Melaleuca alternifolia belonging to the Family Myrtaceae, is a small tree with narrow, soft, alternate leaves and yellowish flowers in the shape of bottle brushes. Melaleuca alternifolia is one of more than 30 species of ‘paperbark’ trees that flourish in Australia. The name ‘Melaleuca’ comes from the Greek ‘melas’ meaning black and ‘leukos’ meaning white. This refers to the contrast between the dark-green foliage, which appears black and the loose, paper-thin and very white bark.
A clear to pale yellow essential oil is steam distilled from its leaves and branches. One thousand pounds of leaves and terminal branchlets yield about 18 pounds of oil. The yield of oil is lower in the winder months with a sudden increase appearing in November, the first month of summer. The yield declines again about June, the first winter month in Northern New South Wales. In addition it would appear that there is an increase in the cineole content during the winter months. The essential oil has a spicy, medicinal odour and is quite pungent. Most ‘therapeutic grade’ Tea Tree oil contains around 3% cineole and around 35% or more terpen-4-ol. Tea tree blends well with eucalyptus, lemon, lavender, marjoram, pine, rosemary, clary sage, oakmoss, geranium and spices.
According to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Australian studies have shown that a watery solution of tea tree oil dissolves pus and leaves surfaces of infected wounds and ulcers deodorized and clean. When dirty wounds are washed or syringed with a 10% water solution, embedded dirt and debris are loosened and carried away.
Psychologically, Tea Tree is an energy stimulant. It may also be helpful for shock and generally and nervous exhaustion
On the physiological level Tea Tree has strong germicidal, antifungal properties and antiviral properties and can be considered for any condition requiring these sorts of properties such as athlete’s foot, herpes, coughs, bronchitis, ear, nose and throat infections, as well as cystitis and thrush. It an excellent immune system stimulant.
Contraindications: Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.
E.A. Weiss, Essential Oil Crops, CAB International, Oxon, UK & New York, NY, 1997
Thomas Bartram, Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Marlowe & Company, New York, 1995, 1998.
Mark Webb , Bush Sense, Griffin Press, Australia, 2000
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001,2002, 2002, 2004