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Topic - Tea Tree Essential Oil - A review by Tisserand

Australian Tea Tree Oil
A Review by Robert Tisserand
The International Journal of Aromatherapy  Vol.1, No 1, February 1988

With special thanks to Christopher Dean, of Thursday Plantation and
The Australian Tea-Tree Industry Association, for his help in sourcing material.

Tea-tree (or ti-tree) oil is distilled from the fronds of a tree native to New South Wales, Australia, and parts of New Zealand. This tree, melaleuca alternifolia, is a member of the myrtle family, and is extremely hardy and disease-resistant. The leaves have been employed medicinally for centuries by New South Wales Aborigines, and the name is said to stem from a visit by Captain Cook, whose crew made a tea from the leaves.
Tea-tree oil is water-white in appearance, and has a fresh, spicey, agreeable odour. Until recently it was hardly known in aromatherapy outside Australia, but some recent clinical trials in France have helped to highlight its usefulness. Tea-tree oil turns out to be one of the most useful of all essential oils, especially as an antiseptic, and yet it has not previously been discussed in books on aromatherapy.

The first to recognize the unique qualities of the essential oil was a government chemist from Sydney, A. R. Penfold. In 1925 he announced the results of laboratory experiments which showed that the oil was twelve times stronger than phenol (carbolic acid) which was then the universal standard for antiseptic substances. This led to further research and to the increasing use of the oil in medicine, dentistry and as a home remedy.
In 1930 a report in the Medical Journal of Australia' commented on its non- toxicity and lack of irritancy. The report noted enthusiastically that tea-tree oil dissolved pus and left the surfaces of infected wounds clean so that its germicidal action became more effective and without any apparent damage to the tissues. 'Dirty wounds, such as are frequently seen as the result of street accidents, may be washed or syringed out with a 10% watery lotion; the solvent properties will loosen and bring away the dirt which is usually ground in ... healing will readily take place.' in 1936 the same journal reported a very bad case of diabetic gangrene successfully treated with tea-tree oil. In 1937 it was pointed out that one of the outstanding features of the oil is that the presence of blood, pus or other organic matter actually increases the oil's antiseptic powers by some 10 to 12 per cent.
During the Second World War tea-tree oil was issued in first aid kits to army and navy units in the tropical regions. At one point demand so outstripped supply that synthetic antiseptics had to be substituted. This, coupled with the fervent post-war interest in antibiotic drugs, led to a decline of interest in tea-tree, which persisted right up to the 1970s. (2)

In April 1972 the results of a very thorough study were published on the use of tea-tree oil in many common foot problems. (3) The study covered sixty patients and concluded that the oil had relieved or eliminated foot symptoms in fifty-eight of them. of these, results were graded as excellent in thirty-eight cases. The problems treated included athlete's foot, corns, callouses and bunions, hammer toes, skin peeling or cracking, fungal infection under toe-nails and bromhidrosis.* The study took place over a period of six years, and treatment times varied from three weeks to four years. In his conclusion the author observes that, overall, the best results were obtained in treating bromhidrosis, an unpleasant and embarrassing condition'. The athlete's foot cases were found to be caused by one or more of four fungi (including Candida albicans), all of which responded to tea-tree oil.
Ringworm is a condition closely related to athlete's foot, and almost as common. Both are caused by similar fungi. There have been a great many reports of ringworm being rapidly cleared up with teatree oil, and I have treated two cases, both of which were clear within three to four days.
Dr Paul Belaiche, Professor of Phytotherapy at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Paris Nord, published a number of trials using tea-tree oil in 1985. In his report on skin infections (5) he finds teatree effective against problems due to straphylococcus, streptococcus, or candida albicans. Both acne and impetigo are shown to be clinically vulnerable to the oil, and Belaiche reports the most convincing results of all in the treatment of fungal nailbed infections, frequently caused by candida. Eight out of eleven patients with nailbed infections showed complete recovery with twice daily application of the oil for one to three months.
*Bromhidrosis is the medical term for 'smelly feet' and is caused by malodorous perspiration.

In June 1962 an American report was published in obstetrics and Gynecology on the use of tea-tree oil in trichomonal vagin itis. (4) Vaginitis simply means vaginal inflammation, which in this case is caused by Trichomonas, a very tiny animal microbe, a glagellate creature, which is a common cause of greenish-yellow discharge, often foul smelling, and soreness in the area. The study comprised 130 women, including ninety-six cases of trichomonal vaginitis, and also several cases of thrush and cervicitis. As controls the author treated fifty other cases with standard antitrichomonal suppositories. The teatree oil was applied diluted by means of saturated tampons and douches, but was not given orally. Out of the 130 patients, all were successfully treated, and results were similar to the control group. Many patients commented on the pleasant odour of the oil, its cooling soothing effect and its efficiency in removing obnoxious vaginal odours. None of them complained of any irritation or burning.
More recently Dr Belaiche conducted two studies featuring tea-tree oil, the first of these on twenty-eight cases of thrush (infestation of the vagina with Candidaalbicans). Candida albicans (7) is normally present in the vagina, but its growth is kept in check by certain baceria. A common cause of thrush is antibiotic therapy which results in the beneficial bacteria being destroyed, thus allowing Candida to flourish. This results in a white discharge, often with itching, soreness and pain - a very common condition. For this study tea-tree oil was made into pessaries for insertion into the vagina once every night. After the first week one patient felt vaginal burning, so discontinued treatment, but none of the others had any similar symptoms. After thirty days the twenty-seven patients were examined, and twenty-three showed a complete cure with no further discharge or burning. The other four showed a moderate improvement. Belaiche observes that tea-tree oil is as effective as several other essential oils, but is notably less irritating: 'We have been happily astonished at the results obtained ... the essential oil of melaleuca has entered the team of the major essential oils and emerges as an antiseptic and anti- fungal weapon of the first order in phytoaromatherapy.'
In Belaiche's second study with teatree oil, twenty-six female patients, with chronic cystitis were given the oil orally over a period of six months.' (7) This was a double-blind trial, in which half the patients were given a placebo which had the odour of tea-tree. After six months none of the placebo group showed any improvement. Out of the thirteen who took tea-tree oil, seven were cured after six months, which, for such a chronic condition, is a significant result. As many have done before, Belaiche comments in his conclusion on the very low toxicity and irritancy of tea-tree oil.

Tea-tree oil has also been used successfully in the treatment of many other conditions and is now increasingly employed by herbal practitioners in Australia, as it is by the layperson. Cuts, wounds, ulcers, sores, boils, burns, ringworm, athlete's foot, psoriasis impetigo, nappy rash, anal and genital pruritis, cold sores, lice, urinary and vaginal infections, genital herpes, throat, bronchial and sinus infections, bad breath, mouth ulcers, infected gums and many other conditions have all responded remarkably well to treatment with this astonishing essential oil.
Why is tea-tree oil so effective? its chemical content is not dramatically different from eucalyptus or rosemary, except that it has an unusually high content of terpinen-4-ol, an alcohol, which constitutes some 35% of the best quality oils. It is also worth noting that a thorough analysis of the oil in 1978 (8)revealed the presence of four constituents which have not been found anywhere else in nature: viridiflorene, present at I %, B- terpineol (0.24%) 1-terpineol (trace) and allyl hexanoate (trace).
There is no recorded toxicity data on tea- tree oil, but terpinen-4-ol has a toxicity of 4.3 g/kg, which would indicate a toxicity for the oil of between 3 and 5, a completely safe rating. Christopher Dean reports four cases of children swallowing up to 25 mls of the oil with no significant side effects. in the worst instance mild diarrhoea and drowsiness was noticed, but both passed within 24 hours. (9) Because of its lower cineol content, teatree oil is reckoned to be less toxic and less irritant than eucalyptus oil.
Karen Cutter, a leading Sydney naturopath, has taken 120 drops of teatree oil orally each day for over three months to satisfy herself that her extreme recommendations for dosage are quite safe. Karen uses tea-tree oil extensively in the treatment of systemic candida, particularly when associated with AIDS. Her patients frequently ingest up to 3 mls (60 drops) daily for periods in excess of six months. Christopher Dean comments that "it has been most instructive to see the enormous degree of success which Karen has achieved with no apparent ill- effects over the past two years." (9)
Research has shown that tea-tree oil is four to five times stronger than the usual household disinfectants, and yet it stings far less when applied to minor abrasions, and of course is completely natural. Teatree oil has passed the Kelsey-Sykes test, which is the most rigorous antiseptic test in the world today. It has proved effective, both in vitro and in vivo against candida albicans, straphylococcus aureus, escherichia coli, trichophytia and streptococcus, and in vitro against pseudomonas aeruginosa, proteus vulgaris, pneumococcus, gonococcus, meningococcus, diphtheric bacterium, and aspergillus niger.
Because tea-tree oil is relative y inexpensive, completely natural, and the problems it is used for are among the easiest to research, it would appear to have a very bright future. It has been predicted that demand for the oil will multiply some fifty times over the next few year, and it is likely to feature in many natural remedies and patent medicines for home treatment. It is not a cure-all, but is one of the most exciting essential oils to emerge in recent years.
As an interesting conclusion, the following sheds some light on the antitoxic properties of tea-tree oil.
The venom toxicity of the black widow spider may be matched by that of the funnel web spider found only in New South Wales, Australia. This spider first made the news in 1927 when a two-yearold boy was bitten by one and died within ninety minutes. Since then five other deaths have been reported. The latest was a seventeen- year-old pregnant woman, who died in Sydney in 1970 after being bitten on the breast.
The following account dates from May 1983, and comes from Harry H. Bungwahl, New South Wales.
"A rather extraordinary episode happened to me recently involving teatree oil. I was bitten on the foot by a funnel- web spider... it happened at night time about I a.m. He gave me a vicious bite, and it was very painful ... I lay down on the bed and tried to think of some way to soothe the pain of the bite, which was very severe. I then thought of the small bottle of tea-tree oil which was in the bathroom. My wife went and got it and applied some to the bite and there was an immediate easing of the pain. My wife then went to ring up Taree Hospital, and while she was doing that I put some more tea-tree oil onto the bite which, in a short time, stopped being panful! My son drove me to the Taree hospital - the foot was no longer painful but my lips and fingers were still tingling . . . the spider was identified as a male funnel-web spider all right ... I was given no treatment but was kept under observation for a period of four hours, and then discharged."
It is interesting that both tea-tree oil and the funnel web spider are found only in New South Wales.

This review is based on text from Aromatherapy for Everyone by Robert Tisserand, which is being published in the UK by Penguin Books, on April 28th 1988.

1. E. Humphrey, 'A New Australian Germicide', Medical Journal of Australia, )an uary 1930, p.417.

2. A . Penfold, 'Some Notes on the Essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia', Australian Journal of Pharmacology, March 1937, p.274.

3. M. Walker, 'Clinical Investigation of Australian Melaleuca alternifolia Oil for a Variety of Common Foot Problems', Current Podiatry, April 1972.

4. E. Pena, 'Melaleuca alternifolia Oil: its use for Trichomonal Vaginitis and Other Vaginal Infections', Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 19 (6) 1962. pp. 793-5.

5. P. Belaiche, 'Treatment of Skin infections, with the Essential Oil of Melaleuca alternifolia', Phytotherapie, vol. 15, 1985, pp. 15-17.

6. P. Belaiche, 'Treatment of Vaginal Infections of Candida albicans with the Essential Oil of Melaleuca alternifolia, ibid, pp. 13-15.

7. P. Belaiche, 'Germicidal Properties of the Essential Oil of Melaleuca alternifolia Related to Urinary Infections and Chronic Ideopathic Colibaccillus', ibid, pp. 9-11.

8. G. Swords and G. L. K. Hunter, 'Composition of Australian Tea-Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)', Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, vol. 26, 1978, pp. 734-9.

9. C. Dean, Private correspondence with the author, August 1987.

10. C. Dean, A series of private laboratory tests including
Preservative Effectiveness Test (1975) and TGA Test for Hospital Grade Dirty Conditions (1987).

Essential Oils for First Aid

Essential Oils for First Aid

    "Chances are your medicine cabinet is overflowing with a slew of man-made products containing synthetic chemicals, petroleum, artificial colorings and animal by-products. From cortisone cream and mercurochrome to antihistamines and acetaminophen, many medicine cabinets resemble a wartime arsenal. Used to treat sprains, burns, cuts, bites, upset stomach, and whatever else you can use to what ails you. What other options do you have??
    Plenty! If you know what to look for. Tired of the immune-stressing offense of pharmaceuticals? Many consumers are countering this unnatural barrage with a good defense - Herbal Remedies. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of the world's people rely on plants for medicine. And their use has skyrocketed in Europe and America in recent years, due mainly to a fear of Western medicine's side effects and its booming health care-associated costs. According to Health And Nutrition Breakthroughs, the overuse of antibiotics in Western medicine has encouraged the revival of herbal remedies, as more and more bacterial strains become immune to antibiotic drugs." Quoted from “Herbs to the Rescue”  by Tracey C. Rembert

    Essential oils are plant essences distilled or pressed from stems, leaves, fruits and flowers. They are rich in active properties that are especially potent against viruses, fungus and bacteria. By simply inhaling or topically applying these essential oils, it has been shown that patients can prevent or even eliminate the risk of infection. Essential oils are famous for fighting germs and supporting the immune system.
    Dr. Eugene Sherry of the University of Sydney in Australia said that, “when applied to the skin of infected wounds an antibacterial wash derived from eucalyptus and tea-tree oil can work when modern antibiotics fail.” Dr. Patrick H. Warnke, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Kiel in Germany, Said that when essential oil compounds were sprayed on tuberculosis cultures "we wiped out TB, killed it, in 40 minutes. No antibiotic does that." In other studies, combinations of patchouli, tea tree, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, clove, cinnamon, lemon, and many other essential oils have been found to be remarkably effective, sometimes in as little as 2 minutes, against viruses, fungus, bacteria, plagues, and even MRSA,
    The reason pure essential oils are so effective is because unlike drugs, essential oils contain a complex mixture of active properties that will vary due to natural growing conditions. No matter how carefully these variables are controlled, every batch of pure essential oil is going to be slightly different from the one before and the one after. That slight variance prevents fungi, bacteria and viruses from developing resistance to these natural plant remedies – and it's why we can use the same essential oils to fight cold and flu that our ancestors were using centuries ago.    
    Best of all, because natural essential oils contain a combination of active properties that neutralize harmful effects, pure unadulterated essential oils are non-toxic and have no true side effects.  However their potency against toxins can cause body system cleansing symptoms as the body clears itself of those germ toxins.
    Since a wealth of 50+ year old bacteria busting research concerning essential oils exists why doesn't modern medicine consider natural options like essential oils as viable alternatives for fighting drug-resistant strains of viruses and bacteria, especially since the current treatments are only successful in around 50 percent of cases? Because Essential oils are naturally occurring and cannot be patented. So drug companies are typically not interested in using them as treatments since they do not see them as profitable. All essential oil research was abandoned when modern science discovered antibiotics.
When expecting these benefits from essential oils, it is important to use only natural essential oils of pure quality that have not been adulterated in any way.

Basic Natural First Aid Kit – ideal for traveling
Lavender, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Clove & Sweet Orange
Plus Herbal Skin Salve, hydrogen peroxide, bandages, elastic bandage wraps, Q-tips, dental floss, rubber bands, tweezers, scissors, dry towels or tissues, white willow and valerian herbal capsules.
This is the natural quick fix for whatever hurts travel kit.
Natural remedies for cuts, burns, chapped lips/skin, rashes, plant irritations like poison ivy or nettles,  bug bites, bee stings, bruises, blisters, headaches, toothaches, gum problems, sore muscles, stress, hyperactivity, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, and more!
Not all essential oils are suitable for direct undiluted application on skin (aka "neat" application),  but the oils in this basic kit will all be ok for direct skin application.

Natural First Aid Kit  - ideal for the home
In addition to the Basic kit, I like to have a more extensive home use kit that includes all of the basic oils mentioned above plus Eucalyptus, Geranium, Cedarwood atlas, Palmarosa, Sweet Birch, Grapefruit, Patchouli essential oils and the Immune Boost essential oil blend.  Plus Immune Boost and Tea tree bar soaps, Shea & Aloe lotion, Body Butter, and homeopathic remedies of arnica and ledum.

Eucalyptus will help a stuffy head sufferer sleep when applied via a room diffuser or on an eye pillow of directly on the sheet.  A couple drops just before bedtime will usually do the trick.

Palmarosa, Grapefruit, Geranium and Cedarwood atlas each have mind stimulating, uplifting, energizing qualities.  It is believed that King Solomon's reason for using  cedarwood for the temple and his palace was due to the intelligence stimulating properties of cedarwood atlas.  A couple drops or either in a room diffuser, scent ring, or on your clothes should stimulate your day.
Consider putting  a couple drops on your dish cloth for better washing, add to cleaning sprays, vacuum filters or room scenters.

Sweet Birch can be used for sore muscles like peppermint but provides a warming relaxation sensation instead of  the cooling anti-inflammatory sensation of peppermint.

Immune Boost is an awesome synergistic blend. The blend of these herbal essences has been repeatedly shown over centuries of time to be very beneficial at immune system support.  It is believed to have originated in Europe during the 15th century plagues.  It contains Cinnamon, Cloves, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata, Lemon, Lemongrass, Rosemary.  Use it on areas where lymphatic function is easily assisted such as the throat near swollen glands. Undiluted application is potent and not harmful, but if the area where you choose to apply it are sensitive and show irritation, application of skin salve will resolve it.
Skin Salve is a salve of olive oil, shea butter and bees wax that is strongly infused with 9 herbs known for healing, with additional essential oils of tea tree and lavender added.  
Homeopathic Ledum is amazingly effective on  tetanus symptoms. Take as directed on the bottle after any skin puncture.
Essential oils, skin salve & natural skincare are available at:   

Basic Natural First Aid Kit Applications
** All uses described here are only typical historical and testimonial applications for essential oils and are not given as medical advice.  Use at your own risk.  No liability is assumed by the author or any seller of essential oils.  Use only verified 100% pure natural aromatherapy essential oils not adulterated, diluted or perfumery  oils and not any fragrances or synthetic oils.

MINOR CUTS OR SCRAPES – Whenever possible you should first wash a wound with soap and water or rinse with 3% hydrogen peroxide until bubbling stops or rinse with alcohol. COMPLETELY COVER with anti-bacterial anti-viral, anti-fungal TEA TREE essential oil.  Then cover wound with SKIN SALVE and a BANDAID.  Repeat daily.
Tea tree will help reduce pain and speed healing.  Skin salve will help reduce bruising, ease itching, and speed healing. It will also reduce scarring if applied daily and kept bandaged.

BURNS – Cool with water or ice. Cover with anti-bacterial anti-viral, anti-fungal TEA TREE essential oil.  Then cover wound with SKIN SALVE and a BANDAID.  Repeat daily.
Tea tree will help reduce pain and speed healing.  Skin salve will help reduce bruising, ease itching, and speed healing. It will also reduce scarring if applied daily and kept bandaged.

SORE OR TENSE MUSCLES – Apply a few drops of straight PEPPERMINT essential oil to the sore or tense muscle area.  Rub it in for a cool/heat style treatment to help relax muscles.  If the area is red or has been rubbed to tenderness the peppermint might cause a momentary mild stinging reaction upon application.  Applying BODY BUTTER or ice or a wet compress will help without reducing the relaxation effect.

HEADACHES– Apply a few drops of straight PEPPERMINT essential oil to the sore or tense muscle area causing the headache.  Usually temples or base of the skull is most effective.  Keep out of and away from eyes!  Vapors too close to eyes may make them water, but will quickly subside.  Rub it in for a cool/heat style treatment to help relax muscles.  If the area is red or has been rubbed to tenderness the peppermint might cause a momentary mild stinging reaction upon application.  Applying BODY BUTTER or ice or a wet compress will help without reducing the relaxation effect.   Applying a cold compress or ice to the base of the skull after peppermint is applied usually helps improve effectiveness if headache is stress induced.  If heat feels better than cold to you, try a warm compress instead of cold.

BRUISES – SKIN SALVE contains herbs that help reduce bruising and inflammation.   Apply liberally and gently rub in.  If vinegar is available, apply a towel soaked in vinegar to the bruise for a couple hours to help the discoloration of the bruise reduce more quickly.  If pain persists, CLOVE oil has a numbing effect on skin.  It is most effective on sensitive skin like mouth areas, but will be mildly numbing on any skin.

BUG BITES AND BEE STINGS -  Apply TEA TREE or LAVENDER and SKIN SALVE as soon as possible.  Apply a cold compress if available to help reduce the toxin from spreading.  Tea tree or Lavender will help reduce pain and speed healing.  Skin salve will help reduce bruising and swelling,  ease itching, and speed healing.

PAIN, TOOTHACHES, CANKER SORES, AND GUM PAIN   CLOVE oil has a numbing ability especially on tender skin like mouth, lip or  gum pain.   Use a Q-tip or gauze to apply to the sore areas.  Clove is also anti-bacterial.  TEA TREE can also be used to fight mouth bacteria but it does not have the same numbing effect.  Clove will numb the area so for comfort sake, be especially careful where you touch in the mouth.

STRESS, ANXIETY, HYPERACTIVITY, INSOMNIA Lavender is well known for it’s soothing, calming and relaxing abilities.  Useful for all ages even the very young.  A few drops applied to fabric near the individual such as a pillow, blanket, collar, or car seat will help provide a soothing aroma.  A few drops on a fabric or paper towel tied to a fan or heat vent will enhance the air.  It can also be used in a diffuser.  Lavender is also mildly antibacterial and soothing to irritated skin when applied directly.   It will not stain most fabrics.

Wash area with soap and water, a soap containing tea tree oil is beneficial,  or rinse with 3% hydrogen peroxide or witch hazel if available. Cover with anti-bacterial anti-viral, anti-fungal TEA TREE essential oil.  Then cover the area with SKIN SALVE.  Repeat daily until healed.  Tea Tree should be soothing and reduce itching and pain within a short time, even if initial application stings momentarily. If this is not effective, or if the rash worsens, or itch or pain increases, it is likely fungal, see toe nail fungus for help.

TEA TREE oil has repeatedly shown to be very effective to kill the stubborn fungus rashes.  Understanding fungus is key to a natural, drug-free recovery.  Remember fungus is a live organism and sometimes reacts to the threat of eviction from it’s happy home in your skin.  Tea Tree oil is a remarkable oil that typically significantly reduces pain and itching and speeds healing when applied straight to skin - unless you encounter fungus.  Then the rules change.  When fungus is present within skin tissue, the application of TEA TREE oil can cause a sensation of tingling or even stinging.  A general rule of thumb is if application of pure full strength tea tree oil stings more than a minute, fungus is likely the cause of the skin irritation.  This stinging sensation is caused because of the die-off toxins emitted by the fungus when tea tree is attacking it.  Skin fungus is invasive, stubborn and usually deeply rooted in the internal skin layers.  Tea tree can completely remove it with liberal, consistent,  and repetitive applications to the entire effected area including the perimeter and a barrier around the perimeter of the area.  Allowing the area to dry out and not applying any moisture-retaining lotion, creams, salve or bangages is equally important.  Due to fungus’ ability to spread, it is not uncommon for the area to get worse and or enlarge before it gets better but persistence will pay off it you persevere.  Depending on the severity of the fungus it could take days or weeks to win. Take heart in knowing that this method is natural, safe, usually scar-free, and relatively cheap compared to traditional pharmaceuticals.

STICKY-GOO, SHOE MARKS, CRAYON, MARKER, GREASE,  Etc.  This is not exactly first aid but it does help with non-health related emergencies. A few drops of  SWEET ORANGE oil applied to a DRY PAPER TOWEL or tissue will easily and quickly remove an amazing amount of those messy problems.  It has been successfully used on all the above plus sticky oil paints, sticker residue, grease other difficult messes on linoleum, glass, painted surfaces, plastic surfaces, skin and more.  Although sweet orange typically is surface safe, a pre-test is always a good idea.  The best part is having a way to easily remove those difficult messes with an all natural, skin safe, edible, and pleasant smelling, easy to use solution.