Monday, June 2, 2008

Tea Tree Oil Uses and Benefits

Grown in the islands of the south Pacific and Australia, tea trees got their name because their bark, leaves, or twigs were historically used by settlers and travelers as a tea substitute. Australian tea trees, the main source of tea tree oil, are not trees at all, but rather green shrubs that grow in the wet coastal regions of Australia. These shrubs grow very quickly and can reach heights of 7 to 8 feet when mature. Australian tea trees have soft, thick, white bark, and white flowers that bloom in the summer.

The light yellow tea tree oil is produced by steaming the pine-needle-like tea tree leaves to force out the oil which is used mainly in medicine, but also for industrial lubricants and cosmetic products. The oil has a nutmeg-like smell.

Tea tree oil contains chemicals known as terpenoids which are believed to provide the oil its medicinal properties. Australian standards were established for the amount of one particular compound, terpinen-4-ol, which must make up at least 30 and preferably 40-50 of the oil for it can be considered medically useful. Tea tree oil contains yet another compound, cineole, which should make up less than 15 and preferably 2.5 of the oil.

Tea tree oil kills fungus and bacteria, including those resistant to some antibiotics. Tea tree oil is used topically as an antiseptic and anti-infective for bacterial infections, acne, and fungal infections such as athlete's foot. It is also used in connection with insect bites, sunburn, and other minor skin irritations.

Tea tree oil has also been used to kill bacteria in the mouth before dental surgery and to lessen the mouth irritation caused by dental procedures. In patients who suffer from oral candidiasis, a fungal infection of the mouth and throat, tea tree oil mouth rinse may prove effective in reducing symptoms. Other studies have indicated that tea tree oil is also effective when used in connection with nose, throat, and vaginal related infections.

Tea Tree Oil Dosage and Administration

The amount of actual tea tree oil in various marketed preparations can range anywhere from 1 to 100. Often, the stronger products are used for hard-to-treat infections such as toenail fungus, while 5 to 10 tea tree oil gels have been used successfully to treat acne.

Commonly used dosages and durations include:
For treating fungal infections of fingernails or toenails use 100 tea tree oil twice a day for 6 months
For treating athlete's foot use 10 tea tree oil twice daily for up to one month
For acne use 5 to 10 tea tree oil once a day indefinitely
For oral candidiasis use one tablespoonful of 5 tea tree oil solution as a mouth wash taken up to 4 times a day. (Make sure to spit out)

Tea tree oil has long been used in traditional medicine, and it is one of the most remarkable and versatile of chemicals. What makes tea tree oil unique is that it is effective against bacteria, fungi and viruses. Few other substances share this important distinction.

The tea tree, from which tea tree oil derives its common name, is native to Australia, and the indigenous peoples of the region have traditionally used the oil to treat a number of skin conditions, from eczema to acne to cuts and bruises.

Many of the most valuable uses of tea tree oil have to do with the skin. Tea tree oil is used in many acne preparations, and it can reduce the redness, swelling and lesions often associated with this common skin condition. In addition, tea tree oils can be highly effective at treating dandruff. Some dandruff sufferers prefer to add a few drops of concentrated tea tree oil to their favorite shampoo, and many report that the results are just as good as using a more expensive dandruff shampoo.

The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil are well known also, and tea tree oil is often used to treat burns, cuts, insect bites, wounds and infections. In addition, tea tree oil’s antifungal properties make it a favorite for treating ringworm, athlete’s foot and many other common fungal diseases.

Tea tree oil is known to have significant antiviral properties as well, and there is at least anecdotal evidence that it may be effective against many infectious diseases, including colds, flu, chicken pox and shingles, as well as cold sores and warts.

When using tea tree oil it is important to remember that the concentrated oil is very strong. It is important never to use large amounts of the concentrated oil, and not to treat sensitive areas with the concentrated oil.

Tea tree oil is used in a wide variety of preparations, from creams and ointments to shampoos and astringents. It is important for each consumer to shop around carefully in order to find the most effective preparation of this powerful plant.