On his first voyage to Australia, Captain Cook made a sharp-tasting tea from tea tree leaves and later used them in brewing beer. Eventually the leaves and then the essential oil were used to purify water. Australian soldiers and sailors used the essential oil as an all-purpose healing agent during World War II. Today, tee tree is used in aromatherapy and other preparations.

It’s only recently, however, that essential oil companies have begun touting tea tree’s healing properties. Medical journal articles support reports of its ability to heal mouth infections, and its primary use is in products for gum infection and canker sores, germicidal soaps, and deodorants.

You will find several variations of tea tree, such as the harsher cajeput (M. cajuputii) and niaouli (M. viridiflora), favored for treating viral infections such as herpes. There is also a tea tree oil that is simply called MQV (M. quinquenervia viridiflora). Although it is more expensive, some aromatherapists prefer its softer, sweeter fragrance.

Principal constituents of tea tree: Terpineol (as high as 30 - 40 percent), cineol, pinene, cymene, and others

Scent of tea tree: Astringent, acrid, camphorous, and medicinal, the scent is similar to eucalyptus. Poor quality oil smells like melted rubber.

Therapeutic properties of tea tree: Anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal; destroys parasitic infections, encourages the healing of wounds, clears lung and sinus congestion, stimulates immune system

Uses for tea tree: Called a “medicine cabinet in a bottle,” tea tree is effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses and stimulates the immune system. Use it in compresses, salves, massage oil, and washes to fight all sorts of infections, including herpes, shingles, chicken pox, candida, thrush, flu, cold, and those of the urinary tract. Studies show that the presence of blood and pus from infection only increase tea tree’s antiseptic powers.

It heals wounds, protects skin from radiation burns from cancer therapy, and encourages scar tissue to regenerate. Tea tree also treats diaper rash, acne, wounds, and insect bites. Adding just one drop to dish and diaper washing rinses gets rid of bacteria. It is one of the most nonirritating antiseptic oils, but this varies with the species, so a few people do find it slightly irritating.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.