what you need to know about tea tree oil

teatreeoilOne of the great Australian home remedies, Tea Tree Oil has many uses in the frugal home, from cleaning to repelling insects to medicinal remedies.

I grew up using tea tree oil for insect bites but there are many other uses for the oil. I now use add it to my homemade all-purpose cleaner, use it as a disinfectant and yes, I still use it on insect bites.

You can find tea tree oil fairly cheaply in the supermarket in first aid section or at the chemist.

A bit of background

Tea tree oil or melaleuca oil is an essential oil with a camphor like scent extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, native to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. The leaves were used as a tea substitute, which is where the tree gets its name.

Tea tree leaves were used by the indigenous Aboriginals in traditional medicine. The leaves were crushed an inhaled to treat coughs and colds, made into a poultice to treat wounds, and soaked to make an infusion to treat sore throats and skin irritations.

Modern science has revealed that tea tree oil is a powerful antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial oil. It is used in commercial preparations to treat: acne, athlete’s foot, dandruff, thrush, boils, lice, eczema, psoriasis and as an antiseptic.

Uses for tea tree oil

  • Add a few drops to your regular shampoo to help reduce dandruff.
  • Use as a topical application on minor cuts and sunburn as an antiseptic. Can go on directly or dilute in a little water to apply.
  • For eczema, dilute a few drops into a carrier oil and massage into affected area.
  • Apply directly undiluted to fungal nail infections and tinea.
  • Dab a drop directly to acne, boils, insect bites and cold sores. Use sparingly (once a day) and don’t swallow or lick the area.
  • Add one or two drops to a cup of boiling water, hold your head over the cup with a towel covering your head and inhale to help with coughs and congestion. Alternatively, add a few drops to a vaporiser.
  • Soak feet in a water bath with a few drops added to reduce foot odour. Add a couple of drops to smelly shoes.
  • Add a few drops (5 drops per 250mls) to a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and use in a spray bottle as an all purpose cleaner to clean disinfect surfaces and reduce bacteria.
  • Add a few drops to your washing during the cycle to help deodorise your clothes and kill bacteria on towels, nappies etc.
  • Add a few drops to your home made air freshener to deodorise the house and to help repel insects.
  • Add a few drops to an oil burner for a deodorised room.
  • Combine a few drops of tea tree oil and white vinegar to remove mould and mildew.
  • Freshen and disinfect toilets, drains and garbage bins with a few drops of tea tree oil.

Precautions

Tea tree oil is widely used and considered safe, however as with many natural essential oils, you will need to take precautions when using tea tree oil.

  • NEVER swallow tea tree oil. It can be toxic when swallowed. This goes for all essential oils.
  • Unless stated, don’t use undiluted tea tree oil directly on the skin. Always dilute it in a carrier oil such as macadamia nut oil before applying it to the skin.
  • Don’t use tea tree oil on pets (it is particularly dangerous for cats as they tend to lick it), small children and during pregnancy. Store it out of reach of children.
  • There are some cases of allergic reaction to tea tree oil, so patch test it before use to ensure you are not allergic. There is also some evidence that tea tree oil and lavender oil may alter hormone levels in some people but that these side effects are temporary once they have discontinued use. Discontinue use if you have any adverse reaction.
  • Ensure you get 100% pure oil from a reputable source, preferably organic and steam distilled (and grown in Australia rather cheaper substitutes from Asia). A little goes a long way, so a small bottle will last you for quite some time. Mine has lasted three years now and I’m only half way through.

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