Treating with tea tree oil
This readily available oil has a number of excellent properties which make it a must for every household, writes FARZANA SHAKIR
We may have recently discovered the benefits of tea tree oil, but aboriginal Australia has been aware of its medicinal uses for thousands of years. Derived from the leaves of Melaleuca tree, a native to the north east coast of NSW, tea tree oil is also known as Melaleuca oil. It is a pale yellow essential oil which smells like camphor and nutmeg, and is produced by steaming tea tree leaves which are then squeezed to extract the oil. In times gone by the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, hence the name ‘tea tree oil’.
Benefits of tea tree oil
Indigenous Australians have utilized the natural antibacterial and disinfectant qualities of the tea tree as a traditional remedy for many ailments. They treated colds and coughs by breathing in tea tree oil from crushed leaves. Wounds were sprinkled with tea tree leaves followed by a poultice to disinfect and aid in healing. A tried and tested native remedy for sore throats is an infusion obtained from soaking Melaleuca leaves in water. Tea tree oil has also been used traditionally for treating skin ailments and as a general antiseptic, and more recently, the scientific community has conducted sufficient research to endorse its medicinal benefits.
The remedial advantages of tea tree oil are numerous which is why it’s referred to as ‘liquid gold’ by some. It is a natural antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and disinfectant oil which is effective against a range of infectious organisms like ringworm, acne, dandruff, head lice, mites, insect bites, nail fungus and minor wounds. Tea tree oil has the ability to penetrate into the lower layers of the skin to impart anti-inflammatory, disinfectant, pain killing and wound healing qualities. It encourages the formation of scar tissues to expedite healing. Moreover it is known to be effective against a number of infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
Tea tree oil has been proven through studies to be effectual in treating respiratory problems like sore throat, runny nose, coughs, asthma and bronchitis. Its anti-viral properties make it ideal for the treatment of common colds, flu, measles and cold sores. It is known to strengthen the body’s natural immunity often weakened by stress, illness or medicines.
Some of the most important treatments by tea tree oil for common ailments and conditions are listed here for your benefit; however the sheer volume of its uses could go on forever.
A word of caution though, tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed and can result in diarrhea, confusion, vomiting, drowsiness and even coma. Also topical application of undiluted tea tree oil can cause irritation to sensitive skin. Therefore it is advisable to do a patch test before using, and it is even safer to dilute tea tree oil with a little olive oil before application. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid using tea tree oil.
Acne The anti-bacterial properties of tea tree oil make it an ideal treatment for acne. It can be used without being diluted on the infected area. Dab a cotton ball in tea tree oil and apply to the area before going to bed. Rinse off in the morning. Taking vitamin E supplements in conjunction with this treatment results in excellent healing of the acne, blemishes and scar tissues. A few drops of tea tree oil can also be added to your daily facial wash to treat and prevent breakouts.
Sore throat Used in a simple steam inhalation, tea tree oil works miracles to cure sore throat, congestion, chest infection and clearing mucus. Fill a large bowl with boiling water and add 4 to 5 drops of the oil. Cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl. Inhale for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Dandruff Tea tree oil is very effective in curing dandruff. It can be added to your bottle of shampoo in the form of a few drops or used directly on the scalp. Alternatively just add 4 to 5 drops to the shampoo in hand prior to washing your hair. It helps unblock the hair follicles. Shampoos containing at least 5% of tea tree oil have been proven to cure dandruff and combat head lice problem.
Halitosis or bad breath Bad breath caused by inflamed gums and plaque can be treated effectively with tea tree oil. Add 1 drop to your toothpaste before brushing. For better results brush with baking soda and add 1 drop of tea tree oil to it. When used as a mouthwash, it kills the bacteria that causes bad breath, gingivitis, plaque and inflamed gums. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil to a cup of warm water and use as a mouth wash 2-3 times a day. Take care not to swallow.
Abrasions and minor cuts To treat minor cuts and abrasions, clean the affected area and dab a ball of cotton wool moistened in tea tree oil directly on the area.
Boils and inflammations Many people use tea tree oil to treat boils and abscesses owing to its antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Moist a cotton swab with undiluted tea tree oil and gently dab onto the boil. Dispose of the used swab, making sure that it doesn’t come in contact with the uninfected parts of the body. Repeat several times a day.
Athlete’s foot To treat athletes foot, clean feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, and apply tea tree oil directly. Alternately add a few drops to a little olive oil and massage the feet and between toes. This is said to be the most common and effective home remedy for athletes foot.
Tea tree oil is also effective in treating earaches, chicken pox itch, eczema, bronchitis and bladder infections, amongst other ailments. This essential oil is readily available at health food stores and from online retailers, so add a bottle to your medicine cabinet.