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.