Practical, inexpensive, and has many uses for your health and around the home – no wonder tea tree oil is hailed as a “jack of all trades” among nature’s herbal oils. Here’s what you need to know about tea tree oil.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil (TTO), also called melaleuca oil, is made from the leaves of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia), a member of the myrtle tree family, which is native to Australia.
The name was coined by British explorer Lieutenant James Cook in the 1770s, when he saw native Australians brewing tea using the leaves from the tree. Later on, he brewed his own batch of tea, and gave it to his crew to prevent scurvy.1 The tea tree plant is highly prized by primitive Australian communities for its unique healing ability.
Numerous aboriginal communities along the east coast of Australia have a long historical use of tea tree as an antiseptic for skin conditions. They simply crushed the tea tree leaves and applied it to cuts, burns and infections.
It was only in the 1920s, after Arthur Penfold,2 an Australian state government chemist, published a series of papers on tea tree oil’s antiseptic properties that this oil’s benefits became widely known.
Through modern distillation methods, manufacturers are now able to produce tea tree oil with a clear to very pale golden or yellow color, and a fresh, camphor-like scent.3
Uses of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has been long valued for its antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. In the 1920s, it was used in dentistry and surgery to help clean wounds and prevent infections.4Surgeons believed that it is more effective than carbolic acid, the commonly used antiseptic at that time.5
Tea tree oil’s has become more popular within the last few years, and it is now added to soaps, shampoos, lotions