F., Hammer, K.A., Riley, T.V. “Melaleuca
alternifolia(Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews. http://cmr.asm.org/content/19/1/50.full.
- Schnitzler P, Schön K, Reichling J. “Antiviral activity of Australian tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil against herpes simplex virus in cell culture.” Pharmazie. 2001 Apr; 56(4):343-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11338678.
- Hammer, K.A., Carson, C.F., Riley, T.V. “Antifungal effects of Melaleuca
(tea tree) oil and its components on Candida alternifolia , Candia albican glabrata Saccharomyces cerevisiae.” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Oxford Journals. 5/12/04. http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/53/6/1081.full. and
- “Treating head lice naturally.” The C.A.M. Report. 8/27/10. http://www.thecamreport.com/2011/01/treating-head-lice-naturally.
Risë Rafferty, RDN
Risë is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and has been writing and teaching about health for many years. She loves the health message and takes great pleasure in seeing people thrive by the application of its principles. Her research and down-to-earth manner allow her to offer up the health message in both an intelligent and accessible manner. She and her husband, James Rafferty, have two children.